Monday – After a long week in California, I’m back again and am now able to let my mind go – I can’t name it other than the “Dreamforce Happening”. Salesforce.com’s user conference which I was able to attend the second time allures not only a vast number of attendees but also consistently spreads a positive atmosphere. Among other things, the final day of the event was an indicator in my opinion. In general, it’s a day of departure without much going on. Nonetheless, in this case there were conversations going on in the exhibiting partners’ booths until the end as well as my favorite session – the user Q&A with CEO Marc Benioff and co-founder Parker Harris which was pretty packed.
Let’s take one thing at a time: “Social” was absolutely one of the most used words just like last year. Personally, I cannot truly get to like this expression as it is not a universal word in a global world that is understood everywhere by everyone in the same manner. And so Salesforce.com itself had to experience this and had to draw the consequences accordingly. Often, there were points made in regard to the term “social” such as “revolution” or “transparency and trust are the new currency” that I also didn’t like. Furthermore, the statement “business is social” shouldn’t be something new at all. Honestly, a testimony from the Commonwealth Bank put it in a nutshell: “bring back trust and transparency.” In other words, as to me it is not a revolution but rather a renaissance of well-known virtues. A good customer relationship has always been a cornerstone for success besides a good product, good service as well as adequate pricing (a somewhat market access and free markets given). Transparency as well as trust are also included, aren’t they? For that reason, IT doesn’t cause a “revolution” but instead sheds light and uses more well-known variables for success in the context of a global and virtual world.
Besides the philosophical excursions which will go into greater depth at another point, plenty of functionalities were shown that either had been implemented or were announced. Two areas caught my eye in particular: Salesforce.com’s Work.com and Data.com Social Key.
Salesforce.com Work.com (which is scheduled to be generally available in Q4 of 2012) offers parts of performance management. My first impressions were positive and customer feedback seems to prove this. Maureen Paradine, SVP of HR at 1-800 flowers, summarized the acceptance of Work.com: “…previously no one really liked these processes, now they are asking for more functionalities.” Not only this is a clear indication that Salesforce.com is going to expand its Work.com functionalities and will go further beyond “non-CRM” relevant areas. Product managers in charge also expressed their support in that they see great potential and they’ll become engaged wherever there is an opportunity. The new partnership with Amazon.com enables companies to reward and motivate their people directly from within Work.com; it will be therefore be interesting to follow up the extent to which it will be introduced in countries outside the USA. It is not fully known or widespread everywhere that recipients collect points awarded by managers and colleagues that can later be redeemed, but who knows – maybe technology really will bring about cultural change in this case.
Data.com’s Social Key stands for a more simple way of retrieving data from a variety of social networks in preexisting channels. This functionality (such as Social Advertising ) facilitates the tasks of many marketing and sales people and will undoubtedly be well-liked. Even retrieved data which has been made publicly available again raises the question about data sovereignty in my opinion. “The right to be forgotten” can be reduced to a level of absurdity quite easily because even if someone decides to delete all of his or her data in all social networks someday, it is still not clear which corporation might have already saved it in their own database. “Privacy by Design” could be an answer to this issue which salesforce.com and its partners should consider. Thus, a supposed vulnerability could instead be transformed into an advantage.
Some key aspects from my point of view:
The company not only grows based on its revenue but also its employees. Even so, it’s nowhere near the dimensions of SAP or Oracle; it is still essential to foster its corporate culture in order to retain its employee support so as to keep the entire company agile.
Salesforce.com consequently extends its vision and its existing products. With Work.com, a veritable alternative is now offered to existing solutions on the market. Customers who focus on one provider and thus on one platform should ask about Salesforce.com’s future plans in this area.
Customers who intend to use data.com’s social key should have topic data sovereignty on their radar. A proactive attitude reflected in communication transparency could change the rather negatively-viewed topic into a positive one and could be a differentiator.
The example Work.com demonstrates that Salesforce.com is going to expand into other areas. Thus, it is obvious that there are opportunities for partners but also, that the company may enter areas which are currently occupied by partners. Partners are advised to keep a wary eye on those evolutions and watch their “blind spots” by (further) developing core competencies and specific offers.
In a Work.com Q&A session, John Wookey EVP Social Applications, a seasoned man with plenty of experience in development and business including enterprise applications, made his point quite clear. Every application will be re-viewed, re-thought and re-engineered. And the impression kept, that in the long-term it is, meant more than the current spectrum of Work.com. In addition, the company can focus solely on its Cloud Computing solutions and will thus be able to act faster and better match customer requirements. Established providers such as Oracle and SAP as well as those smaller in size have to prepare themselves for increased competition in all areas and have adequate counter-strategies ready.
Finally, back to the headline: why is salesforce.com meant to be a so-called “hidden champion?” There are two preconditions, namely, salesforce.com is a leading company in the CRM sector and its revenue meets the corresponding definition. The characteristic of “low level of public awareness” applies partially, which is where my analogy comes in. To me, salesforce.com somehow reminds me partly of Google.
When thinking of Google, you first think of the search function. Thinking about Salesforce.com brings to mind its CRM offers. Google, however, now offers a myriad of additional services and so does Salesforce.com. At the latest by visiting the website, it became clear that there is more than CRM portion (Sales Cloud) plus platforms and now Work.com. If the joint venture FinancialForce.com is then taken into account, it becomes an undeniable portfolio. What’s missing is the SCM component, but it wouldn’t be surprising if a corresponding offer would arise sooner or later.
Well, I’m not quite sure whether the prospects, customers and market underestimate the company and/or whether it’s a company strategy. The company can therefore escape some of the external pressure and focus on its priorities.
In the end it doesn’t matter, however: up to me, you always better have to keep an eye on Salesforce.com!