Salesforce.com Unifies, Extends Cloud PortfolioSalesforce.com Unifies, Extends Cloud Portfolio
At Dreamforce conference, Salesforce.com's marketing, development platform, and HTML5 announcements point to consolidation of acquisitions even as it adds new file-sharing, social, and collaborative capabilities.
September 19, 2012
Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud will unify Radian6 and Buddy Media. Force.com and Heroku are coming closer together as a single development environment. And HTML5-based Touch interfaces will gradually offer a single approach to mobile application delivery.
These are just a few of the announcements set for Wednesday at the vendor's big annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco. The big-picture trend across the many announcements is an effort to simultaneously extend and simplify a sprawling cloud portfolio that now includes six distinct product lines built on components from multiple acquisitions.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff will surely talk about "unification" and "simplification" rather than "consolidation" during his planned three-hour keynote on Wednesday. A bigger spotlight is likely to shine on the many new capabilities to be announced here. Well before this week's event, Benioff preannounced that the company will introduce a new Dropbox.com/Box.com-like file sharing service. The service will be called ChatterBox, as it will marry file sharing with the company's Chatter collaboration service.
"Since the output of work is most often represented as a file, Chatter should instantly become a much richer environment for collaboration [with the addition of file sharing]," stated Wells Fargo equity analyst Jason Maynard in a research note published this week.
[ Want more on Salesforce.com? Read Salesforce.com's Next Billion-Dollar Business: Marketing. ]
In another extension of Chatter, Salesforce will introduce Chatter Communities for Partners. Existing partner portals are too often limited to two-way collaboration, according to Salesforce, so Chatter Communities for Partners is designed to ease business-to-business collaboration among multiple parties. Due out this fall, the service will enable partners to create and collaborate within secure, private online workspaces. A hardware supplier, software supplier, and systems integrator partnered on a single product or product line, for example, could create a community to securely share leads, deal information, and service and implementation details across all three companies.
Salesforce.com is also introducing Work.com, a rebuilt and rebranded version of Ryyple, the cloud-based social goal-setting and performance review system it acquired last December. It's a start for Salesforce in the hot human capital management (HCM) category--where SAP and Oracle offer more extensive cloud HCM portfolios by way of their SuccessFactors and Taleo acquisitions, respectively. Salesforce will also highlight closer ties with HCM cloud vendor Workday at Dreamforce.
Spotting Social Customers
On the social marketing front, Salesforce is announcing Data.com Social Key, which will help companies connect Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social personas with customer listings in their Salesforce.com CRM databases. Using a mix of Web technologies, Social Key will crawl online blogs, company profiles, professional profiles, and public sources in search of publically detailed connections people make between their professional identities and their social network handles. The Social Key system will store metadata about the source of such data and then give companies using the service control over how information from different types of sources can be used.
Privacy hawks are likely to have a field day with Data.com Social Key, as people might be shocked to learn just how much information they themselves make available online. But Andy MacMillan, senior vice president and general manager, Data.com., insists that Social Key is about business-relevant, not personal, information, and that Data.com will not be doing data mining against social network APIs.
"We're looking at postings that are available on the Web and finding associations that users themselves have created," he said. "If you were to type my name into a search engine, for example, you would find blog posts, my profile on Salesforce.com's Web site, and lots of other places where my business profile is exposed, as are the social handles I used to communicate as part of that persona."
The controls provided to companies using the service will also steer clear of controversy, MacMillan said, as users will be able to decide what data sets are appropriate to use for different purposes. "If my Facebook persona is connected to my business information, that might be highly relevant for inbound service if I complained about a product on Facebook, but I may not want to enable my marketing organization to do outbound communications on that channel if I don't have a prior relationship with that prospect or customer on that channel," MacMillan explained.
Data.com Service Key won't even be available until summer 2013, so there will be many months for debate. Simplifying Salesforce.com
Salesforce.com has simplified its purchasing experience over the last year by offering all-you-can-eat enterprise license agreements. But it hasn't simplified its array of applications and services. In fact, acquisitions have made things more complicated, with multiple options across the company's six product lines: sales force automation, customer service, marketing, collaboration, human capital management, and Salesforce.com development platforms and platform services.
In the marketing area, Salesforce now owns both Radian6 and Buddy Media, but at Dreamforce it will announce the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which will "unify" (don't say "consolidate") these offerings. The distinct services of Radian6 and Buddy will still be available, but the plan is for the separate brands, separate interfaces, and separate product experiences to go away over time.
The first version of the Marketing Cloud will essentially put a single-sign-on interface and single buying approach (starting at $5,000 per month) in front of Radian6, Buddy Media, and Salesforce.com, creating what the vendor describes as "a single suite." But it doesn't sound like it will feel like a suite until sometime next year.
"The social media listening, engagement, and paid media components will eventually be available through a single measurement dashboard and with single measurement tools," Rob Begg, a Saleforce.com VP of marketing told InformationWeek. "And whether it's the content marketing engagement app that you might know from Buddy Media or one-to-one customer engagement that you may know from Radian6, it will all happen through the same interface and same product."
Unification is also ahead for Force.com and Heroku, the two major cloud development platforms. Force.com uses the company's original APEX development language, whereas Heroku is focused on development in Java, Ruby, Python, and other languages--primarily for business-to-consumer applications running on Amazon, Facebook, and other cloud platforms.
Salesforce.com didn't prebrief journalists or analysts on the plans for Force.com and Heroku, but Maynard of Wells Fargo noted that Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian recently left Salesforce.com, and that Benioff had hinted the company would introduce a single-sign-on tool called Salesforce Identify. "When it comes to making customers successful, we think streamlining the identity and authentication of apps is very important," Maynard wrote in this week's research note.
One other announcement that should lead to simplification, albeit over time, is the introduction of Salesforce Touch, an HTML5-based version of Salesforce.com's Sales Cloud applications. Salesforce Touch was announced at last year's Dreamforce event, and it was promised "in early 2012." Salesforce.com also said Touch would expand to cover all of the company's major applications, but that's hasn't happened on time, either.
Salesforce.com's press release brags that Touch will "bring Salesforce to any mobile device, regardless of platform." But the fact is that Salesforce Touch currently supports only Apple iPad tablets. Android tablet support is expected later this year. IPhone support will be available "in the next 12 months," according to a company spokesperson. Salesforce execs say more than 700 customers are already using Salesforce Touch, and as of Wednesday, any Sales Cloud customer can have their administrator simply turn the service on to Touch enable their sales applications.
Salesforce.com still has native apps for iPad and Android that it doesn't plan to abandon. Some observers might say that Salesforce, rather than its customers, stands to benefit most from HTML5, as it will be free the company from having to develop separate native apps for separate mobile platforms. But companies that develop on Salesforce must also be considered, as they, too, will be able to see their apps rendered in HTML5 without separate mobile development work.
"Not all of our customers have the resources or want to invest in one-off iOS or Android apps for specific form factors," Mark Woolen, VP, product marketing for Salesforce Sales Cloud told InformationWeek. "This is a big benefit for customers that are developing on top of the Sales Cloud."
Whether it's about apps, development platforms, mobile delivery, marketing, or any other aspect of the Salesforce.com portfolio, unification will benefit Salesforce.com and customers alike as it will simplify technology selection, deployment and development, and it should cut costs (for both parties). Whether you call it unification, simplification, or consolidation, it was high time for Salesforce to start streamlining its fast-growing portfolio.
Find out the nine questions you must ask before migrating apps to the public cloud in the Cloud Ready? special issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: It's time to lay to rest two common myths of the cloud computing era. (Free registration required.)
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