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Interview with Jason Mittelstaedt, RightNow

Our interview this morning is with Jason Mittelstaedt, VP of Marketing for Bozeman, Montana-based RightNow. RightNow recently acquired Salesnet, a company in the on-demand, hosted sales automation space, and we spoke with Jason about what this means from RightNow, how it fits into the industry, and the growth in the on-demand industry.

Techrockies: Thanks for the interview! Tell us a bit about RightNow and its products, for readers who are not familiar with RightNow?

Jason Mittelstaedt: At the top level, what we do is we help companies that are focused on a win-on-service business strategy. We differentiate on the quality of engagement with a client. We enable organizations to deliver extraordinary experience, while reducing operating cost. Senior business managers serve two masters -- one is top line growth, the other is to a CFO or the street, where it's all about margin and cost reduction and management. We enable those senior business managers to effectively serve both of those masters, ultimately delivering exceptional customer experiences and reducing costs at the same time.

Techrockies: Why did you decide to acquire Salesnet?

If you think about customer experience, sort of holistically, the experience is about the expectation that an individual has going into engagement with an organization, regardless of and industry or vertical. If you think about sales, the sales engagement sets the tone for the holistic customer experience. Making sure your organization has great control and insight into the sales process to make sure the relationship starts out on the right foot is hugely important. In the sales automation area, the acquisition allowed us to really accelerate our product roadmap by over a year, bringing strong domain expertise and added several hundred customers to our customer accounts. Across the board, it gives us the ability to accelerate our ability to deliver a great experience through to the sales channel.

Techrockies: It sounds like you already had your own development efforts in the sales automation space?

We have been executing into building our own sales product for over 3 years now, and have been committed to that path. This is not a new path for us, but accelerated our ability to deliver a differentiated product.

Techrockies: How soon are you going to integrate Salesnet into your business?

There are three phases. The first is immediate, this summer, which is a UI level integration between the two products. RightNow SalesNet customers can access the full RightNow suite, and RightNow customers can utilize the RightNow SalesNet technology. The next phase, which we have codenamed "Castle", is in the second half of this year, which is the integration of sales automation within RightNow. That's an in-between step. The final step, phase 3, happens next year, when the core Salesnet features become the foundation for the RightNow Sales release in the middle of next year. Stepping back, the RightNow Sales--what we've been building--and RightNow SalesNet, which we acquired--customer base will be on the exact same upgrade path. Given that both of them are on-demand platforms, it makes integration of the applications much simpler. Number one, because we own the infrastructure, it's not a matter of hardware or database at a client site. That dramatically simplifies it for us and for our client. The second piece is the core architecture is the same, so this isn't a project of taking two divergent platform strategies and converging into a single platform strategy--they are already in line.

Techrockies: How do you differentiate yourself from Salesforce.com? It seems like this acquisition puts you head to head against Salesforce?

It really doesn't put us into any more head to head competition with Salesforce than before the Salesnet acquisition. If you look at our business compared to Salesforce, we sell to different buyers, and solve different problems. Salesforce.com is really striving to be the eBay of on-demand applications. Customers come to us with a very specific problem, which is they want to deliver phenomenal customer experience, and they need to manage their cost at the same time. That's why an organization works with us. Sales automation isn't new to us, this just deepens our expertise and product depth.

Techrockies: Finally, it looks like the on-demand business is really taking off. Do you see that, and what do you attribute that to?

Absolutely. The growth of on-demand has been phenomenal. We have delivered our solution on an on-demand platform for eight or nine years now . There's a couple of reasons. One, what drove our initial growth in on-demand was we were in a down economy. The total cost of ownership benefit--deployment is four to five times cheaper with an on-demand platform, because you don't have to buy infrastructure and you can install quickly--is what drove the initial growth spurt. The growth spurt we are seeing now, in a growth economy, is not cost reduction, but is the competitive advantage that on-demand brings to our clients. The competitive advantage is the adaptability of the solution, allowing them to deliver much more quickly to their customers, and helps them conform to their customer's world, rather than forcing their customers to conform to them.

Techrockies: Thanks for the interview, and congrats on the acquisition.