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Salesforce at 15: Industry disruptor wards off midlife crisis

Chris Kanaracus | April 23, 2014
Salesforce.com recently celebrated its 15th year in existence, and as the SaaS (software-as-a-service) vendor races toward US$5 billion in revenue its influence on the industry is being felt more than ever. At the same time, some signs indicate that Salesforce.com is having a few growing pains, as well as showing some trappings of the mega-vendors it once mocked with its "End of Software" marketing campaign.

"Salesforce has become so well-established and so well-known it's not a cheap solution," Scavo said. "They are able to command a premium price."

Insurance company XL Group is moving from Salesforce.com to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, after originally intending to roll out Salesforce.com globally, said Paul Kelly, director of IT strategy.

The fact that Salesforce.com hadn't been completely implemented gave XL Group a chance to step back and assess its options.

Microsft's Dynamics CRM started to make more sense for a number of reasons, Kelly said. "One simply is cost," he said. In addition, Dynamics CRM has "a more natural integration" with Microsoft's Office Suite, he added.

As far as Salesforce.com's software itself, Kelly had little bad to say. "There's similar functionality with both platforms."

Odds on ERP: Salesforce.com today offers so much beyond its original CRM software that it's arguably misnamed, in Scavo's view.

Salesforce.com to date has made a series of partnerships with ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) vendors, including Infor, and has formed a joint venture with Unit4 Agresso called FinancialForce.com. It's also close with cloud-based HCM (human-capital-management) and financial software provider Workday, and a number of companies, such as Kenandy, have actually built ERP applications on its Force.com platform.

With ERP giants Oracle and SAP moving now to offer cloud-based versions of their software, Benioff may decide that the vendor's next big business is not marketing or verticals, but ERP.

Mega-merger?: One favorite topic of speculation when it comes to Salesforce.com is whether it will be acquired by or merge with a larger vendor. While Salesforce.com's current market capitalization means such a deal would be quite costly, there's no way to rule out this scenario.

The more likely outcome will see Salesforce.com continue to make acquisitions of its own in order to ensure the company's steady growth rate.

Big play in big data: Smart bettors will look for Salesforce.com to make some of its biggest investments in analytics companies, both for crunching large amounts of unstructured information from sensors, devices and the social Web, as well as visualization tools aimed at end users. Benioff's fixation on the "Internet of customers" will just be rhetoric unless Salesforce.com delivers the technical goods customers need to fulfill the dream.

 

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