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SaaS star leaves SAP for Salesforce.com

Enterprise software giant SAP has lost Business Objects' Steve Lucas, one of its brightest software-as-a-service stars, to Salesforce.com, where he takes up a new role driving the vendor's platform strategy
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Written by Phil Wainewright on

Enterprise software giant SAP has lost one of its brightest software-as-a-service stars to SaaS titan Salesforce.com, I can exclusively reveal. Steve Lucas, who spearheaded the development of SaaS at Business Objects, acquired by SAP last year, left the company at the end of June and began work straight away at Salesforce.com, where his job title is (bear with me, it's quite long): senior vice-president of platform marketing, AppExchange and Force.com. [Disclosure: Salesforce.com is a recent client].

Lucas (pictured right, courtesy of SAP) is well regarded in the industry for his track record at Business Objects and would likely be seen as an asset for any SaaS vendor. I think his appointment sends a strong signal that Salesforce.com is determined to make a success of its platform strategy, which he and I discussed in a brief call just ahead of last weekend's holiday — more on that in moment.

I discovered another surprise recruit also started at Salesforce.com last week. She is Erin TenWolde, who has been IDC's lead analyst on SaaS for the past two years and spent a total of some five years on the analyst firm's SaaS team. TenWolde knows the industry inside-out (as I joked last week, she knows where all the bodies are buried) and will be a tremendous asset to Salesforce.com's competitive intelligence, messaging and analyst relations in her new role.

The loss of Lucas is a blow to SAP, which is battling to retain credibility for its SaaS initiatives after delaying the public roll-out of its Business ByDesign project earlier this year by 12-18 months. Lucas is proud of what has been achieved at Business Objects, but he said that SAP's ability to make broader progress with SaaS is stymied by the lack of a central vision for the model. "SAP doesn't have a SaaS strategy," he told me. "They don't have a single piece of paper that states what their SaaS strategy is." That lack of direction was a source of frustration that contributed to his decision to leave, he said. "They know how to do this. It's the political thing that prevents them from doing it," he told me. "There certainly are pockets of success, but that doesn't translate into a strategy for SaaS."

At Salesforce.com, there's no shortage of SaaS vision. What Lucas will be focusing on is delivering the strategy for PaaS (platform-as-a-service), which hasn't been as smoothly executed as the vendor's core SaaS application strategy. "We've got to streamline this," he told me last week, admitting that the platform message going out to ISVs hasn't been as clear-cut as it could have been.

Lucas said there are three main ways that ISVs can partner with Salesforce.com as a platform: "You can build, market or sell." Force.com is designed for those that want to build applications, while AppExchange is for ISVs that already have an application of their own and are focused on marketing it. The upcoming Checkout service will be for those that want to fulfil sales using Salesforce.com infrastructure, he explained. For his first 90 days, Lucas told me he'll focus on clarifying and streamlining the onboarding process for ISVs so that partners can get up-and-running on the right program in less than a day. "We want to make sure it's a seamless, instant and frictionless process," he said.

Thereafter, his sights are set ambitiously high, with Force.com seen on a par with today's established application development platforms. "There's no reason we can't be more successful than a Java or .Net platform," he told me. Based on his own experience at Business Objects, he believes the Force.com platform is a compelling proposition for ISVs. "For the price of what Force.com is going out for, it's an outstanding amount of technology that's available," he told me. "I can't understand how a company would build a business plan that could show them doing it as profitably on their own." His task now is to take that message out to ISVs, compellingly and convincingly.

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