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11/4/2008
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Mark Smith
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Salesforce Elevates Cloud Computing Force

Salesforce.com opened its annual Dreamforce conference yesterday with the usual fanfare to introduce CEO and chairman, Marc Benioff... who said the company is doubling down on making its customers successful... What we have not seen is how salesforce.com will help customers better manage CRM efforts across line-of-business areas...

The "No Software" company, salesforce.com opened its annual Dreamforce conference yesterday with the usual loud sounds and video to introduce CEO and chairman, Marc Benioff. With more than 9,000 attendees from 40 countries in the standing-room-only keynote, Benioff said the company is doubling down on making its customers successful. The company's strategy is to put business information into their cloud computing environment and manage all your customer information, share all of your business information, and build multi-tenant applications.

On a personal note, I was pleased to hear salesforce.com highlight that it does significant work to help the community and non-profit organizations by donating more than 90,000 workforce hours and $13 million in grants to community service with some 5,000 non-profit organizations. This donation should be applauded as companies should give back to the community, especially as they continue to grow and succeed.

Saleforce.com is moving beyond the 2007 launch of the cloud computing technology platform Force.com and just competing against other IT technology platforms like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, as referenced in my blog "Can salesforce.com make the dream reality." Salesforce has gone beyond the traditional enterprise software market and is venturing into a new realm of applications and platforms for developers to bring cloud computing closer to a reality in your enterprise.The keynote and discussion led by Benioff focused on the cloud computing platform Force.com, which has made significant advancements, with new capabilities, including their Visualforce user interface, analytics, search, multi-language and multi-currency support, and multiple levels of security, as well as new levels of performance for broader platform reach. Salesforce.com is also taking on a larger world of business needs with new services to host Web sites, intranets, portals and Web applications that can operate on Force.com, with new services to any sized business.

Salesforce.com reaches into the broader Internet-based domain now commonly referred to as cloud computing, with integration into social computing and commerce through newly announced support for Facebook and Amazon. The COO of Facebook discussed how enterprise computing can bridge into the social computing environment, where the two platforms and services can connect people across the world for needs such as collaboration, recruiting to bringing ideas from employees to management. Salesforce.com demonstrated the new capabilities by bridging sites such as Dell, Starbucks and Facebook through the Force.com platform.

Moving even further away from a business application focus to business collaboration, Benioff focused on what he described as "social CRM." Of course, the company started on applications like sales force automation (SFA), marketing and Web-self service, but the company is now focused on delivering new computing services across the Internet to business. The question will be how these new services will impact the performance of existing applications and continued investments into the core applications like CRM, where the company started and on which customers of all sizes depend.

What we have not seen is how salesforce.com will help customers better manage the CRM efforts across line-of-business areas and processes like marketing, sales, service, field service and call centers, where the customer interactions actually happen. I am not clear how saleforce.com will address what we refer to as performance management, which unifies people, process, information and technology to reach the goals and objectives of the business. Has CRM reached the end of innovation and advancements for business?

For now, organizations that want to address these needs will have to focus their efforts on building the applications or tapping value-added partners that can help manage and improve performance. These partners range from ones in sales like Cloud9 Analytics for pipeline management, Right90 for sales forecasting, Callidus and Xactly for sales performance management, Marketbright and Marketo for lead generation and nurturing, Stakeware for corporate sustainability, and Informatica and Pervasive with data integration across the cloud computing enterprise environments.

The conference keynote finished with Neil Young, the legend rock star, and a discussion about the steps needed to transform the automotive industry and convert classic and new automobiles to be powered by compressed natural gas and electric power from the company LincVolt. The cars are connected to the Internet, and salesforce.com, which is advancing this cause, has built a Web site that monitors vehicle diagnostics and helps the company run the business from the cloud computing environment.

So where do you go with these announcements? What should you do in your business? Well, thinking about the next generation of Internet-based business social computing and commerce could bring new methods and ideas for your business. For some, the opportunities are endless, but for the pragmatists in business and CRM, closer examination of what is needed to run your business is available on the show floor and in the track sessions.

I'll soon share insights from salesforce.com announcements at Dreamforce on their applications to see if salesforce.com is truly responding to customer needs for advancing the core CRM applications. I will examine whether the company will address the next generation of CRM, which Ventana Research calls Customer Performance Management, or the specific needs of sales, which we call Sales Performance Management. We will see if they are going to double down on the core fundamentals of CRM in the enterprise and advance their efforts for business to be effective or continue their cloud computing force in the industry.

Nothing is wrong with the salesforce.com cloud computing efforts; the question is now what customers will do to manage their businesses using salesforce.com as one of many applications in the enterprise. Marc Benioff is driving a new vision for software in cloud computing to a reality, and he is motivating a new generation of developers across the world on what is possible.

Let me know your thoughts.Salesforce.com opened its annual Dreamforce conference yesterday with the usual fanfare to introduce CEO and chairman, Marc Benioff... who said the company is doubling down on making its customers successful... What we have not seen is how salesforce.com will help customers better manage CRM efforts across line-of-business areas...

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