About half a year after the customer event “Dreamforce” by salesforce.com in San Francisco, with over 130,000 registered participants, the “Salesforce1 World Tour” was held in Munich. Not that I was expecting much new, but the announcement that Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of salesforce.com, would be delivering the opening speech made me curious. No matter whether you are a customer, partner or competitor, you should let personalities like Benioff work their magic on you at least once.
Upon entering the hall, I got my first surprise. The construction of the hall seemed to be a copy of the hall in San Francisco – just on a smaller scale. The second surprise was prepared by the Japanese musician, Yoshiki. Apparently, Benioff had quickly invited the musician, his friend, who was on a European tour, the evening before without pointing out that it would be a public appearance. This reminded me of a Dreamforce event a few years ago, when an older Hawaiian couple held a ritual before the opening speech. Benioff always brings such surprises into play, as examples of his sources of inspiration. This does not appeal to everyone, but this is his personality.
Things proceeded a little less surprisingly. Benioff strode as usual through the star-shaped structure of the hall, accompanied by cameras and always within easy reach of those present. I had to smile, though, when the subsequent salesforce.com protagonists followed in the same path through the hall as their CEO.
A small highlight was the announcement of the strategic partnership with Deutsche Telekom. Basically nothing really surprising, when you consider the distribution partnership with T-Systems, which closed in March. The agreement, which is limited to five years for the time being, includes T-Systems providing the data centre space for salesforce.com in Germany. We had already pointed out the significance of the server site for CRM applications in the SaaS model in the initial results of our on-going poll. In addition, salesforce.com together with Telekom and T-Systems has approximately 10,000 sales representatives. T-Systems can not only bring their top 400 customers into the game, but according to Michael Müller-Berg, SVP at T-Systems, they can fall back on their already built-up knowledge and their customers in the automotive sector as a first step.
What else is there to say? Markus Franke, CIO of Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG, illustrated how his company uses SAP as a stable back-end and salesforce.com uses it as a front-end, and summarized that together, SAP and salesforce.com would result in more than 1+1. This was repeated at the event throughout the day and revealed the transformation from software providers to platform providers. This was supported by Joachim Schreiner’s statement, SVP EMEA Central, that the perception as CRM provider still prevails in the market, but now greater revenue would be generated by mobile applications and the connection between back-end and front-end.
Thus, the question remains to be asked: what holds more value for salesforce.com in the future – its software products or platform? Undoubtedly, the platform also allows access to applications in companies beyond the CRM business. But it should not be forgotten that salesforce.com has repeatedly made strategic acquisitions in the software sector in recent years. So there is definitely greater potential within the CRM sector and beyond.
With this strategy, a Danone slogan from 2003 suddenly occurred to me: “Sooner or later, we’ll get you!”