How Salesforce has evolved (over 20 versions) to be a Web Office platform

This is Part 2 of my interview with Kendall Collins, VP of marketing at Salesforce.com.
Written by Richard MacManus, Contributor
This is Part 2 of my interview with Kendall Collins, VP of marketing at Salesforce.com. In Part 1, we spoke about version 20 of salesforce.com (called Summer '06) and discussed how AppExchange overlaps with the Web Office. In the second and final part of the interview, we explore how salesforce has evolved over its 20 versions to essentially be a Web Office platform now.

Salesforce's evolution over 20 versions

I asked Kendall how salesforce.com has evolved over the years, seeing as they're now up to version 20 of the product. Particularly as 'web 2.0' technologies, such as Ajax and mashups, have become so popular over the last year or so. 

Kendall Over 45% of salesforce.com transactions are via the API! said that salesforce's roots were as a CRM suite - and historically in the SMB (small business) market when the company was founded. But they've evolved to deliver more advanced CRM functionality and also an on-demand platform. Part of that has been to put the power of the platform in the customer's hands - giving users the ability to customize, integrate, mashup. 

He says the proof is in the pudding, as users have delivered "over 43,000 custom objects and custom applications". More than salesforce.com could ever deliver on its own. So the power of the network and community has been crucial to their growth over the years, and will continue to be going forward. 

He said that "the custom application is the next killer application", which I think is a cool line. 

Kendall described salesforce's evolution as "giving people more platform-side tools", which he said has been the source of their success. He told me the customization in salesforce.com has increased dramatically over the last couple of years - and AppExchange is at the heart of it. 

Benefits of Web Office: universal access and collaboration

I told Kendall that one of the most common forms of feedback I get from people when talking about Web Office, is that the power and level of functionality still resides in desktop apps. People tell me (in comments on my ZDNet blog for example!) that web apps and services that run on the web are just not there yet.

Kendall thinks we're at a tipping point right now, where a number of these Web Office apps are about to take off. He said while it's true Web Office apps may not have the features of their desktop cousins, there are a couple of big benefits. One is universal access and the other is collaboration. He gives the example of a person with multiple computers who is very mobile, an increasingly common scenario. So having server-based storage and access via any web browser, is a huge advance for Web Office apps. He gives the example of emailing documents around the office (the example I always roll out too in conversations!) to show why Web Office collaboration and version control using the server - is the way to go in office documents. He said those benefits outweigh the disadvantage of less features (I totally agree!).

Ajax and APIs being used a lot more now

Finally I asked whether they're using a lot more Ajax and APIs in their products these days? Kendall said yes, Ajax has been "critical to advancing our user interface" and they expect to deliver more of that. They've also produced an Ajax toolkit, for their developer ecosystem. 

In terms of mashups, he gives the example of their Skype mashup - which has been one of the most popular mashups in Salesforce.

Their Web services API has also had a huge uptake - "over 45% of the transactions with our service [salesforce.com] are via the API". So that means tens of millions of transactions in salesforce.com are done via the API, an amazing statistic when you think about it.

See also: Interview pt 1: AppExchange and the Web Office; Salesforce.com releases Summer '06; Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff berates Microsoft in internal email

Editorial standards