Salesforce hosted an Analyst Summit last week. It was very well done – a nice blend of product, strategy, customer and partner sessions. Add their event to the list of excellent summits I wrote about last year.
I have been a big fan of the cloud model and have written generously about Salesforce and its executives in several of my books and blogs. As leaders of its Sales, Service, Marketing, Community, and other areas ran through their expanding functionality and customer bases, you had to feel good about how Salesforce has evolved its applications in step with emerging social, mobile, analytical and cloud technologies. Looking ahead, there were stimulating discussions on how Salesforce plans to enhance industrial uses of the Internet of Things with field service/SLA functionality, and consumer tech uses of IoT with customer lifecycle monitoring/management.
Salesforce can continue with that CRM focus. They are doing just fine, with FY16 revenue guidance of $ 6.5 billion. But I am hoping they expand their functional focus. I am haunted by countless conversations as I wrote SAP Nation where customers kept asking me why cloud vendors were not delivering fuller enterprise coverage. And they were asking about circa 2005 enterprise models. They have custom-built or bought from niche vendors, many newer industry applications: Industrie 4.0 shop floors, mobile banking, telematics driven auto insurance, predictive maintenance in asset-intensive businesses, omni-channel commerce in retail and on and on
Salesforce has been counting on partners like FinancialForce, Kenandy, Sage, Veeva, Vlocity to use its tools to penetrate more of the enterprise. That strategy is fine, but the pace has been slow both in terms of function points delivered, and in penetration within even Salesforce’s 150,000+ customers. And they barely scratch the surface of millions of on-premise customers.
I would like to see cloud leaders like Salesforce (and Workday and others) take a much more active role in delivering wider cloud functionality. I think they have a 3-4 year window of opportunity before SAP, Oracle, Infor and others mature their own cloud offerings.
Another area I would like to see more Salesforce leadership is around the services ecosystem. The SaaS model they pioneered was attractive for two major reasons: a) Implementations were delivered by agile, “born in the cloud” SIs like Appirio. Model Metrics and Silverline and b) It commoditized post implementation outsourcing - hosting, upgrades, application management are delivered by the SaaS provider.
Now, the SIs with large on-premise practices are becoming much more prominent around Salesforce. The question is whether Salesforce can help them adjust to ITS business model, or will their sheer numbers drift Salesforce the other way. Salesforce says it is being helped by customers who are much savvier now. That certainly helps but readjusting the mindset of millions of on-premise “citizens” (2 million just in SAP Nation) will take plenty of cat-herding and automation.
Salesforce has had an amazing run for the last decade and a half. They can continue on their present trajectory and continue to do just fine. Personally, I would like to see a more assertive Salesforce spread its wings and soar even further.