For the other two posts on Dreamforce 2011:
I think salesforce is beginning to realize the the value of their acquisition of Radian6, though in a limited way and too slowly,. They see it as the leading company for "social business intelligence" and "social listening" and that's a good thing. They've acknowledged the impact that Radian6 is having on their culture, which, given the conservatism of salesforce internally, is also a good thing. They've opened up some vistas for salesforce and to SFDC's credit, they are viewing them with eyes wide open. Radian6 is the social business intelligence layer of the technology stack that salesforce is building for the social enterprise. All of this is very, very good.
But there are two things I need to make note of here that I would be remiss if I didn't say.
To make it abundantly clear, they might be the most important acquisition that salesforce.com ever made.
Sorry DimDim and Heroku.
The reason for that expensive acquisition became clear at this year's Dreamforce with the announcement of Heroku for Java and the relegation of Apex, the force.com proprietary development language, to one of a series of choices. Marc, with seriously wise thinking, made salesforce something that anyone can develop in whether in Ruby on Rails, Java, Apex and, down the near time road, other well-known development environments.This will dramatically extend salesforce's development community but more importantly, allow their customers and partners to develop applications in the environments they are comfortable using. This is a key initiative to achieve their vision. It's damned smart. It also reflects salesforce's willingness to change when change is necessary and that's a good thing.
Because they know that the enterprise is not just a customer-facing entity but also incorporates employees, partners and suppliers and because Chatter started out as an internal tool to begin with, salesforce is re-jiggering their entire idea of how to "interact" with other companies, thinking far more like Microsoft than they probably would ever publicly or even privately admit.
I mean, they are thinking about ecosystems.
Several years ago, I introduced someone who represented a substantial technology company with a very complementary set of solutions that was keen on working with salesforce. Without going into details, lets just say that if there was anything I've ever done that said "strategic partnership" this was it. The senior management person that I introduced this person to had an initial response that was along these lines. "Oh, you should get this on the AppExchange." Totally missing the point, totally blowing the meeting. The company that was reduced to an app instead partnered with another technology company that has had a long and fruitful relationship with it -strategically.
This narrowband thinking significantly transformed over the past several years and in fact I would say, died with Dreamforce 2011. Salesforce is now understanding something that Microsoft understood a long time ago - partner ecosystems - a total network of companies that essentially builds the things using your platforms that you don't build yourself and supports those and your things with services - is the matrix needed for, as they say, total domination. It is a welcome approach because:
When an ecosystem is run properly, it provides huge upside. It's no coincidence that salesforce announced partnerships with Concur (for expense management), Workday (for human resources management), Kenandy (for social supply chain management) and Infor (for ERP and marketing). These fill out areas of an ecosystem that when enabled are a step toward fully integrated systems covering the total needs of the largest enterprises - and they will be built on force.com and glued by Chatter. Additionally, Seesmic, one of the world's most popular Twitter clients (I use it in various places along with Hootsuite) came out with a genuinely interesting and feature ready CRM application using its Twitter platform - focused, of course around sales force automation. It has a lot of promise on its own and as part of the newly minted salesforce AppEcosystem (my term, not theirs).
What are the implications for the AppExchange? Well, first, it means that the future (and probably some of the current) AppExchange providers need to think through the holes in the ecosystem and provide applications that can fill those holes, if they want to be successful. It means that salesforce probably needs to think about the idea of "calls for apps" meaning putting out small RFPs of some kind that will ask companies to develop to the lacks in the ecosystem. It could mean that the thinking around the ecosystem elevates the importance of the strategic apps in the AppExchange like billing and payments subscription provider Zuora or financials provider FinancialForce - and salesforce might want to rethink how to deal with those. It also means that it might be important to think through how verticals will play in the AppExchange (Studentforce for higher education for example) given that Marc B. announced a commitment to having "hundreds" of vertical process maps and templates by 2012 - apparently under development now. To me, a significant rethinking of AppExchange wrapped around this integrated whole is something that I would be putting my mind to. It may not lead to many changes, but it deserves the thinking.
However, ServiceCloud made significant progress with the integration of Chatter. This is one case where Chatter truly added serious power to an existing application. The Chatter integration provided the capability to pick up a problem that was found on Facebook, open a ticket, produce a YouTube video to answer the problem and publish the resolution to the appropriate channels via the service center. (I made this example up, but it is possible given what was discussed). This adds huge power to ServiceCloud and makes it a contender. See Esteban Kolsky for more on this.
But along comes the acquisition of Radian6 and during last May's Cloudforce in Washington D.C. start to hear that Radian6 is the "marketing cloud" which I will reiterate for all of you who read the prior parts of this post - it isn't.
So imagine my very pleasant surprise when I heard that Infor was going to announce a strategic partnership with salesforce to build what they are calling InForce on force.com. There are three products being offered. InForce Everywhere - a force.com application that pulls ERP data from Infor's ERP applications into salesforce; InForce Order Management - it does what you would think - order, proposal, and quote management; and most important for the purposes of this, InForce Marketing.
InForce Marketing does something that, if I were a marketer, I would be drooling over. It integrates the excellent Infor Epiphany customer interaction engine with salesforce.com. AND it provides a marketing automation solution to salesforce.com, something that salesforce lacks and something that Infor can provide effectively. That's inbound and outbound campaign management. That's lead generation and lead nurturing capabilities. All the traditional marketing automation functionality that, when it comes to customer facing capabilities, salesforce needs.
Yet, when Charles Philips was on the stage, nothing about this was said at all. Instead, I'm still hearing from the salesforce that as Marc said to Rose Cafasso "we are building a full marketing cloud. The hottest category in marketing is social monitoring and we are building out a complete marketing cloud."
The confusion over their marketing application strategy remains. So, to deal with it, at least in my own head, I have some recommendations for salesforce that I'm willingly offering.
You have a strategic partnership with Infor. With Radian6, you have arguably the best social media monitoring tool with far greater than just marketing value. Infor gives you the opportunity to build out a significant traditional marketing automation capability with an excellent customer interaction engine that gives you a way to integrate recommendations into your Marketing Cloud. Take that relationship, integrate Radian6 as a layer inside of the solution and you are 2/3 of the way to an actual Marketing Cloud. Please announce that you are going to do this or something like this. Its time and the uncertainty is hurting my head.
There is no question that with 5.3 billion mobile devices of which 1 billion are smart devices, this is the future of applications. Here salesforce stayed at the head of the pack, though just barely, by providing something that is their bread and butter, a sales application that is fully functional and supports the new touch driven user paradigms made most popular by the iPhone and especially the iPad. Here's a video to take a look at it. It's a bit salesy but it gets across the point.
More gutsy, is salesforce going all in on HTML5 which is not only another aspect of the realization of the SFDC vision, but a body blow to Adobe and a further nail in the coffin of Flash. This is the first enterprise company to my knowledge to make its standard web display language HTML5. It's always tough to be the first one, though salesforce tends to revel in being first, but the dividends on this one will pay off big time.
The DRO is a straightforward affair. As a user, you have the means to control your own data the way you want. If you want all your data on the salesforce.com servers as all multi-tenant models have historically offered, you can do that. If you want all your data on your own servers, even with though your configured applications are on the salesforce servers, you can do that. According to Marc in that SearchCRM interview mentioned above, you can even have specific data fields on your server with the rest of the data fields on the salesforce servers.
Do you realize how important this is?
From the inception of Software as a Service, one of the albatrosses around its neck was the perception that if you went with a SaaS or cloud model your data was insecure because it was controlled by the vendor not you. The fears about it ranged from "I can't get my data back if I quit" to "it can easily be breached" to "other customers might see it because this is all running off a single instance." All of which were a lot of bull...crap. But the fear persisted and was always one of the fear factors used by the on premise only crowd to scare people about SaaS as a viable delivery option. There were a few genuine reasons to not like that model - especially with companies who had highly sensitive data that was secure. It wasn't in actual danger but it did violate regulations if it sat on someone else's servers. For example, you have to carry a certified secured area in fulfilling some government contracts and all the secured materials including data have to be within the bounds of that secured area.
But DRO literally lifts that albatross off SaaS's neck and lets the bird be a bird again, not a burden. With DRO, SaaS is free of the myth and the cases where it is a reality as any sort of problem and salesforce, by being first to market with this, sets a bar for all other on demand and cloud providers to meet when it comes to data storage. Until the others do, salesforce will secure its dominance of the SaaS market even further with this move and provide something genuinely invaluable.
This isn't a big deal. Just something that I'm not alone in noting, so I thought I'd bring it up.
Their commitment to the social enterprise and building out the technology stack associated with it is not only laudable as an objective, its being actually realized by what they've already released and will be further enhanced by their Winter 2012 release. By this time next year, there will be a nearly complete stack, if salesforce follows through on their delivery schedule for their roadmap. They are typically better on those release dates than most of their enterprise brethren so I'm expecting that they will.
Chatter is clearly at the center of their investment in the social enterprise, and, while I don't think it is doing anything that hasn't been done elsewhere, as always its the way it is aggregated in combination with the vision that binds it that makes it a powerful channel for a successful social business.
As a result of their investment in the social enterprise, they seem to be (I think) beginning to realign their thinking on how they deal with partnerships. They are moving toward a creating a complete ecosystem rather than a series of apps that are made available because they are built on force.com. This approach is where they need to be at this point.
While progressing with the social enterprise, and the realization that this is a vision that will come to fruition in a few years, they also are locking down the SaaS market, their "legacy," with the announcement of the DRO which solves a prevailing perception by the market around the data security in a SaaS environment. At the same time, they are building the kind of ecosystem that can not only enhance and realize their vision but provide immediate value to their current customers.
They still have holes to fill and questions to answer. Of course this isn't surprising. There is no perfect company. The biggest holes for them are delivery of a complete marketing cloud which remains a genuinely uncertain proposition at this point and providing a much stronger analytics engine than they currently do. I mean, they do have some powerful web analytics apps like Omniture being delivered on the AppExchange, but that is nowhere near enough. They are up against SAP Business Objects and Oracle's Hyperion-based products among others. Salesforce needs to step up their game here. They really, really need to. Great analytics services/applications aren't an option any more. Insight is replacing intelligence as a prerequisite to successful business results. Analytics are central to insight solutions (my name for the category. You'll see something on this in a short while) - and even more importantly to successful business outcomes.
That said, even with these concerns, salesforce delivered a tour de force of messaging, (but not great "speechifying"), product and experiences that gives them the current crown when it comes to being on the top of customer's short lists - when the customer has the intelligence to think about the long term. Their vision is so strong that when the customer reaches out, they are going to feel a palpable salesforce presence - and that's exactly what they have been planning. Their revenues will be a byproduct of that. The sales will follow the force.
Ain't life grand? Salesforce.com certainly thinks so and kinda is.