In a discussion I had with a client a few weeks ago he asked me if salesforce implementations and service providers have reached a mature state given the company is over a decade old. I told him the answer depended on which of 4 customer categories you fell into – users of the traditional CRM applications, more recent users of social assets salesforce had developed or acquired like Chatter or Radian6, vendors which were using Force.com to transition from on-premise to SaaS versions and finally users which were using salesforce’s platform to modernize legacy applications for cloud/mobile/social computing.
Sure enough on the Dreamforce stage there were examples of each. Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts and Gatorade’s “social mission center” were front and center as examples of leveraging the social capabilities the company offers. Toyota, Enterasys and Coke showed off how the “internet of things” can also become social. Coke even discussed how licensing is becoming social as per-user pricing gets outdated in collaborative and device heavy environments. There were vendors like Kenandy (Sandra Kurtzig is bringing ERP, a concept she pioneered at ASK eons ago to the cloud) and Infor using Force.com. There were long time traditional users like Kelly Services which have expanded usage of newer salesforce products. If you walked the expo halls plenty of partners had mobile extensions.
And then there was the variety in the glitz which ranged from Daniel Akaka delivering with his wife traditional Hawaiian greetings to Metallica threatening along with the mosh pit of the 45,000+ in attendance at the conference to blow the top off Moscone Center. And in between genres as different as Neil Young and MC Hammer and will.i.am.
There was demographic diversity. Ray Lane, partner at Kleiner Perkins and an investor in Kenandy, standing alongside Ms. Kurtzig told the audience “you thirty somethings, our (60+) generation is not done yet!”.
Somehow missing in the conference were methods and rules for each of the coalitions of customers. Sure, there is a wildly expanding range of systems integrators who offer to do anything but salesforce needs to invest much more in detailed roadmaps to help companies become social enterprises or vendors seeking to use its tools to move from legacy to SaaS.
CEO Marc Benioff moderated a panel which included two tech savvy regulators, Vivek Kundra and Neelie Kroes from the EU. I have a feeling he will need regulators in his customer coalitions, otherwise he may suffer the same fate of a much bigger vendor we all know of which put too much on its faith in its service partners.
Marc does not want his customers to be singing Metallica’s “Bleeding Me” – he wants to have them continue to proudly say “U Can’t touch this”