Previously on the CRM Watchlist....
The 2nd Annual CRM Watchlist Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to the IBM Institute for Business Value
One thing that I’ve repeatedly said about Salesforce.com is that they have been successful because of the remarkably consistent vision that they have. As Jeff Bezos, Amazon Jeff says, you have to be “stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details” and for many, many years, that’s exactly what Salesforce.com has been. Their vision of being the platform upon which all business applications would run remains steady as she goes while they’ve made a significant number of switches and changes when it comes to positioning, choices of acquisition, “no-software” development direction, etc.
But their ability to remain laser-focused on their vision has largely driven their remarkable story and equally remarkable success.
The other aspect of that which remains important is that Marc Benioff understands that when it comes to that vision, it has to be a vision for actual human beings as opposed to just a marketing message. If a human being is trying to decide whether or not that vision is compelling enough for them to buy into, there are two simple things that vision must be:
The latter is mission critical (or vision critical, I guess). If the vision doesn’t seem to be achievable, then it’s seen as either marketing fluff or fantasy. And buy-in becomes burn out. So the vision has to appeal to the metaphors and memes of the era so that people can respond to it in a human way – a way that makes sense to them as uniquely thinking individuals.
All in all, if you get someone who says, “hey, I want that” and “I can see that”, then you have them. The genius of salesforce is that they are able to do that better than any other company in the technology world – regardless of what they are selling.
But the very success of salesforce and the impact it's had on the business world in combination with that relentless vision and the revivification of serious competition, makes 2013 an important year for salesforce.com.
From 2011 on, salesforce.com made a significant investment into being the owner-declarants of the “social enterprise.” For many reasons, since mid-to-late 2012, they have dialed back the discussion on the social enterprise, dropping the term and instead, wisely, focusing on business outcomes via cloud delivery and customer-facing services associated with that cloud delivery.
(If you want to see an interesting discussion about all this, check out the summary of an Enterprise Irregulars discussion done by fellow EI and ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan here).
One reason that gets overlooked and is actually to salesforce’s credit was their abortive (and not too wise) attempt to trademark the term “social enterprise”. The result was an outcry from charitable institutions that have called themselves social enterprises for years, though in a totally different context. Because of Marc Benioff’s honest commitment to charity and doing good – and a foredoomed outcome – they wisely dropped the trademark attempt and the term altogether.
But, as importantly, there also was recognition that “social” as a unique factor is not all that meaningful to business outcomes per se. It is part of the business landscape certainly – and is not a fad – and has to be addressed, but in the same context as other business requirements in a changing world. It may be hot but that doesn’t mean it’s going to replace things more traditional in nature. (More on this in future posts.)
I was made aware of the more dramatic aspects of the change in messaging by something I read about salesforce from astute financial analyst Peter Goldmacher that made me look at their home page, which is devoid of the word social except a single mention in the context of the Marketing Cloud and as an adjective in front of "marketing."
But despite this “flexibility in the details,” this isn’t going to stop salesforce’s juggernaut – and their continued dominance in the customer-facing world. They are resolute in their determination to be the platform upon which all business applications run – their stated vision as far back as 2003. And while I don’t think that they will be the sole platform upon which all business applications run in the future, I do think they can hold a dominant position in that effort in time.
But in order to do that, they do have to do a few things in 2013.
Let me be clear. Salesforce is currently the standard by which other technology companies are measuring themselves and that is a truly incredible achievement. But 2013 is the year that their competitors start to catch up; that social recedes as a differentiator; that customers increase their demand for personalized responsiveness from businesses; and that buyers are looking for things that help them with business outcomes.
The success salesforce has had to date with their vision makes them a company that will have major impact on the business world for years to come, but they are going to have to explain themselves a bit better and move faster in 2013 to maintain their competitive distance. All I can say is that they wouldn’t have won the CRM Watchlist again if I thought they couldn’t do that.
Look, to start this one, I need to be clear. I am part of the world of all things customer facing, which includes CRM, Social CRM, social media, communities, customer analytics, and even internal collaboration as it applies to internal customers (employees, etc.) I am part of those rather lucky folks who get to write about and participate in social business, a new business paradigm that still adheres to the oldest business paradigm: if a customer likes you, and continues to like you, they will do business with you. If they don’t they won’t.
I get to play with new technologies like tablets and get to check out fandom which means sports, games, and technology, movies, TV and star watching.
I get to mess with mobile technologies and see their applicability to customers and to the businesses wooing customers. On an even bigger scale I get to dig into how companies and customers communicate and where they communicate and what devices they use to communicate.
I get to look at the infrastructure and the applications that go into an enterprise’s technology stack and support a company’s business processes – and I get to look at the business processes.
I get to identify and define the customer’s experience with a company and break it down to the point that it becomes repeatable and measurable and thus there is some sense of the value that is provided by that experience.
What makes Microsoft more than just interesting, is that of all the companies on this planet, they are the only ones that can make the claim that they impact everything that I’m talking about in some way. They are the only company on the planet that can impact any one of our individual lives from end to end – from business to home life.
The only one.
What makes Microsoft one of the most interesting companies on this earth is their enormous potential, and the existence inside their portfolio of the pieces to do it. What makes them exasperating is that I’m not sure that --other than a small few there, in the past -- they don't know it at all. BUT….
For the first time in my lifetime, Microsoft is making BIG bets on their ability to do just that. The best go far beyond the customer facing aspects of the Dynamics applications and services. They go to the broader user experience, consumer and business.
Essentially they have two bets that they are making and one that they need to make.
The two they are making:
The bet they need to place:
These bets for Microsoft in 2013 are HUGE and are probably the most important made since the creation of Windows. However, even if they succeed at this, there are a few other things that Microsoft Dynamics CRM has to do to have the market impact that is expected for 2013.
What’s interesting about Microsoft’s “To Do” list is that a decent chunk of it has to do with product gaps and evolution rather than what plagues most companies. But these are gaps and additions that are necessary for a major player in the market – an actual competitive choice rather than a pretender – need to have. And, at least in theory, can afford to take care of.
Let’s look at the product requirements:
If Microsoft continues down the path that Bob Stutz and his team – Bill Patterson, Jujhar Singh and others there are setting, the impact that I expect them to have in 2013 will be history in 2014 and they will be rolling. But their bets go beyond that and this makes it a seminal year for Microsoft in more than just CRM. It’s a tougher road, but you know what, even with that in consideration, they won the Watchlist so I’m going to say they’ll make it.