By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: What are you hearing from Microsoft in terms of collaboration? You said you don’t have a lot visibility into the Google products roadmap, but what is Microsoft telling you about its product roadmap? This comment that Google is better at collaboration tools in the office environment has been said for years, right?
DM: Yes, and Microsoft is focusing on collaboration now. What they have done inside Office 2010, in terms of connectors to the social networking environment and connectors to their SharePoint environment, is great thus far. We are in the process of upgrading our SharePoint environment, which we use primarily for business intelligence and reporting, less so for collaboration. Well, Microsoft has been a laggard in collaboration. Frankly, even though I have insight into what Microsoft’s release schedule is or some type of vision of what they are heading toward, when you actually do an installation or upgrade of SharePoint, and it takes six months to upgrade a SharePoint environment because you wrote custom code on top of it . . . that is when I say I would rather be in an SaaS model where the upgrades are seamless and all new features and functionalities come to me every quarter. So, I get four major updates a year inside that environment as opposed to bugs and patch fixes inside the Microsoft environments.
We are closely monitoring Azure as well as Microsoft’s cloud-based solutions. So far, we haven’t had a use case or requirement that has made us put anything inside Microsoft’s cloud-based solutions. But they have been a lot more aggressive in marketing their cloud-based solutions and are educating us on them, within our environment, for the past two to three months.
SM: At this point you have Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce.com solutions for the cloud within your environment, plus a variety of more niche, functional vendors such as Workday, right?
SM: And Amazon?
DM: Yes. We marry all of those together to best address our business needs.
SM: In your assessment, based on your experience in working with all of them, which company gives you the most compelling vision of the future as far as the cloud is concerned?
DM: Hands down, it is Salesforce.com. Mark Benioff and his team have a clearly defined vision. They were ahead of the curve on internal collaboration, and I think what sets Salesforce.com apart from anybody else is that Saleforce.com learns from the consumer marketplace. They learn from the consumer Web, and they go and mirror my philosophy. I operate under the idea that today, all of these people on the Internet who have been using Facebook and Twitter, booking their own travel online through Travelocity, and doing all of these things for years, they never needed instructional training to do them, right? So, why can’t we take those same consumer Web and make them so user-friendly that employees just adapt to them because you are mimicking something that happens on the consumer Web.
DM: I believe that has been the differentiator for Salesforce.com. They said, let’s take this consumer Web and make it happen inside of the business environment. They have been extremely successful. We were among the first 50 customers using Chatter, and we use it extensively to collaborate.
SM: What do you think of Salesforce’s Dimdim acquisition?
DM: I loved it! As soon as I saw Mark Benioff’s Tweet about the acquisition, I sent him a message and said, ‘This is an outstanding product.’ I have been tracking Dimdim probably since they launched their products. We don’t use it internally; it didn’t make our corporate cut. We use WebEx internally. What I believe is that Salesforce.com will be able to productize Dimdim and roll it into enterprise architecture. That is going to help to bring huge value to the product.
SM: A lot of people are using Dimdim; it is a really nice product. I think they will find a great channel inside of Salesforce.com.
DM: I agree. The challenge that we ran into while looking at their product was we encountered some number of glitches during the installation processes. Dimdim requires users to be a little more technical to get it up and running the first time.
SM: I agree.
DM: WebEx is pretty solid, and their new pricing model is much better. They are able to do recording and those types of things. WebEx was a bit farther ahead of their curve on really making it affordable, whereas years ago the same WebEx’s pricing model was insane. It was that insane pricing model which brought on the whole GoToMeeting environment and the Dimdims of the world.
SM: Which solution are you using right now in that category?
DM: We are migrating from GoToMeeting and now use WebEx under an enterprise license agreement.
SM: I see.