Continues Move to be Platform Provider began with a simple message: On-premises CRM has come to the end of its useful life, and the way forward is cloud-based CRM. I have written several times that the company has won this argument, and my research into contact center in the cloud confirms this: 63 percent of participating organizations said that adopting systems in the cloud is one of the key ways to improve customer engagement. Furthermore, this vendor’s success pressurized  many other companies to move into the cloud, and not just for CRM. itself expanded from cloud-based CRM to create clouds for sales, marketing and service.. This transition continued in the middle of last year when it surprised the market by announcing it would add a development platform in the cloud to provide tools for creating mobile apps. To further these aims, it recently announced the first release of Salesforce1 Service Cloud, calling it the “Service Platform for the Internet of Customers.” I had several questions about what this really means going into a recent briefing.

First, what is the Internet of customers? This seems to be a variation on a theme I discovered in my benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement and wrote about late last yearvr_NGCE_Research_08_all_channels_for_customer_engagementThe research finds that because consumers have changed their communication habits, companies now support an average of seven or eight channels of communication and some as many as 17. Unlike the long-established channels of telephone, email and printed letters, many of the emerging channels are electronic and rely on the Internet, mobile devices or both. The research also finds that most business units in an organization now interact with customers. Therefore it has become essential for companies to connect their communication channels and employees across business units; if they don’t, customers will not receive consistent, accurate responses to their interactions and become frustrated. Salesforce1 is’s response to help organizations achieve these connections.

Salesforce1 is a major undertaking, comprised of a platform, a set of development tools, core services such as workflow and identity management, and APIs with which companies can develop mobile apps. Those mobile apps enable users to access other systems and information through an intuitive user interface while on the move. This has potential to simplify the complexity of accessing all the systems most companies now use. They have business application such as ERP and CRM that employees use every day to carry out various tasks; communication systems that manage the different interaction channels; third-party systems used by partner companies; and increasingly smart machines that produce data useful for interacting with customers (for example, a mobile phone producing location information). Each of these systems has a different interface and produces data in its own formats; connecting them and making them accessible through a mobile app is thus very complex.

Other vendors have tools that allow access to systems and data, and still others help companies build their own smart mobile apps. Salesforce1 brings these two diverse capabilities together so users can develop mobile access to connected systems. The apps can be used by employees requiring information and/or access to systems while on the move, including systems such as Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, and apps available in third-party online stores; alternately, apps can be built to give consumers similar access while mobile. They therefore support a dual purpose because as consumers become familiar with mobile apps, even if only to search for information or play games, they come to expect the same capabilities at work so they can work away from their desks but have access to systems and information at the touch of an icon.

The Salesforce1platform goes a step further. My research finds that most companies recognize the customer experience as the only true differentiator – the competition can replicate products and services almost at will, so it is how companies engage with customers that makes the difference. This engagement requires two essential features for customers: ease of engagement, which includes multiple channels, especially mobile, and consistency, receiving the same information, ideally up to date, regardless of the channel. One way Salesforce1 addresses the issue is to provide capabilities to create internal communities. These, for example, help a user find an expert no matter where the person sits within the organization and share information to resolve a customer inquiry. Doing this quickly can improve the customer experience, increase efficiency because more interactions are resolved at the first point of contact, and increase effectiveness because the customer gets the right answer at the first attempt.

More than three-quarters of companies in my research said it is very important to improve customer engagement; to do that many vr_NGCE_Research_06_changes_to_improve_engagementare investing in collaboration, in their customer portal, in mobility and in social media. Connecting their business processes and these technologies to deliver high-quality customer experiences is no easy task, but the Internet, mobile technology and social media have made it necessary for companies trying to keep up with customer expectations. The same is true of supporting employees who want to work on the move. In all of this, for me the critical requirement is to build mobile apps with the user in mind and not just automate an existing, perhaps outdated process. Gaining insight from analytics is also critical. In this area salesforce still needs to invest more to better support these needs and connect this type of information with the applications that our research finds essential to promote engagement and improve the customer experience. Even so, Salesforce1 is a progressive cloud platform that can help enterprises interact directly with customers. If you are looking for new approaches to build and use applications in the cloud and on mobile devices, Salesforce1 is one to evaluate.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement

Building a Better Business Case for Buying Software

When it comes to making a business case for software investments, many people fail to recognize that the case itself is just one part of what amounts to an internal sales and marketing effort that they must perform well to be successful. Focusing only on the numbers and assumptions in a spreadsheet is not enough. Making a successful business case requires an understanding of the audience’s perspective and motivations. Since the individuals who will review the business case may not be sufficiently aware of the issues that are behind it and their seriousness, it may be necessary to begin an awareness-building program before presenting the business case. And because the benefits of software investments can be difficult to quantify, executive sponsors are useful in achieving acceptance of these calculations. Unfortunately, many business cases founder because proponents do not realize the importance of taking a sales and marketing approach.

We usually ask participants in our benchmark research what softwarevr_NG_Finance_Analytics_16_barriers_to_investing_in_finance_analytics they use to manage or support a process and whether their company recently considered replacing it. Typically, two-thirds of companies have within the past year or two evaluated an alternative to the software they’ve been using for the subject of the research. However, only 15 to 20 percent actually acquire and deploy new software. The remaining number is divided between those that decided not to replace their software and those that are still considering it. Those that have opted not to replace the software typically give as the main reasons a lack of resources (47%), of budget (45%), and of awareness of the problem (40%), as well as no executive sponsorship or support; they also often say the existing software works well enough and the business case wasn’t strong enough. We get much the same responses from those that are still considering replacement, as well as that they’re still in the evaluation process. Of course it may be true that there was no budget or sufficient resources, or that the existing software works well enough, but we think it’s more often the case that the business case wasn’t strong enough and so the investment was deemed a low priority.

One common mistake of advocates for new software is failing to consider how the proposed investment will meet the needs and motivations of all of the people who will be evaluating the project. Their needs might be different, or they may have different priorities. For instance, the advocate may want to make some process more efficient so that he or she won’t have to work so many nights and weekends, but this is likely to be of little concern to those who have to approve the investment. For those decision-makers, the ability to get information sooner, gain deeper insight or reduce their risk exposure may be the key benefits. In some instances, those evaluating a project may not be aware of what’s possible. Awareness-building may be a step that has to precede by weeks or months the formal presentation of a business case. For example, executives may not understand that they can get information in real time or the following day rather than having to wait a week, and that the competition is already able to do that. They probably haven’t given it any thought.

Another pitfall for advocates is failing to secure executive sponsorship before proposing an investment; lacking that substantially reduces the chance of success. This can be tricky because today’s software investments are rarely made for direct cost savings alone. In the early days of business computing, IT investments were made to eliminate the need for clerks and bookkeepers, so there was a direct, measurable savings involved. Today, these sorts of benefits represent a fraction of the value of software investments. Instead, the benefits include, for instance, getting information sooner or shortening the end-to-end length of a process. The end result may be improved customer service and, therefore, customer satisfaction – benefits that executives understand. When the business case presents an answer to the question, “What’s it worth to this company to cut cycle times from two months to one week?” It’s important that someone with sufficient stature in the decision-making process will vouch for the answer in the business case as well as reiterate the urgency for making that particular investment right away. It’s even more important to have the right sponsorship when the impact of the investment spans business units or functions; this should be either an individual with sufficient seniority or multiple sponsors from within these groups.

vr_NG_Finance_Analytics_15_business_considerations_for_investmentsProbably for those reasons, participants asked to identify the most important considerations that lead to the successful presentation of a business plan  most frequently cited executive sponsorship (67%) and an understanding of the potential value (that is, those making the decision were aware of the problem and the value of addressing it). Being able to demonstrate increased efficiency, reduced risk and enhanced effectiveness (such as by being able to meet audit or compliance needs) are also important.

Independent information technology research from a reputable source can help software advocates make their case more effectively. It can illustrate the common issues that companies face and quantify the impact of addressing them. At Ventana Research we design our benchmark research to be able to assess how well companies perform in executing core business requirements. Research is constructed to measure the connections between the people, process, information and technology components used and the results organizations achieve. Since software investments are rarely made solely on efficiency gains, our research measures effectiveness as well. That includes a range of topic-specific aims, such as customer satisfaction, cycle time reduction, deeper understanding of root causes, increased visibility, greater agility and improved coordination in responding to change, to name just a sample. This type of research can be helpful in making a business case as well as in creating awareness within an organization of the need for change, generating interest in implementing change, and justifying the investment in technology that enables information improvements to achieve the organization’s objectives.

I’ll repeat that building a better business case for buying software involves more than just putting numbers on a page. It’s a sales and marketing effort that begins with understanding the full range of objectives that the investment can achieve. It’s essential that the proponents understand the aims of all the decision-makers and influencers in the company, not just in their own department. They must be able to clearly communicate how the investment will address the needs of all concerned. Identifying others’ objectives should make it easier to gain the necessary executive sponsors while failing to secure sponsorship diminishes the chance that the investment will be funded. Moreover, having credibility at each stage in the process of making the business case is also essential. Please investigate some of our benchmark research that bears upon your work and business issues, and let us know how we can help.


Robert Kugel – SVP Research