I like to find emerging companies that target underserved or unserved sectors with, yes, disruptive innovations. Right now, there are a lot of new or emerging companies – formed by refugees of some of the largest and most successful companies from earlier generations – starting the cycle of innovation all over again. Here’s a sampler:
Just when you think there are no more underserved customers you discover the latent pain many large companies have in provisioning services – everything from printing to travel to parcel delivery services and much more. We tend to think about service provisioning as a string of one-off deals despite the fact that many enterprises put a lot of effort into developing relationships with preferred vendors and negotiating volume pricing agreements. When employees don’t use those agreements, it ends up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sending a package over night? Which delivery service do you use? What time of day should the package arrive? Do you know the cost differences? Is buying an expensive service above your pay grade?
Rearden Commerce does the heavy lifting by encapsulating the business rules that should drive these considerations and interfacing with the service vendors to ensure that employees use the preferred vendors and get the negotiated rates. It’s a simple idea with big implications. To my mind, this company should grow like a weed.
There are a few products on the market for configuration and quoting but that’s not a bad thing given that it takes more than one company to make a market. The interest in this sector, especially by companies joining Salesforce.com’s ecosystem remains high and nSite’s approach – which is to provide its solution as a Web service – should play well with many different SFA and CRM products. I think this company’s challenge is to continue to find underserved customers in order to stay disruptive.
Although I may have written about BlueRoads BlueRoads before, they deserve another look simply because they are further down the track now. Another sales tool, BlueRoads has carved a niche out of the specialized indirect sales channel which some still call partner relationship management or PRM. But unlike PRM, which focuses a lot on the primary relationship between an OEM and the top tier of the channel, BlueRoads is all about following – and managing – the relationships all the way down to the feet on the street. BlueRoads provides channel visibility back to the OEM that other approaches do not. And because it is offered as a hosted service, partners in the channel are less reluctant to share deal information because this third party is perceived as more able to protect confidential information. BlueRoads continues to gather momentum and customers and at this stage there is organized competition from other established SFA products but the bake offs usually favor this emerging company.
Despite the lack of any one "new, new thing" innovation continues and some of the results are very interesting. I guess you could say it’s like baseball and we’re in a "small ball" phase right now. Regardless of whether you hit bunts and base hits or homers, the runs count the same.
This company is a pioneer in helping large enterprises develop and work with customer communities to understand what customers think. The community approach has helped enterprises develop products, refine messages, and zero in on target customers by engaging with them in ways that are both low cost and far more effective than previous outreach attempts. Communispace has shown that involving the customer in processes from developing branding to co-innovation yields positive bottom line results.
Beaking new ground in the call center and enabling companies to realize the dream of generating consistent revenue streams from what was once seen as a pure cost center. In the Knowlagent process, companies maintain high service levels while enabling revenue generation again through better customer engagement.
The complete on demand IP based call center solution. This technology radically redefined the call center and enabled entrepreneurial call centers to better fit their services to their customers’ needs even as those needs changed. Call centers that were once focused on inbound calling only, can now easily configure their businesses to match the demand. As an on demand solution, Five9 removes much of the risk and expense from call center operations thus enabling call center operators to focus on their businesses and their customers.
Adds valuable workflow and document management to on-demand sales force automation (SFA). This simple innovation has enabled services oriented vendors — whose products are often written deliverables — to craft detailed proposals and incorporate them into a workflow that closely follows the sales process. This approach has saved time and effort and has resulted in increased revenue.
Has shown how service can be tightly embedded into Web sites and products resulting in a concierge style of customer care that many authors have been calling for. RightNow’s on-demand solution makes it possible for virtually any business to afford to provide this level of service to its customers.
One of the first of a new generation of full service marketing solutions available on demand. While typical on demand marketing is focused on outbound email generation, Eloqua takes an intelligent look at the customer by helping assemble a profile then intelligently marketing to it. With tight integration to Salesforce.com, Eloqua adds significant value to SFA and creates a closed loop sales and marketing environment that only large companies could once afford.
A familiar name that has contributed several major innovations throughout its short history. The company is being honored this year for AppExchange which we believe is a major turning point for the on demand enterprise software industry. The significance of AppExchange cannot be underestimated. Half of the companies in this year’s WizKids report are engaged with Salesforce.com in its partner ecosystem in which they deliver complementary functionality to the core Salesforce.com service.