It’s hard to believe that Salesforce.com was launched only 14 years ago. It has since grown into a multi-billion-dollar company that has changed the way companies source software. Back in the early days its two primary messages were “the end of on-premises software” and “a new era of CRM in the cloud.” Today the first message seems to have softened somewhat, with its own website talking about products and applications, and of course many companies still use traditional on-premise applications. As my research shows, companies are not so concerned about the specifics of “SaaS,” “hosted” or “cloud” but are more focused on usability, functionality, security, scalability, integration, performance and of course cost. They are also increasingly concerned about finding the skills necessary to deploy and operate the applications they need to support their businesses. When you add these all up, off-premises really comes into its own. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows that CRM leads the way in adoption in the cloud, with communications in the cloud (systems to manage the delivery of multichannel customer interactions) following closely behind.
Today, the product message has changed out of all recognition. CRM still features but at the top level the focus is now Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud, Work.com (why not Work Cloud?), Salesforce Chatter and Salesforce Platform; essentially suites of applications that support most of the enterprise, enterprise-wide collaboration and a platform to build applications. Recently I covered many of these in my blog posts about Cloudforce and Dreamforce, the company’s two big enterprise shows which it uses to showcase its products and customers. As you dig below the surface of these top-level descriptors, you uncover a series of more detailed products that increasingly support all six of the developments Ventana Research identified as most likely to impact the provision of software and innovation of business processes: collaboration, mobile, business analytics, cloud computing, social media and big data. This portfolio earned Salesforce.com the Ventana Research 2012 Technology Innovation Award for Cloud Computing.
I can’t possibly do justice to all the Salesforce products in one blog post, but here are some of the highlights:
- Chatter uses Facebook-like features to enable collaboration between everyone in the organization, and to let employees share and be notified of changes to key documents. I was initially skeptical of the value of Chatter, but my recent research into the agent desktop shows collaboration has become essential as companies support more channels of customer interaction and support more distributed handling of interactions.
- Touch Platform allows organizations to develop mobile apps and at the click of a button deploy them to any smart mobile device. 2012 saw a lot of noise about mobile apps, but my conversations with customer service and contact center managers show we are in the early days of their use. As customers become more comfortable with using apps, I predict 2013 will see more extensive deployments.
- Salesforce.com is not that well-known in the analytics space, but Force.com includes tools for companies to build dashboards that incorporate information from multiple data sources.
- As far as Saleforce.com is concerned, everything is in the cloud – applications, data, operating environment – literally everything, and everything is social. Marketing Cloud is where most things social live, with capabilities to create social content, extract and analyze social posts, and integrate information back into the enterprise so companies can respond through social channels.
- Service Cloud has CRM at its core, but it goes beyond this. For me the main feature is the agent console, which brings together what contact center and other employees need to handle customer interactions: case management, view of multichannel interactions, collaboration, social customer service, knowledge management and a customer view. In our agent desktop research, we called this a smart agent desktop, for which all these features are essential so that anyone handling customer interactions can deliver a great customer experience no matter the channel. It also uses Identity, which allows users to sign in once and gain access to all other application they are authorized to use.
Several of these capabilities are now bundled into Salesforce Platform, and as I remarked in an earlier blog post, Salesforce.com is increasingly positioning itself as the development and operational platform of the future. This won’t work for every organization, but it is working with some of the biggest brands and has helped them innovative the way they execute business. Many other vendors are trailing in Salesforce’s footsteps. Nothing I have seen or heard suggests that the company is about to slow down, so it is certainly one to watch for 2013.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director