Enterprise Social — Salesforce.com Gets Chatty

Last week, I had a chance to visit Salesforce.com’s Cloudforce in New York.  It was an impressive; Salesforce.com is pushing current thinking re: Enterprise Social Computing and is quite vocal at evangelizing their point-of-view, including YouTube postings from event with ample opportunity to see Marc Benioff share the company’s vision.

Salesforce.com is providing a vision for Enterprise Social Computing, connecting lines-of-business, customers and suppliers.  This goes well beyond current convention for Social Computing where today enterprises are developing Facebook-like tools within the firewall.  I would like to address Salesforce.com’s approach in three areas:  Maximizing the Cloud,  New Offerings and Partners.

Maximizing the Cloud — every Salesforce.com employee and partner with whom I spoke was quick to point out that Salesforce.com was “Cloud” and “Open”  — key points for the Salesforce.com strategy, the latter supporting the former.  When pushed on current in-house infrastructure, answers were somewhat summarily addressed as “migration” and “open integration.”  More work is required here.  Migration is a red-light headache most IT shops will be quick to avoid.  Integration requires more examples, reference architecture and proven providers to support.  Finally, while I am something of a cheerleader for Cloud-based infrastructure, recognition of rationale for maintaining in-house infrastructure and secure, compliant integration is required.  I suspect we will see more on this from Salesforce.com in the next wave.

New Offerings were impressive both in terms of speed of development and reach across the Enterprise.

  • Chatter used to sound like an RSS feed for CRM log entries; today Chatter has emerged into a portal solution, accessible via desktop, mobile, kiosk, iPad, providing document storage, file sharing, IM and webinars via Dimdim acquisition.  The evolution of chatter is less surprising than the speed of development.  In a very short time, Salesforce.com has developed an increasingly integrated collaboration solution vs. long-standing efforts from players such as Cisco and Microsoft.  (Side note — the same is true for offerings from Google and VMWare; more on this in future discussions)
  • Reach Across the Enterprise via making application development easier and new offerings.  With Force.com and Heroku, Salesforce.com is making it easier to build applications, key to extending data applicability from sales to other line-of-business areas.  Radian6 extends Salesforce.com connection with the marketing organization; recently acquired, Radian6 monitors social conversations, providing enterprises insight into brand management, customer satisfaction and location for engagement.  Radian6 is a gem within Salesforce.com, providing customer data, marketing engagement and an insight for vertical applications.   Finally, Assistly provides a tool for internal call-center customer support; Salesforce.com seems to be re-doubling efforts to address call center solutions.

Partners seem to be having a love affair –in part, because Salesforce.com so generously acquires many and in part, because Salesforce.com provides an application development platform with little conflicts from existing applications.  At Cloudforce, there was a partner pavilion where many “partners” were actually Salesforce.com subsidiaries (e.g., Radian6, Assistly, Heroku), running fairly independently today.  While I am sure someone at Salesforce.com may provide better answers on the rationale for acquisitions, it was not always apparent to the newly acquired employees.  Given the speed of the market, Salesforce.com is likely not waiting for these business relationships to prove themselves out; rather a hit and a few misses may be just fine for Salesforce.com acquisitions.  At Cloudforce, there was quite a bit of chatter about Dreamforce 2012, nearly a year away.  Anticipate a much bigger partner pavilion indicating significant growth in Salesforce.com’s partner base and more acquisitions in the interim.

Dreamforce 2012 seems to be a milestone for Salesforce.com to prove out their vision and strategy.  Today, the vision is impressive and Salesforce.com is liberally evangelizing to anyone who will listen.  The delivery is still a bit bumpy, the execution and delivery still formative.  Bet on a smoother, comprehensive, partner-supported fanfare for Dreamforce 2012.

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