Last week I attended Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce’s (previous CloudAve coverage) annual user conference which exceeded 40K attendees this year, and the blogosphere is already filled with Dreamforce posts. I am adding one more to the mix and I want to apologize straight away for my contribution to the echo chamber. I will try my best not to repeat the happenings at Dreamforce and build a story from a slightly different angle. I came back from the conference with a feeling that Salesforce has matured into a solid enterprise class company and they have the right set of plans to dominate the space. In this post I will discuss their maturity and their plans to dominate the enterprise space by holding on to the critical enterprise data. I will also highlight some of my disappointments from the conference.
Maturing as a dominant enterprise player
Salesforce made it clear that they are fast maturing as an enterprise player. In fact, this year’s Dreamforce was more about adding enterprise features and integration than any major acquisitions. This is especially important as they go about embracing large enterprises and bringing them on board to the “cloud, social and mobile revolution”. The reasons why I feel this way about Salesforce’s focus on maturity are listed below:
- Even though Chatter was unveiled sometime back and has been in use for more than a year in some organizations, it lacked some of the solid enterprise capabilities like Tibbr. This changed with announcements last week about some interesting Chatter product/features like Chatter Now (IM presence notification for real time collaboration), Chatter Customer Groups (Any organization can now invite people outside the organization into Chatter while also maintaining the necessary security and privacy), Chatter Approvals (this is something Tibbr got it right from the beginning by integrating the workflow into the social conversation. Now it is possible to bring in the organization’s workflow hierarchy into Chatter timeline) and Chatter Service (a deep integration with Salesforce ServiceCloud).
- After evangelizing social in the enterprise for the past year or so, Salesforce came out showcasing some high profile large enterprise customers like Toyota, Disney, etc.. They also took the necessary step of laying down the strategy for enterprises plotting their move to social. They announced a three step strategy for organizations to enter social bandwagon which includes a) Developing social customer profiles b) Creating employee social networks and c) Building customer social networks and product social networks. Even though pundits and analysts out there are already talking about these steps, Salesforce charting out a course by plugging their products around the strategy shows their maturity as a company serious about Social Enterprise.
- Their announcement about Database.com supporting Data Residency Option (DRO) clearly shows that they acknowledge the fact that enterprise path to cloud is through hybrid cloud (at least in the coming years) and realize that DRO may be the right way to attract large enterprise customers
Dreamforce 11 made it clear that Salesforce is on for a long slog when it comes to not just taking the enterprise to social bandwagon but also to establish themselves as the goto player in the social enterprise space.
Plans for enterprise domination
While exposing their maturity in the enterprise space, Salesforce also gave hints on their strategy for enterprise domination. Their strategy revolves around data and platforms. Let me highlight below why I think that they are on a path to make it big in the enterprise space.
- Data, Data, Data: During the recent Workday Technology Summit, Aneel Bhusri, co-CEO of Workday, made a comment pointing out the fact that “Workday is the social graph for enterprises”. It is so true because HR systems holds all the necessary information about the users and their relationship with other users inside an organization. In short, systems like Workday holds the internal social graph for large organizations. Salesforce, on the other hand, holds so much information about people outside of the enterprises that are critical to the very success of such organizations. Tools like Jigsaw and Radian6 are important weapons inside the Salesforce armor which, if put to use properly, can completely change the way enterprises are doing business today. Imagine the treasure trove of data they have and the context they can put on top this data. Imagine what this intelligence can offer to an organization in this competitive global landscape. In future, the success or failure of any organization is going to rely solely on the intelligence gained through the contextual information that is available at their disposal. Salesforce, with services like Database.com and Data.com, is accumulating vast amounts of data which could potentially lock-in their customers with them for a long time. They have a very clear strategy to tap into their data assets and make a deep enterprise play in the future. Watch out for more of their enterprise strategy around their data in the coming years.
- Platforms, Platforms, Platforms: While their apps are a front-end to their data collection, they main strategy lies in the place where there is action on their data. They understand that the action has to be on their platforms and they have a two-pronged approach to this strategy. With Heroku acquisition announcement during last year’s Dreamforce, I thought the proprietary Force.com platform might go away making way for a more open Heroku platform. I expected to see a much deeper integration between Heroku platform and Salesforce.com data. But what I saw was a reverse of what I expected. Even though there were no talks on this deeper integration I expected, there was enough buzz on how Force.com is going to fit into their long term strategy. Not only Salesforce.com is serious about Force.com platform, there are clear signs that their partners and customers are embracing it in large numbers. Workday’s announcement that they will use Force.com as a development platform clearly highlights the fact that enterprise customers are relying on Force.com as a platform as choice to interact with the data stored on applications such as Salesforce CRM, Workday, Netsuite, etc.. The news about companies like Infor, RootStock and Kenandy (see this Dennis Howlett post on the topic) taking the manufacturing ERP data into Force.com is a clear indication that Force.com is an enterprise cloud platform to beat in the coming years. Also, the combination of Heroku platform and Radian6 is going to completely disrupt the marketing game and don’t be surprised if this combo turns out to be the killer Marketing Cloud Platform. Interestingly, Salesforce is using a tactic where they claim that they are not a leader in the cloud platform game and, hence, they want to play nice with other companies in the enterprise space. Since there is no clear dominant leader in the space, this claim has a touch of “feel good factor”. However, there is a clear long term risk which many pundits are not considering while talking about the potential of Force.com. Convergence of modern enterprise software players on Force.com may be convenient in the short term as they try to fend off traditional enterprise vendors but it is risky to place their bet on the proprietary Force.com platform when you look at it from a long term perspective. Force.com can clearly emerge as a monopoly in this sector affecting the very vendors who are using their platform today. Salesforce may be a player with “good karma” now but we will never know of their “evil side” unless they gain monopoly share like some of the players in the past. On the Heroku side, the partnership with Accenture is a beginning of what we can expect in the coming years. It is my opinion that the time has come for Heroku to graduate from a platform that supports individual developers and startups to a platform for enterprises. I think Salesforce is having a clear strategy on this front and it is evidenced from the fact that they have put Byron Sebastian in charge of their Platform strategy. Platforms are the key to Salesforce’s enterprise success and they are clearly aware of it.
Even though I am pretty excited about what I saw during Dreamforce 11, I am a little disappointed with what I didn’t see during the event.
- As I mentioned in the previous section, I expected a deeper integration between Heroku platform and Salesforce data. I didn’t hear much on this front and it may be due to difficulties they face with the integration. I am hoping to hear more about it in next year’s Dreamforce. I also hope that Heroku supports Salesforce infrastructure along with AWS in the next year.
- I expected DimDim video technology to show up on Chatter and there are no hints about it.
- There is no information on the Manymoon integration even though there are hints that we can expect something in the future.
- Why can’t they pronounce VMforce dead? It is obvious that there is no synergy between the two companies on PaaS. Just get it out of the way folks.
disclosure: Salesforce took care of my travel and Workday is CloudAve Sponsor
Update: read @aneelb on Dreamforce 2011, Workday Tech Summit, and the Post-PC World.