Posts Tagged ‘Salesforce.com’


Marc Benioff’s Facebook page says that Salesforce.com is a rising leader in the effort to get carbon out of business.  I didn’t know there was such a survey or report but I am glad there is.

Getting carbon out of your business processes is hugely important.  While most people will view this as an anti-pollution idea and good corporate citizenship — and it is — it has an even more serious driver and consequence.  As important as carbon abatement and climate change limitation is, it is secondary to the idea that the planet is running out of fossil fuels like petroleum and coal.  Why secondary?  Because without the affordable fuel to grow food and bring it to market (just to name one idea) you’ll die in a food riot long before the planet heats up enough to threaten your grandkids existence.

You might like to think that the earth has a limitless supply of fossil fuels but for that to be true the earth itself would need to be limitless.  Of course nothing is limitless though some things are so big that they appear to be.  In fact, the earth was endowed by about 2.5 trillion barrels of crude oil which we began tapping in earnest in the 1850’s at Titusvill, PA to be precise.  Since then we’ve discovered all kinds of uses for petroleum as fuel and as raw material for numerous materials from rubber and plastic to paint and pharmaceuticals.

But we’re running out of the stuff.  Estimates from petroleum geologists and others in the industry are that the planet now contains about 910 billion barrels of crude and it’s in harder to reach places of extreme weather or ocean depths.  Oil and therefor transportation will never be as cheap again as they are today.  Check that, transportation that is not tied to fossil fuel has a chance of being this cheap again but that will require a massive investment in infrastructure and I doubt anyone has the stomach for that — yet.

So that leaves it to the business community to fend for itself.  Taking carbon out of your business processes is not simply good environmentalism but smart business.  If you can find ways to visit customers over an IP connection or replace the visit with a video you are taking carbon out of that process.  That’s where this report fits in and why it’s so important.  The tech sector is about to be called on to pull our collective chestnuts out of a big fire and those who lead this process stand to make a lot of money.  Google, Cisco and Salesforce are all at the top of this stack and your company ought to be trying too.


Someone recently asked me why collaboration is important in the enterprise.  To be specific, they were asking about the kind of collaboration that products like Yammer and Chatter enable.  This collaboration consists of enabling people to share thoughts, ideas and micro news bits in a social context without the usual institutional overhead of email or a meeting.  Collaboration more resembles Twitter than email and I suspect, but have not collected the data to prove it, that a typical collaboration emission is shorter than a tweet.

But the question got me thinking about other times and situations when the same kinds of questions were asked about the latest technology.  No matter how the question is posed, the heart of it is frequently something like this: Are we wasting time and money doing this or is it the real deal?

It’s a fair question.  We all live with limitations — so much time in a day, so much money in the budget and so many more demands on both that we can fulfill so what does a sane person do?  Well, history might be a guide though it is not infallible.

Throughout my career the big theme has been converting the economy from one that manages and produces things to one that manages and produces ideas and information.  We all know this and if we take a moment to consider it, this means our recent history is also about finding better, faster and less costly ways to share information.

I compiled the attached table from data served up by the World Bank.

Year US GDP (Trillions)
1975 $1.623
1985 $4.185
1995 $7.359
2005 $12.58
2009 $14.119

It shows the U.S. Gross Domestic Product by selected years, which I picked for specific reasons.  In 1975, we were in the early days of the mini-computer revolution and GDP was a healthy $1.623 trillion, a lot of money to be sure but puny in comparison to things to come.  Ten years later GDP had jumped about two and a half times to $4.185.

That’s because by 1985 we were enjoying the benefits of not only minis but desktops.  During those days I can distinctly recall people asking if it was really necessary to have a computer or terminal on every desk top.  That was about the era when company phone systems became popular and just about every company had bought a fax machine.  The phone system replaced those awful black receivers with multiple lines and made it possible to forward calls, have three way calling and whoa! voice mail.  No more coming back from lunch to pick up those cute little pink messages.  Phone, fax and computer formed a powerful trio for information sharing.

By 1995 GDP had grown again nearly doubling to $7.359 trillion.  I remember economists like Alan Greenspan trying to explain what was going on in the economy.  Testifying before congress they looked like C students who were trying to explain why they were suddenly getting A’s in Physics.  That’s because by 1995 the economy was growing like a proverbial weed but in a different way than anyone had witnessed before.  The economy was growing with little inflation, the amount of work produced by the average worker was climbing without any noticeable additional input of capital.  That’s called productivity and we were better at it than anyone else who had ever lived on the planet.  The productivity was driven by our new technologies.

The bigger the economic number the harder it is to double but by 2005 with the evolution of the Internet well under way the U.S. still managed a very healthy $12.58 trillion GDP.  And even with a recession and an unnecessary financial economy meltdown driven by stupidity, by 2009 U.S. GDP was a lofty $14.119 trillion.

So when people ask me about the goals and measures they should apply to tools that get information to employees so that they can work better and smarter I am tempted to say something flip.  The truth is that the improvements we all crave in business are accretive — they build up over time.  You might not even notice an improvement in the first year but you will.

A better question might be, is social media within the enterprise the real deal?  And I think that answer is yes.  It’s yes because it follows in a long line of tools that have enabled us to work with information in surprising and creative ways and those ways have spurred significant economic growth over more than thirty years.

There are names for this like paradigm shift and names for the people and companies that make the change.  Some are called early adopters others are laggards and where you come down in all of this determines how much benefit you receive from the transition.  Be early to the party and you reap rewards that are disproportionate your meager investment.  Arrive late and you are at best playing catch-up.


Announces first annual Short Tale Award™ for Excellence in Video Use

Stoughton, MA, February 8, 2011 — Beagle Research Group, today announced “The Beagle Short Tale Awards” for 2011.  Beagle gives the annual awards for various aspects of video production and use by front office software companies in sales, marketing, service and education.  Denis Pombriant, Beagle’s managing principal said, “We believe video is profoundly changing the way companies communicate with customers and prospects and this award brings recognition to the pioneers as well as encouragement to those using the medium.”  The award is given for excellence in short videos (typically under six minutes) that are produced during the prior year (2010).

This year’s software vendor winners include Eloqua, Microsoft Corporation, NetSuite, RightNow Technologies, Sage North America, SAS, Salesforce.com, Zuora and a special award to Jess3 a creative agency.  The grand prize for Strategic Use of Video went to Salesforce.com, which produced, among others, a video quantifying the effectiveness of its video library as a sales and marketing tool.  Pombriant also said, “At this stage of a trend we often see unsubstantiated claims of effectiveness for a new technology.  Salesforce, provided the needed proof.”

A full report including links to all winning videos is available at www.BeagleResearch.com.

About Beagle Research Group

Beagle Research Group, LLC is an analyst, consulting and market research organization focused on emerging front office software companies.  Beagle Research investigates market trends and provides analysis and insight to vendors and buyers of front office computing solutions.  Our content is presented in articles, blogs posts and free downloadable reports at multiple locations across the Internet.  The Beagle Short Tale Award and logo are trademarks of Beagle Research Group, LLC.

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First prize for AppQuestIn the lead up to Dreamforce, Salesforce ran a competition with a $100,000 prize for the best new application developed for the Force.com platform.  The five finalists were introduced at Dreamforce and the winner was BranchIt, a startup that built an application that adds what it calls a LinkedIn effect to Salesforce’s Chatter.

According to the press release, “BranchIt for Chatter uncovers relationships held by employees across the entire company and feeds them through Salesforce Chatter to users. Specific functionality includes automated contact syncing, relationship discovery, relationship strength scoring, contact following, account following and related management reports. The application makes use of Chatter, Jigsaw, Apex code, Visualforce, various e-mail platform integrations and is accessible via standard web browsers and mobile devices.

According to CEO, Josh Yuster, BranchIt for Chatter will be made available as a free application on the AppExchange from salesforce.com.  The offer is valid for unlimited users across any enterprise provided the transaction is complete by Valentine’s Day 2011.  Youster also said that the company will invest the prize money into company growth.


It’s sort of like the funny story about a young person discovering that Paul McCartney was in another group before Wings. Marc Benioff had another company sandwiched in between his Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) days and founding Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM). So for those of us who knew that, Database.com had the same kind of retro vibe when it was announced at Dreamforce.

Database.com was Marc’s other company, and I had assumed that they’d simply kept renewing the URL registration for the last 10 years, but I was told differently. At any rate, Salesforce is now in the database business. I guess if Larry Ellison can buy Sun Microsystems and jump into the hardware business, then Marc can get into the database business.

In truth, Database.com is more of a confirmation of what Salesforce had been doing through Force.com for a long time. The big difference now is that anyone with almost any application development tool can build an application that leverages the database in the cloud. There are some other differences too. For instance, the application you build using Database.com is separate from the Salesforce and Force.com world, meaning that you can’t expect to use the pre-built applications or fields of the base product. No, sireee, this looks like a database for developers.

Now, admittedly, database.com runs on the same Salesforce infrastructure, and so it will exist in the multi-tenant world, but for all intents and purposes, that will remain a background issue.

What Kind of ‘aaS’ Are We Looking At?

So this introduction leaves those of us fixated on categorizing new developments in something of a quandary. Is this platform as a service (PaaS)? Or is it simply infrastructure as a service (IaaS)? I’d say it’s infrastructure because a naked DB isn’t enough to call a platform, but a naked DB is not so naked considering that it has to have a place to live and work. So my vote is that it’s IaaS.

Who does it compete with? That’s an interesting question. The obvious candidates include the database vendors such as Oracle (Oracle, MySQL), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) (Access, SQL Server) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) (DB2). There are also specialized DBs that run in memory and other products, but that’s enough for now.

Database.com will certainly appeal to anyone building a cloud-based application for internal use as well as individuals who want more flexibility and accessibility than what’s offered on the desktop. This announcement is a direct challenge to Microsoft’s cloud aspirations, which include its database. So this could get interesting.

On to Chatter

My second observation from Dreamforce is the new configuration and deployment options for Chatter, the collaboration application. Chatter now comes in three flavors, each offering more functionality. A free edition (Chatter Free) is available through invitation within any organization that has so much as a single paid Salesforce seat operating. Free will operate much like an internal Facebook and will have read-only access to some Salesforce files.

For a mere 15 bucks a month per seat, Chatter can be used by all members of the organization, and it will offer greater access to data throughout the company. I suggest you look over the actual announcement to see what gets connected at this level so that I can forestall carpel tunnel syndrome.

Finally, Chatter integrated with the core CRM applications, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, is already available, and nothing much changes here. If you are paying for any level or edition of these products, Chatter continues to be something else you have to work with.

Note the difference — CRM users already have Chatter and pay no additional fee; it’s only the additional users making steam below decks or running the engine room that you have to pay for, and you can be as selective as you want at that level.

In reality, Salesforce representatives tell me they expect every customer organization to have a mix of users, some paying, some not. I think that’s a great idea because it provides one level of simple security keeping information in the hands of those who use it. It’s nothing against the guys in the engine room, but it’s a pragmatic decision for any company.

Chatter Free went live over the weekend.

 


I don’t like ambiguity and there was some in yesterday’s post so let’s get to it.  Yesterday I wrote:

Microsoft is confidently offering replacement systems that have been the beneficiaries of significant investment over the last several years.  These systems also run on cloud infrastructure, though cloud does not necessarily mean multitenant.

Microsoft and others — with the notable exceptions of companies like NetSuite and Salesforce.com — have decided to kick the can down the road with regard to multitenancy.  While multitenancy might have advantages, it is not advantageous enough yet to push the issue.  As a result, it may have to wait 10 more years — until the next wholesale replacement cycle — until multitenancy becomes more of a standard.

The “can” in this case is a metaphor referring to how vendors address the issue of single tenant vs. multi tenant cloud-based systems, and I thought the second paragraph did an acceptable job of illuminating the metaphor.

Not that long ago cloud and multitenant went together but a revolution in the last couple of years by major software vendors including Oracle, Microsoft and Sage among others, has changed the complexion of the situation.  Many vendors have adopted a strategy that leverages a single code base that can be deployed either as single or multitenant.  Moreover, the single tenant versions can still be housed in a common, cloud-based datacenter to deliver cloud services that are almost indistinguishable to the user.  But no conventional vendors are pushing multitenancy as the wave of the future.  They are letting the customer decide.

It’s still true that you need to work with your vendor to establish the right balance of cloud services to go with your cloud infrastructure.  For instance, do you want to manage your system from afar or do you want your vendor to provide management services including configuration, backup and upgrades?  The choices are numerous.  So when I spoke of kicking the can down the road, it was about the choice of deployment—as in letting the customer decide the deployment approach—rather than saying that any vendor did not possess the ability to deploy in multitenant mode.

Clear, right?

 


David Nour, the founder of Relationship Economics, publishes an interesting and articulate newsletter.  I don’t always agree with him but even when I don’t we aren’t that far apart.  His latest post on “Tomorrow’s Social CEO” is an example.

Nour correctly observes (and laments) that few of the current batch of corporate leaders is socially connected.  According to his post, “Eric Schmidt (Google) is an infrequent Twitterer and not a blogger; Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) does not blog or have a Twitter account; Michael Dell is on Twitter but is not an external blogger.  It is also remarkable that neither Steve Jobs (Apple) nor Larry Ellison (Oracle) have a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or blog presence that we could find.”

My facile observation: Yes, and look where it’s gotten them.

Seriously, though, I agree that the executive of tomorrow will be much more of a social animal but as they say in court rooms from time to time, absence of proof is not proof of absence.  What I mean, and this is almost pure hypothesis, is that organizations are becoming more social but perhaps the right application hasn’t come along yet to enable a CEO to be more social in a professional setting.

To borrow a regrettable phrase, the CEO is the decider.  He or she spends the day making decisions for the organization so that it can continue on its mission of maximizing shareholder value and serving the customer.  Other people in the enterprise do the social work for the organization for a very obvious reason—doing it right requires capturing a mountain of data, analyzing it and only then taking action.  CEOs don’t have the time.

CEOs are great at analyzing data once it’s captured and presented to them.  I once knew a guy who could scan a balance sheet, no matter how complex, and in a matter of moments begin making cogent observations and recommendations.  He was murder on finding misspellings on a lunch menu too.

I think the blog might be the natural social medium for today’s CEO.  Since Reagan, even U.S. presidents have made weekly radio broadcasts—a social outreach, albeit one way—a standard part of the job.  My preference would be to change that to a weekly newspaper column though.  Written words are more accessible and longer lasting and enable you to elaborate a complex idea but that’s a subject for another time.

So, why aren’t CEO’s more social?  If it’s because the right social medium hasn’t come along yet, there’s good news on the horizon in the form of a new generation of collaboration software and I think of Chatter from salesforce.com as the example.  Though currently only available as a tool for filtering the social stream within an enterprise, I can see a day when that restriction is lifted.

A collaboration product like Chatter does the necessary work of filtering the social stream so that only what’s most important to the decider gets in front of him or her.  That makes socializing the CEO possible.

Eric Schmidt is on friendly terms with Marc Benioff, who is very much socially adept, and I don’t know if Schmidt has tried Chatter.  Michael Dell already has a Chatter deployment measured in the tens of thousands at Dell, which is a big Salesforce customer.  It’s hard to say if there’s a possibility of Steve Jobs adopting Chatter and, of course, Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer will likely have their own brands of collaboration software before they’d use Salesforce.

So my mild disagreement with Nour is really one of timing.  Yes tomorrow’s CEO will need to be social and maybe collaboration software is the way they’ll get there.