Posts Tagged ‘Salesforce.com’


Everybody has a year-end synopsis these days and it’s fun to see what each person deemed important.  Sometimes you wonder if you lived through the same experiences but it’s a good thing to recall everything one more time and maybe reconsider how you’ll remember each.  Here’s my synopsis which is no more or less valid than anyone else’s.

Marketing’s resurgence might be the most interesting development of ‘12 for several reasons.  First, the switch to marketing from other areas of emphasis (like service) shows that many people in the CRM universe feel that the economy is not only healing but returning to form.  In the last few years, social and service, and often the two together, were the CRM market drivers but with marketing showing new vigor, it suggests to me that next year will see business accelerate.  Maybe that won’t take us all the way back to 2008 but what it will be an improvement.

Also, marketing’s renaissance comes via a social salient, especially in using analytics to better understand and segment markets.  Analytics tells me that vendors need ultra low cost ways to get to their customers because the economy is still weak and no one wants to hire people so they’re going for automation and software.  That’s just the new reality and I hate to be bringing the news.  Many markets are price driven — as opposed to quality or service driven — and companies are trying to give customers what they want.

And speaking of price driven and automation, there’s been a nice uptick in the number of vendors offering software robots that can at least triage a service call.  That includes VirtuOz, a CRM Idol finalist and personal favorite.

Big Data hit CRM through the link to analytics and marketing and companies like Dun and Bradstreet, Lattice Engines and InsideView are all taking a cut at this important space.  Another one worth checking out is Awareness, another CRM Idol finalist.  They do cool stuff in applying analytics to the big data pile captured with social media.  In all, social and analytics have shown us that there’s more to social marketing than sentiment analysis which can only be good for the future of the market.

If marketing is becoming automated and socialized, a similar thing is happening in human resources.  Many an HR software vendor has made the leap to the cloud and also to social.  The two will radically transform HR from a back office preserve to something much more front office in its orientation.  HR is rapidly becoming a specialized case of social front office application with important contributions from Work.com, Jobscience, Vana and lots more.

Also, despite what Gartner said in its recent gamification report, I think the future is largely positive in that market.  The major analyst firms put out reports that spell doom when it becomes clear that an early market has gotten frothy and no one in their right minds can reasonably expect the new thing to live up to all the, well, hype.

But the good news about gamification is that it is reaching its adolescence, a time when some of its early adopters will harness it and make it successful.  So the good news I see is that the vendors and customers who do it right will be fine and it will be clear who has the goods next year.

Then there’s mobile, mobile, mobile or browser apps, native apps and always connected native apps.  Making mobile work this year was the result of a collaboration of infrastructure vendors and people who make the applications.  I have noticed recently that wireless vendors are getting aggressive about offering tablet packages for only ten bucks a month to users who subscribe for other devices.  Ten bucks is important as it represents a manageable fee so I look for mobile adoption to accelerate now that all the pieces seem to be in place.

Mobile infrastructure comes at the right time also because numerous vendors have put significant development resources into moving their applications to the tablet.  HTML5 is robust and popular but so are new CRM applications that run natively adopting all of the pinches and swipes that people like about tablets.  Salesforce has a decent solution in Touch and I think we’ll see more vendors produce “develop once, deploy on many devices” solution sets in the year ahead.  Over the last couple of years we’ve watched the early stages of PC and Laptop sales tanking and the hockey stickomatic rise of the tablet and the handheld and next year will be the time when mobile puts its foot down on the accelerator.

With mobile’s arrival as a more or less equal in the platform wars we will be witnessing the first true global platform that I have been talking about.  A global platform means adding millions of new users and customers to the ranks all at once—ok not ALL, all at once but enough to make you notice.  I have a feeling that while a significant portion of those new users will have a good grasp of English, companies that offer bi-lingual interfaces will be the early leaders.  The first step will, of course, be to analyze where your traffic comes from and then maybe to pilot a few pages.  All this may suggest an opportunity for translation services short term.

But that’s next year.  For now, thanks for continuing to read this space and please come back in 2013.


Today at Cloudforce New York, being held in the Jacob Javitz Center, Salesforce.com unveiled a powerful new approach to marketing data analysis designed to give marketers much clearer insights into the social data they collect.  The company says that this insight will drive more actionable information and sales.

Just what the social doctor ordered, I think.

One of the big issues of social marketing has been the under appreciated need for analytics — but analytics specific to a task.  It’s fine to capture a lot of customer data for analysis and many of us have discussed that but what’s been downplayed in the conversation has been a sense of what the analysis is supposed to do.  For many, “analytics” or “analysis” has been a black box and “sentiment” a far too generic word.

But if you spend any time thinking about the challenge you realize that the key question in analytics can be phrased as, What kind of analytics? or more bluntly, What are you looking for?  There is a saying I am fond of — if you bring your car to Meineke you’re going to get a muffler.  That’s not saying anything bad about Meineke it’s just an updated way of saying that the man with a hammer sees all the world’s problems as a nail.  Bad marketing follows that logic.

Social marketing has been there but it is moving away from a monolithic approach to something more nuanced and Salesforce’s Radian6 group is providing some important leadership.

A raft of new companies has sprouted up over the last few years that focus on things like emotion, natural language processing (NLP), predictive and trending analytics, affinity and segmentation and, of course, influence.  But these are all point solutions.  The problem with this richness is that a marketer has to have access to all these tools if he or she expects to begin to understand what all the collected data actually says.

Today’s announcement ties this all up in a bow.  Salesforce is announcing its Social Insights Partner Ecosystem, which consists of twenty analytics partners with a variety of analytics capabilities to provide the insights that social marketers crave.

Less celebrated but definitely worth mentioning is the Radian6 platform technology that provides a common interface for all the partners to access social data, perform analysis and submit the results.  The platform is open and additional analytics partners will be added in the future.  Radian6 had most of this in place when it was bought by Salesforce but in the intervening months, the companies have focused on the business and technology merger, so it’s good to see this return to the knitting.

The result is a system that can collect data and turn it into useful information — they call it insight — upon which marketers can take action like making campaigns and drive decisions and sales.

But marketers are not the only beneficiaries.  For instance, service and support workers accessing the social channel can use sentiment, emotion and natural language analysis to find customer situations where a service call is in order.  At least in theory, no customer with a legitimate problem will be able to Tweet #$%^&! COMPANY without a reasonable expectation of action from a vendor using this tool.

That’s 180 degrees away from old fashioned calling and waiting in a queue.  More importantly, though, all the various forms of analytics make it possible to screen out the false positives too.  That means being able to focus on the issues that really matter while leaving behind the sarcasm or, hopefully, the double entendres.

Is it perfect? Nope.  Does it have to be?  Nope, again.

At the end of the day these are sophisticated screening tools designed to take the majority of the noise out of the data.  It’s like using a powerful magnet to find your needle in a haystack and that’s progress.  As time goes on the screening becomes more sophisticated, the magnets more powerful and that’s what’s important.

I can’t help a self-reference here.

Over the summer ninja analyst, Esteban Kolsky and I did some research into social media adoption and customer attitudes.  We found that the marketing department followed by service and support were the more advanced groups employing social media in the enterprise.  But we also discovered that most of the uptake was in the FLiT group — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter — social products, plus blogs.

But these are all outbound channels and there was a certain amount of latent frustration noted in the research that social wasn’t able to do more than provide cheap outbound contact.  Using social output without pausing to consider the customer’s needs serves no one and you could say that social marketing doesn’t even start until you have first analyzed the customer situation.  Salesforce announced more sophisticated analysis and insight today which leads naturally to action and deals and that is what I think is so important about today’s announcements at Cloudforce.

Kudos for Zuora

Posted: April 4, 2012 in CRM
Tags: , ,

On demand billing and payments company, Zuora, has been named the OnDemand 100 Company of the Year by AlwaysOn, a Silicon Valley web property that tracks activities in emerging companies.

As you know if you’ve been here before, Zuora was one of the earliest movers in the market for on demand billing services for companies that sell through the subscription channel.  The company realized early on that subscriptions were much different from conventional products in how they are bought and paid for.  One of the founders, Tien Tzuo, dealt with billing challenges at Salesforce.com when the company was young and trying to figure it all out.  That led to Zuora.

Zuora has raised more than $77 million in its 5-year history and $36 million came in the recently completed series D funding round.  The company is spending its millions on expansion, sales and marketing.  It has opened offices in Europe and is expanding internationally.

The timing was right for Zuora.  A huge new class of subscription companies proved the value of subscriptions and began bumping up against operational issues like billing and Zuora provided a solution.  It’s not over yet.  A lot of data gets generated in subscription commerce and sophisticated subscription companies can leverage it to measure and manage their businesses.  Zuora still has other fields to conquer and one of them will surely be an IPO at some point.


The economy appears to be on the minds of magazine editors these days and no wonder.  With the stimulus running out the economy appears to be headed south again.  This contradicts my experience last week in Silicon Valley where the CEOs I met with said they were,

1)   Raising more money, not because they need it but because it’s cheap and the VCs are having a hard time finding good late stage investments.

2)   Readying for market new offerings aimed at specific segments that may have been under served before.

3)   Desperately trying to hire people.  The people I met with have openings whose sheer numbers astound you.  The CEOs I met with told me the could easily double their sizes in the coming year if only they could find 50, 100 or 200 qualified people.  At Dreamforce Marc Benioff said his company has about one thousand openings.

These and many other CEOs know that they have to hire ahead of the demand curve and demand is brisk.  To be sure, the jobs we’re talking about are not aimed at the unemployed factory worker — at least not the one who hasn’t been retrained.  That brings up a difficult discussion of how we as a society respond to changes in the marketplace and the value of our educational system.  This piece is not intended to be a deep dive on either, merely an observation.  But back to the magazine editors.

On the flight home I managed to read almost the entire October 1 edition of The Economist it’s the one with the cheerful picture of the universe and a black hole.  Superimposed on the blackness are the Halloween-ish words “Until politicians actually do something about the world economy…Be Afraid”.  Inside the issue takes aim at politicians on both sides of the Atlantic and the lead editorial ends with something so succinct I see no reason to attempt to paraphrase it and so I quote it in full:

“Lacking conviction and courage

In the aftermath of the Lehman crisis, policymakers broadly did the right thing. The result was not a rapid return to prosperity in the West, but after such a big balance-sheet recession that was never going to happen. Now, more often than not, policymakers seem to be getting it wrong. Their mistakes vary, but two sorts stand out. One is an overwhelming emphasis on short-term fiscal austerity over growth. Fixing that means different things in different places: Germany could loosen fiscal policy, while in Britain the reins should merely be tightened more slowly. But the collective obsession with short-term austerity across the rich world is hurting.

“The second failure is one of honesty. Too many rich-world politicians have failed to tell voters the scale of the problem. In Germany, where the jobless rate is lower than in 2008, people tend to think the crisis is about lazy Greeks and Italians. Mrs Merkel needs to explain clearly that it also includes Germany’s own banks—and that Germany faces a choice between a costly solution and a ruinous one. In America the Republicans are guilty of outrageous obstructionism and misleading simplification, while Mr Obama has favoured class warfare over fiscal leadership. At a time of enormous problems, the politicians seem Lilliputian. That’s the real reason to be afraid.”

That “collective obsession with short-term austerity across the rich world” and getting it wrong generally, were the subjects of another economists life’s work.  John Maynard Keynes lived and wrote in the first half of the twentieth century about times that are increasingly looking like our own.  In a well written and very useful article by John Cassidy in the October 10 issue of the New Yorker, Cassidy asks the essential question — What would Keynes do?

In practice Keynes would do nothing as he was never an elected official but he did advise them.  His prescription would have been to increase aggregate demand — that sounds like complicated economicese but it really boils down to stimulus.  Get people working and paying taxes and while we’re at it lower taxes to make spending more attractive.  That means the government as buyer of last resort.  As the economy recovers those policies can be trimmed and the debt incurred by the government can be repaid.

All this stands in sharp contrast to The Economist’s observation that an “overwhelming emphasis on short-term fiscal austerity over growth” is causing harm to the global economy and no good aside from giving politicians the chance to strut for increasingly tiny fringe audiences in advance of an election.

The politicians in California are safely sequestered in places like Sacramento and HP where Meg Whitman who recently ran for governor now presides.  The Silicon Valley economy is by all measures thriving.  What do they know that we should?


At his second and final keynote address to the 2011 Oracle OpenWorld user meeting, Larry Ellison finally gave the rabid software oriented audience something to savor.

Throughout the week the Oracle CEO and his minions had spent large amounts of time telling us about hardware or some other aspect of the business leaving me and my software analyst and blogger friends champing at the bit.  That changed in Ellison’s second keynote when he announced the Oracle Cloud, the Oracle Social Network for business and the arrival of Fusion applications.  There may have been other introductions but honestly I was scheduled to be on a panel at 5 PM and for all I know Larry is still talking.

Ellison’s keynote did not come without drama.  A long-running argument between Ellison and former Oracle vice president Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, nearly blew a fuse when Oracle cancelled Benioff’s keynote forcing him to scramble to find other accommodations to address Oracle Nation.  It was great political theater when Salesforce hired the St. Regis hotel and set up campaign style picketers with signs and slogans — “The cloud must go on” — out on the street.

Much of the drama could have been avoided if only Oracle had introduced its software trove earlier in the week.  The idea of both Benioff and Ellison speaking about opposing views of cloud computing at the same conference and on the same day proved too much even for San Francisco.  Instead, earlier in the week, Ellison laboriously discussed his company’s line of high performance computer gear aimed at the high end of the market, which many of us in the analyst community greeted with a so-what attitude.

The question of why Oracle held its fire for so long is curious and will be the subject of many post mortems.  When I try to puzzle through this turn of events I have to conclude that if they had announced the cloud and social network earlier in the week, they would have been forced to answer questions and provide demonstrations.  As it is, we all go home armed with knowledge of these products only through a demo that Larry did on stage but none of the reassurance that they are real.  It would not be the first time that Oracle announced something early.

I am therefore forced to conclude that at least the cloud and social network that were announced are not really ready for prime time.  I am sure the products exist in some form but I am not sure what state they are in.  I will believe it all when I can play with it and report to you.

With the assumption that the software products are real we need to ask what impact they will have on the industry.  The short answer is that these products will be enough to freeze many decision processes until Oracle can get around to delivering a true 1.0 version for general availability.

In conception, the Oracle Cloud and Social Network sound good and they will appeal to a big audience of Oracle customers.  But they are not fundamentally different — and one needs to question if they are better — than what’s already on the market.

For example, nearly every vendor except Salesforce, offers customers the choice of where to operate its software — in the data center, in a third party hosting environment or in an Oracle sponsored facility.  Also, these customers have the choice of running in a single tenant or multi-tenant configuration.  So all the bases are in theory covered.

But this only adds fuel to an already smoldering argument of whether it is better to simply move applications from an old paradigm to a new hosting environment or if it might be necessary to take a fresh look at these applications in the context of mobile and social demands and changing business requirements.  Failing to do all that might result in well functioning applications that have diminishing relation to reality.

As Benioff has made clear for the last decade and did again at his press conference, most of those choices fit an old paradigm at a time when the paradigm is changing and the multi-tenant solution is the way of the future.  Interestingly, Ellison derided multi-tenancy as something that is 13 or so years old but ignored the idea that the conventional IT that his solutions provide for are much older still.  Moving your data center off site, which is a function of the Oracle Cloud, is not exactly state of the art.

Ellison was careful to point out the places where his cloud, for instance, was superior to Salesforce.  Oracle Cloud offers users the ability to use applications on premise or on-demand and to move applications from one to another without losses.  Oracle also works hard to assure the market that its solutions are standards based using standard middleware and programming languages.  In fact Ellison was happy to discuss the whole application stack in that context.

Big IT shops will be comforted by this knowledge but increasingly, they are seeking ways to streamline their operations and reduce the amount of labor they invest in their applications.  A discussion of how to avoid middleware all together might have been more welcome.

The new IT paradigm promoted by Salesforce and a growing army of followers is social, mobile, cloud and multi-tenant.  The new Oracle products embrace all of this but still leave it to the customer to determine when to adopt these ideas.  That is a good approach for a company like Oracle.  Ellison has a huge installed base of some 380,000 customers and they will not be converted in a short time.  So hybrids and halfway measures are the strategy and in this Oracle has played its hand well.  But it is not alone — Microsoft, SAP and many other software houses that were the leaders in the last decade have the same tricky path to traverse and the same basic approach.

What happens next will be interesting.  With these announcements Oracle has come close to parity with its competition but it is last in the race and its solutions mimic the competition without breaking much new ground, if any.  What the company does next will be vital.  Will it continue to follow the pack as a not to fast follower or will it innovate around all of the ideas bubbling up today including mobile, social and, of course, cloud?

There is enough in the announced products to enable customers to get going with cloud computing and in applying social concepts to business and there is plenty to support those who break out in a rash whenever they hear words like Salesforce.com, cloud or social.  That is right where Oracle needs to be at the moment assuming the products they announced, but curiously did not let us see or try out, really exist.


Ahh, what a difference a good night’s sleep makes.  The Greeks are still threatening default on their bonds, the economy is still in the loo, the major stock indices are teetering on a bear market precipice and Marc Benioff is still going to speak at Oracle OpenWorld or at least next door.  But there is some clarifying news.

First, the guys at Oracle can claim that they didn’t cancel Marc, they simply moved his talk to Thursday.  Unfortunately, Marc is getting on a plane this afternoon to go on sales calls back east (The man still visits customers and asks for the order.  Not making any comparisons, just sayn).

The trip was planned for weeks according to my sources at Salesforce so there was no way to reschedule.  I am sure that was communicated when Oracle offered the choice 8 am slot on Thursday morning instead.  It’s sort of like saying, no, your vacation was not really cancelled, it’s just been rerouted to Siberia.

There’s been some good analysis by Larry Dignon suggesting that the audience is being played and I think there might be some truth in it.

Last year, if you recall, there was a minor contretemps in the press between Ellison and Benioff over cloud computing.  Larry had introduced his compute server, Exalogic, and Marc was deriding it as a cloud in a box.  “Beware of the false cloud,” he said.  We all laughed and reported all of it.  Larry got coverage, Marc got coverage and it was all good for business.

I am sure this was not collusion, just two guys who know each other’s moves and how to play a certain game.  This resembles improvisational comedy quite a bit or maybe it is real life imitating improv.  Here’s how it works — two funny people can riff on an idea for a long time without ever having a script by knowing a simple rule or two.

The first is be funny and the second is always say yes.  In other words, regardless of what the other comedian says, accept it as valid and build on it, just never say no, I don’t think so, and the sketch can go on for a long time.

“Cloud!”

“False cloud!”

Resembles

“Tastes great!”

“Less filling!”

Don’t you think?

Like many human activities improv resembles an arms race with each iteration ratcheting up the stakes.  Start with an insult, end with a war.  Perhaps.  There are some grains of truth in all this but as with improv, it is hard to determine how much.

For certain, Larry’s talk on Sunday was a train wreck panned by even the mainstream press.  Was there concern that Marc would upstage Larry in his own venue?  I believe Larry speaks this morning also.  Marc will certainly talk about cloud computing and software and deride Oracle’s hardware despite the obvious fact that at the end of every cloud rainbow there is not a pot of gold but a server farm.

On the other hand, Oracle is late to the game with its Fusion products that would give them a whole cloud story.  I sat in a briefing yesterday with nine IT executives and CTOs of companies that were in the Fusion beta program.  We couldn’t report names of companies, but they exist and appear to be happy.  That’s the state of Oracle’s newest cloud software though certainly products like CRM On-Demand have been around almost as long as Salesforce.  Not to worry though, I think Oracle has made excellent progress, as I relate here, in the two years since Larry first derided cloud computing at the Churchill Club.

At any rate, the Larry and Marc show will go on today.  It will be great theater and, like great improv, there will be a grain of truth in everything said by the participants.


Ok, so maybe it wasn’t paradise but then again with all the new tools Salesforce is rolling out for multiple kinds of computing whose primary overlap is the significance of the Internet is their use, this was kind of a Bonanza — Little Joe! Get my compiler!  (Sometimes I crack myself up.)  At any rate, my thoughts on what Dreamforce meant to developers in the form of a post can be found at SearchCRM here.