The only thing that could dampen the spirits at Dreamforce this year was rain.
Once again, tens of thousands of corporate decision makers, sales executives, marketing managers, ISVs, entrepreneurs, analysts and press converged on the Moscone Center and every nearby hotel to soak up the latest vision and solutions from Salesforce.com. And despite the rain, Dreamforce was another love fest fueled by the enthusiasm of customers finally able to harness the power of software to achieve their business objectives and intoxicated by the vast possibilities being proposed by Salesforce for a new way of doing business in the future.
Along the way, Salesforce is always looking for methods to extend its reach into the enterprise and tighten its grip on its customers. It has been focused on two primary tactics to achieve this objective — building a potent platform that encourages customers and partners to build apps that align with Salesforce’s primary SaaS offerings, and generating a compelling vision for the new world order of business.
This year, the company rolled out a new aspirational marketing mantra, “The Internet of Customers,” along with a new vendor-centric platform name, Salesforce1.
The Internet of Customers replaces last year’s Social Enterprise slogan. Why the previous attempt didn’t work and whether the new campaign will succeed is up for debate. But, no one can blame Salesforce for sitting still or pushing an idea too long. Instead, the company definitely lives by the new rule that you have to “fail fast” and move on if things are not working.
The same holds true on the platform side. Marc Benioff and Parker Harris both admitted that their previous platform offerings were too fragmented and not designed to truly satisfy the higher standards set by today’s mobile devices. Last year’s Touch didn’t meet the expectations of today’s mobile users. Salesforce1 combines the development capabilities of Force.com, VisualForce and its other platform capabilities with a more open and powerful API that makes it easier for third-party ISVs and enterprises to connect their software solutions to Salesforce’s CRM database via mobile devices.
This consolidated development platform makes it easier for Salesforce’s partners to develop and deliver their solutions. However, it also may cause some confusion among its enterprise customers who were just getting comfortable using Salesforce’s previous development tools. It may also be overwhelming for new customers who aren’t sure where to begin with all the functional capabilities at their disposal under the umbrella Salesforce1 brand.
In either case, Salesforce1 also could complicate Salesforce’s sales process and create a greater demand for consultative selling skills among its salespeople. Third-party consulting firms — like Accenture, Appirio, Bluewolf, Capgemini, Cloud Sherpas and Deloitte — and integration solution vendors — like Dell Boomi, Informatica, Jitterbit, MuleSoft and SnapLogic — will be the biggest winners as they are called upon to help customers pull all the pieces together.
While all of this will keep the Salesforce ecosystem abuzz for a while, I think the Salesforce/HP alliance will have the greatest impact on the overall cloud marketplace. This partnership will offer enterprises that are reluctant to rely on external, “public” cloud services an opportunity to deploy dedicated instances of Saleforce’s solutions behind the firewall via “superpods.”This is significant because it removes the most important obstacle to cloud adoption — enterprise fears regarding security, privacy and compliance — and exponentially expands the addressable market opportunity for cloud services.
It is also ironic because Marc Benioff had a heyday ridiculing his mentor, Larry Ellison, when Oracle unveiled its own cloud pods a couple of years ago. Now, he is willing to give customers a choice that cloud zealots have said would never work. (I’ve been advocating “location-independent” cloud services for a long time.)
While Salesforce.com has found a new way to expand the market for its solutions, the big winner will be HP. This alliance gives it renewed recognition in the market and a clear differentiation over IBM and Dell in the cloud arena.
Salesforce’s other recent announcements regarding identity management and private AppExchange are also closely tied to the new offerings unveiled at Dreamforce.
Once again, Salesforce is defying the concerns of many industry research and Wall Street analysts who have questioned its ability to continue to grow at the same pace long term. In response, Salesforce is constantly iterating its marketing message and product portfolio to appeal to its growing customer base and partner ecosystem while it aggressively hires salespeople to capitalize on today’s “cloud rush” environment.
Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace and host of the Cloud Innovators Summit conference series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.