By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg
Marc Ferrentino: There is really no platform to bring together conversations between various groups; there is no platform for a really strong front office, in essence. There is no generic platform. It is very piecemeal right now, and because it is piecemeal it is hard to bring those conversations together. So, our direction is to offer up what we are calling the social enterprise platform. It is a front-office platform. We have spent several years building up back-office platforms, [we and] the SAPs and Oracles and the like, and that is where we spent the money, and we rang that bell about productivity.
We felt that […] we had rung that bell for a long time, and in this new world we live in, having that brand conversation and being able to bring an extended network in – and this is the conflict you talked about, your extended enterprise – bringing those things in is hard to do, and that is the direction of our product. The direction in which we are heading is really that Salesforce will become one of the factor standards for social apps, will be a social enterprise platform that will be the standard platform for the front office. This is something very specific that I think can only be done in or with the cloud. And it is because this sort of platform needs to scale for it to work; it requires a cloud-level scale, or you need massive IT tools.
Sramana Mitra: Yes, also you need to be able to do cross-enterprise work, supporting cross-enterprise users, and that is easier done on the cloud than inside the organization.
MF: Exactly, and think about the companies that if they tried to do this themselves . . . there are only a handful of companies that would be able to afford to do this all themselves. So, the cloud model, just from a cost savings standpoint, is a huge win. Then of course the real value comes in the ability to have these conversations and link them together to have a compact experience. We all have had the experience where you got on the website, perhaps you register, you make a comment, then you are talking with a salesperson and he or she doesn’t know that you got on the website and that you have made this comment, and you call up and someone else asks for your information again, and he doesn’t know anything about the conversation of what is happening inside the organization.
So, creating a holistic experience – and I think companies like Apple have shown that purchasing products and being a fan of a company and a brand is really about experience – and delivering that experience is very difficult. When you have “destroying” systems, you wind up a very destroying experience to your customers. Having a platform that allows you to deliver that kind of broad-based, unified holistic experience is the direction we are heading in right now, and to be honest with you, we have that vision today. It is just a matter of getting everyone else to catch up. Some companies are still trying to get the head around it.
A lot of these changes have happened so rapidly; companies were doing business in a certain way for 30 years, and all of a sudden the world just got turned upside down. It takes a bit of time for everyone to get on board to understand and try to internalize these concepts and what is happening right now. Reed Business Information and Radian6 were some of the last pieces in the puzzle to come in. That tool that directs you to reach out on the Web and observe, to actually join in the conversations that are taking place about your brand are important because the reality I think we have all acknowledged is that a company doesn’t own its brand; the customers own that brand. All you can do is just do your best to try to deliver a high level of service and reach out and engage with customers the best way you can.
SM: Let’s talk about a few of those pieces you have brought together from the outside and how are you integrating them or how are you pushing them toward this integrated experience you are talking about. For example, you acquired Jigsaw, Radiance6, and Dimdim.
MF: Manymoon, Etacts, the list is long! Yes, we have made many acquisitions, it’s absolutely incredible.
SM: So, tell me about how these are being integrated and the logic you are following in bringing these pieces in?
MF: This is where one of the things that I think has been . . . I try to explain this to most people I talk to, the leverage that is this model. It is highly technical, but Salesforce is built on the philosophy of multi-tenancy, a concept that is talked about quite a bit. What is interesting about it, the leverage point of this model, is that as we acquire new companies and new technologies, we bring those technologies on to our multitenant platform. When we do, they wind up inheriting all of the functionalities that were in that platform. I will give you an example: We purchased a company called Informavores that was a workflow tool, a cloud-based workflow tool.