Salesforce.com held its annual user conference December 6th to 9th in San Francisco. It was unusual in that very little of the messaging from Salesforce.com itself was aimed at sales people. The company has clearly and emphatically hammered its stake in the ground as the cloud platform provider for the enterprise. Marc Benioff and other top SFDC execs spent all of the general session keynotes on four key ideas:
If that were a word cloud of the transcripts of the keynotes “platform” would be the biggest and boldest of the four. The company made several significant announcements about how it is enhancing and building out the enterprise cloud computing platform of the future – much of it aimed at CIOs and developers. First however, there were a couple of items that will be of interest to sales and marketing people:
Full integration of Jigsaw. Jigsaw, the “crowdsourced” contact database will now provide dynamic updates to records, greatly reducing blank or incomplete record status and making it easier for sales and marketing people to contact the right individuals within their target accounts – to the extent that Jigsaw can provide clean data.
Chatter Free. Announced earlier this year, Chatter is the SFDC collaboration app. SFDC cited user numbers in the 10,000s at NBC, Qualcomm, and Nikon, and 100,000s at Dell. With Chatter Free, limited Chatter functionality will now be available to people that don’t have SFDC licenses. Users can add SFDC features for $15/user/month w/o the need for a SFDC license. Salesforce.com clearly expects Chatter to make SFDC adoption a viral phenomenon. What Chatter adds to the picture beyond being “Facebook for the enterprise” is the ability to follow not only people, but groups, accounts, and contacts – potentially any record in the SFDC.com database. Chatter will help companies share tribal knowledge as well as better coordinate the outreach multiple business units may have with key contacts and accounts – both very good things that go way beyond being Facebook Friends with all of your customers and employees. Regardless of whether it drives more licenses, it sets the stage for the platform sell that’s coming next.
Platform as a Service (the CIO part)
Database.com. Significantly, SFDC claims database.com is open to any environment, any programming language, and any device. It provides relational data services, full text search, user management, row level security, triggered and stored procedures, authentication, support for APIs (db to db calls), as well as a myriad of other features such as the ability for each record to have a profile that supports followers and feeds (see http://wiki.database.com/page/FAQ for more info.) Touting the power of the cloud, SFDC presented statistics showing that in the last year the number of transactions grew 50%, the number of records doubled from 10 billion to 20 billion, and average response time decreased.
Open Apex. Salesforce.com has launched an open programming language for the cloud that supports multi-tenancy. Now developers can work in the cloud to customize and enhance Salesforce.com apps as well as develop a host of other independent enterprise applications for any function – marketing, accounting, services, provisioning, HR, etc. This should fundamentally change the perspective of the IT department about cloud computing – it’s open, has its own IDE and database, supports web and mobile development. You no longer have to have code on premises to manage and customize your enterprise functionality.
Ruby on Rails. Web development is native to the salesforce.com cloud platform. Java support is provided by vmForce and acquisition of Heroku provides both a hosting platform and an IDE for native Ruby on Rails development in the cloud. This greatly eases the process of making enterprise apps web and mobile ready.
“Now we’re finally a real platform company”
SFDC now comprises: salesforce, serviceforce, chatter, jigsaw, database.com, appforce, siteforce, vmforce, Ruby, Apex, Eclipse IDE, ISV force, and more. The mantra heard repeatedly from senior SFDC execs was that Salesforce.com is now a real platfom company.
The big picture for Salesforce.com is to provide all the layers of the IT computing environment as a shared service that is managed, tuned, updated, and upgraded automatically. This greatly reduces the administrative overhead for IT while providing all the application and data control they need to rapidly respond to business requirements (and not having hundreds of rogue DIY projects all over the place.) All good things, but the risk is whether the platform can be trusted to provide all that without failure or outage or providing a conveniently centralized target for cyber attack.
While SFDC sets its sights on becoming all things to all people in the cloud, it is not intending to be the single source for automating the response to revenue process. Recent IDC research shows that 75% of SFDC customers also use up to five other sales and marketing automation solutions (see Marketing Automation: The Rise of Revenue, IDC #225860, Dec 2010.) The Expo floor featured representatives from the entire sales and marketing ecosystem – marketing automation, customer intelligence, list and database management, sales enablement, forecasting tools, proposal tools, and many others. As a result, customers will continue to be in the position of cobbling together “best of breed” solutions, and having to integrate the data, systems, and workflows required to manage and measure the performance of the customer creation process.