Posts Tagged ‘force.com’


Because studentforce is 100% declarative any changes to the force.com platform are changes to studentforce.
Got an email from Ed Schlesinger CEO of Studentforce.com, a Force.com application for the higher education market.  Ed’s a big believer in the platform and his email reminded me of why the platform is so important.  I quote it here complete.
“So, below is a quote from an eWeek article published today.  When reading it take replace employee with student and now Rypple works for faculty reviewing student performance ; peer reviews, etc.
“Rypple is a tried and true social performance management specialist. The startup makes an employee goal-setting application that provides employees feedback about how they’re performing in their positions. The software is used by Facebook, Gilt Groupe, Mozilla and Rackspace, among its hundreds of customers”.
One of the things we don’t think about enough, I believe is how important an addition like Rypple potentially is to the ecosystem.  Of course the cost is to be determined but it could be simply rolled into the Salesforce offering as so many other things have been making the platform bigger and more appealing.
Thanks Ed.
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It’s worthwhile to consider the economic consequences of Dreamforce — the products announced as well as the cultural issues it raised.  Now, I am not an economist and I encourage you to think about that and maybe not read this if that matters.

Many people might look at the news coming out of San Francisco and try to calculate the ROI on one or another introduction or announcement but I think that’s like looking through the wrong end of the telescope.  ROI is a financial measure and when I think about economics, especially marco economics, I am trying to figure out how the changes affect the ways we work and make money now and especially in the future.  Let’s take a look a just a few ideas.

DRO

Salesforce announced a data residency option (Database Rights Option or DRO) aimed at letting companies store their data on their own devices rather than in the cloud.  I’ve already written that this approach will be welcomed by companies and government entities that can’t for regulatory or policy reasons, let their data reside on a cloud infrastructure.  There are many organizations in that position and this should be a boon to their approaches to IT but also a boon to Salesforce’s business.

About the only folks who might be adversely affected will be other vendors.  Companies like Microsoft and Oracle have made a big deal of offering architectures that run in any mode including on-line, on-prem and hybrid implementations.  They’ve taken this to market and used it as a differentiator with Salesforce but that’s rapidly fading in importance, in part I believe, because these solutions preserve single tenancy for applications.

True enough, the other vendors can claim that companies can still own their source code and to be able to manipulate it at their whim while Salesforce still holds the code and is totally responsible for managing it.  Of course customer developed code might be stored in the cloud but Salesforce will not be editing it.  Just backing it up and acting as a custodian.

Which is better?  I like the idea that Salesforce will continually upgrade its code and make sure that its updates do nothing to corrupt my code.  In my humble opinion VRO is a net positive.  Sure it goes against the Salesforce religion but it gives customers what they want and does not compromise the applications.

The Social Enterprise

Salesforce did a good job of defining what is most important — the social enterprise.  This is not a new buzz word or a new shiny object.  In incremental steps over the last three years the company has been defining social business, building products to support it and training the early adopters.

There is a lot of heavy lifting left to do here and the world outside of Dreamforce is not always welcoming.  At a press conference on Thursday, Marc told an interesting story about this reality.  He said that he speaks with CIOs and other C-suite people all the time and on one occasion recently — a conference, I think —he showed a CIO Chatter.  When the CIO saw the stream his first question was, “So now the person receiving all this has to answer it?”  The answer was not, shall we say, appreciated and with that the CIO said this isn’t for me.  Net/net there’s still a lot of proselytizing to be done and a lot of reticence to be over come.  Last week I mentioned some research just out of Cornell that examines why we like creative ideas but shy away from creativity, check it out here xxx.

The Social Customer

There are many manifestations of the social customer.  It can be someone who renders an opinion on a product or service, someone who lends a hand to help out someone with a question or an issue and it’s someone who values privacy.  I was struck in watching Marc’s conversation with Eric Schmidt of Google, of how many times Schmidt in describing a social interaction, used words like, “With the user’s permission”.

One question from a British reporter at the same press conference had to do with not wanting a socialized customer service person to see everything a customer might have recently posted on social media.  Some things while social are still reserved for the intimates of the poster.  That’s a fair point and one that right now gets the very unsatisfactory answer of, well if you don’t want the world to see it, don’t post it.  That’s hardly comforting to many people but I think the issue won’t be solved with more technology.  I think it will be an issue of professionalism.  We forget that in addition to building out a new technology infrastructure that we’re also building the rules of the road and this might be an example of where smart use of the technology trumps more technology.

This will likely be a touchy topic for some time and the sensitivity will be different from culture to culture and country to country.  As an economic issue privacy might be the biggest roadblock to mass adoption and my advice to anyone listening would be to never take it for granted and to continue being as explicit as Schmidt.

Heroku, Ruby and developers

One of the areas that gets almost no coverage is what all this means for developers and as it turns out there was a lot at Dreamforce for them.  Salesforce is on a path that delivers tools for three major kinds of development — business applications, websites and I don’t know what to call it, web resident apps.  Schmidt was emphatic about the need for the modern company to be able to develop quickly and iterate toward perfection while enabling users to get at products quickly.

For business applications there’s the Force.com platform with a choice of Java and Apex, the company’s proprietary language that basically fills in declaratively where point, click, drag and drop don’t do enough.  Then there’s the company’s website builder.  You can build a website integrated with your Salesforce instance using your data.  This capability is most useful for building customer facing apps that capture customer data and interact directly with them.  So a registration page is the obvious example.

Finally, Salesforce spent a lot of cash buying Heroku which is a development environment that uses Ruby on Rails and several other languages like Java, to build applications that are intended to live on the web perhaps at other sites.  A great example of this is Facebook integrated applications.  Some people are referring to F-commerce meaning commerce apps on Facebook and that’s very exciting.  Heroku is a go to choice for building applications that run well and scale massively for the Web.  In a demo we saw an application built by NBC to promote Warner Borothers’ new Harry Potter movie.

Obviously, this illustrates the idea that Heroku might be a good choice for this kind of app but even more importantly, it shows us that we probably don’t know how all of this technology and infrastructure will be adopted and consumed in the years ahead.  That’s what makes Dreamforce so interesting and the ideas unveiled there so powerful.

I am glad I dodged a hurricane to get to Dreamforce.  I lost my voice but recovered and saw a lot of cool people.  It’s going to give me something to write about for a while.


Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual user meeting and thought leadership confab, is two weeks away and the anticipation for this event is palpable.  In a tough economy people are looking for the company to do some magic and lift our spirits.

The company did a smart thing by turning on its new collaboration product, Chatter, for any attendee wanting to communicate, synch or share an idea.  The result is a Facebook-like storm on Chatter about Dreamforce.  In the process, thousands of people who had no familiarity with Chatter are educating themselves.

It’s a no brainer to me that the Chatter coverage coming out of Dreamforce will be a bit better for all of the familiarizing.  This is quite different from how we all came out of Dreamforce (was it just last year?) when the company introduced the idea.  The problem was that the description had to be done in terms that many people were not expert in.  What a difference a year can make.

Dreamforce has taken on an aspect of secular saturnalia with quasi-religious undertones as people comment that it’s late this year, as if they were describing Easter.  And it is late, so late that the December date will do little to help any exhibitor finish the quarter well but it may prove to be a good injection of enthusiasm for the year ahead.

Unlike Easter though, which is calculated by a lunar calendar, Dreamforce is calculated according to the Moscone Center.  I suppose you could contemplate a Dreamforce in New Orleans, Orlando, Chicago or Las Vegas, but salesforce.com has such a strong tie to San Francisco, that it’s doubtful it would ever move the event.  So the wait for space on the Moscone calendar is what determines when Dreamforce starts.

Like the company that sponsors it, Dreamforce is many things and it morphs from year to year as products roll out and company marketing plans and market demand changes.  Salesforce has been careful over the years not to simply extend its CRM product line but to add new lines of business.  Dreamforce reflects this and consequently it will resemble multiple events rolled into one.  Just as Oracle Open World has major tracks for its applications, database, Java and Sun for instance, Salesforce will feature tracks for CRM, its social technologies — especially Chatter, its platform and its development tools.

The Salesforce product line has spread out so much that two people could easily go to Dreamforce and see two completely different events—especially if one of them is a developer who gets sucked into all of the sessions about the platform and its related parts.  And it’s assumed there will be more parts to talk about once the show starts.

I expect important announcements in most areas.  CRM is perhaps the most mature part of the company’s offerings in what has become a mature market but the introduction of the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud combined with the re-think of the associated business processes will provide opportunity for many new ideas.

Chatter offers a fresh perspective on collaboration and I hope there will be more discussion about how to use it effectively than about how to implement it.  From what I’ve seen implementation amounts to turning it on.  It’s like calling people to Thanksgiving dinner, you don’t really need to teach the how to eat.  So stories from some of the sixty thousand companies now using Chatter is all that’s needed.

Then there’s the platform.  In the last two years the rest of the vendor community has played catch up with Salesforce in cloud computing.  Everyone has a flavor of it today and most vendors straddle the fence offering single and multi-tenant implementations that deliver on the literal interpretation of SaaS but leave the benefits of multi-tenancy to discretion.

Perhaps that’s as it should be, we can’t expect a wholesale change to multi-tenancy over night for two important reasons.  First, many customers can’t or won’t contemplate the idea and second, many vendors can’t contemplate the business model change.  For them, multi-tenancy will happen in about ten years, the next time they discover that their cloud computing paradigm didn’t really protect them from obsolescence.

But back to the platform.  Salesforce has always had a lead over traditional vendors that varied in length but was always centered on its platform.  There have been important platform innovations in the last year or so including the VMforce effort but I think it’s time for something else.  So it might be that the biggest new product announcement will be in the platform area.  That would make sense because it would give the company time to consolidate its Chatter rollout on the application side of the business.

Other things to think about for Dreamforce: Bill Clinton and Stevie Wonder.  There’s no moss growing on Bill Clinton.  Since leaving the Whitehouse he’s been a tireless worker for humanitarian causes and his keynote, “Embracing our Common Humanity” is eagerly anticipated.  Then there is the incomparable Stevie Wonder who will bring his hefty songbook to Dreamforce.  To me, there is no one in modern music who combines the musicianship and lyrical dexterity of this man and I predict there will be dancing in the aisles.

So that’s what I think about Dreamforce going in.  I will post more comments from the event and hope to get some pics to share as well.  Meanwhile, have a great Turkey Day and Go Patriots!

 


Salesforce.com took an interesting step in its evolution as a platform company today.  The company has been in the process of expanding its footprint over the last few years moving from an on-demand application for front office business practices to a Cloud Computing Platform with the intent of moving enterprise computing from the glass room to the Internet.  (They have also repeatedly added that they have no intention of exiting the CRM business.) Today they pushed further down that path with an analyst-only briefing featuring one of their customers — Fort Worth-based 20/20 Companies.

In the set up Salesforce revealed some of the results from an internal customer survey of one thousand randomly selected companies from 25 industries.  Salesforce Vice President of Product Marketing for Force.com, Ariel Kelman, said that 27% of those customers had already built custom applications using Force.com the company’s cloud platform.

There is no way to verify the data but we know that Salesforce is a stickler for accuracy so the claim of nine times faster development and a 58% cost savings average sounded reasonable.  More interesting to me was the statistic that said the average company had built not one but five applications.  Clearly, the first experience was good enough to lead to more.

The top five application areas for the survey group in order were: analytics, project management, contract management, quote/proposal and event management.  The list is pretty long but what strikes me is that the AppExchange has pre-built products in most of the areas surveyed for so some explanation is needed for whether the developments started from scratch or were integrations with existing applications.  For example, the top category, analytics, is not something you’d think that a developer using Force.com would build from nothing.  More data here would be enlightening.

The top five barriers that customers surveyed faced with on-premise development resonate and they include ability to customize processes, lack of IT skills, poor requirements, lack of capital and integration costs.  The whole point of platform computing is to help reduce most of these needs so that, for example, companies that lack skills or capital can take on projects because they require less.

One thing that platform computing won’t help with directly though is the issue of poor requirements gathering.  For as long as there has been software we have lived with poor requirements but the good news might be that with advanced tools, planning can be replaced by iteration.  There is far less pressure to get it right the first time when you can easily make a change.

Then Mark Warren, acting CIO, 20/20 Companies, came on to describe how his team developed a complete order to invoice to payroll application for his company that specializes in high quality marketing and sales services.  The applications were impressive though the cost savings did not reach the 58% that Salesforce had announced.  Warren said his three-year cost for the Salesforce solution was about $1.7 million against the estimated $2.0 million for a .net approach.  Warren indicated that the Salesforce solution took only ten weeks to deliver compared to a .net estimate of six months or possibly more.  So the risk reduction was certainly an issue for Warren.

Finally, Force.com was not the only product in the configuration but this deployment shows how useful the platform was for integration.  In addition to force.com, 20/20 used Data Integrator from Pervasive and Crystal Reports from Business Objects for analytics.

There was no demo though Warren said they had met their objectives with the project.  This was a good first effort by Salesforce to bring to the world some indication of the power and real world capability of Force.com and certainly a customer relating his experience is valuable.  But it would be better in the future if some independent parties got to kick more tires.