A little patch no one is talking about...

Last night a slick little patch was released. In it, one new fix (of many) will be particularly interesting for those of you who are frustrated with how you report on cases and solutions. You can now report on cases and solutions as one combined attribute.

Previously, before this patch, there was no reporting ability to combine Case attributes with Solution attributes. So you could never do a "Cases with Solutions" report reporting and segmenting on custom field on both cases and solutions together.

This patch lets you do all sorts of cool crazy stuff.... well, "cool and crazy" assuming you use cases and solutions.

Why we don't make more noise about these usability fixes when they come out, I'll never know. There should be a changelog available to all customers. It'd be in the help. Any user could see all enhancements and changes that impact the end user experience in any way. Each patch would be dated. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, it drives me nuts. I assume usability fixes don't happen until major releases... That means that I might miss this usability fix unless I happen to try and do something I wasn't able to do 2 days ago. But if I saw that in a changelog, I'd know about it. Wouldn't that be cool? I think so.

Salesforce.com prevents Microsoft from growing... News at 11.

Alright, in not quite the way we were all expecting... but Microsoft is closing up shop and moving out.

"While the company is looking at all its options, including growing at One Market, it may be forced to leave because of space limitations there. Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) has been aggressively gobbling up all the space available in the building and would like to expand even more."

Click to read.

I'll admit, I'm going to miss seeing someone hit "2" in the elevator then saying things like "Did you hear what that prospect said about how unusable Microsoft CRM 3.0 reporting is? They said they had to use Excel!" followed by obnoxious uncontrollable laughter until they get off on the Microsoft floor. And, on a side note, it's one damn floor up from the lobby - can't they just take the stairs?


Blog Wars

I woke up this morning and found Mark over at Salesforcewatch.com having a little fun at trying to figure out who I was.

It definitely made me laugh and I like the creativity - especially using an AppExchange tool to do it. It'll be pretty interesting to see the results.

But then, of course, I started wondering about what happens if it clearly points to my actual identity.

I've addressed the anonymity question in response to a few comments from Saul and others. Some have decided to swear off my site all together due to the fact I wish to remain anonymous - and I'm OK with that. But I haven't written in my blog as a post why I'm anonymous, and what happens when I'm no longer anonymous.

First, why I'm anonymous. In an ideal world, I'd be completely free to talk about whatever I want to talk about. Clearly, this is not an ideal world. I can't talk about things that aren't public knowledge for instance - especially because we're a public company. If I came out with all the news and gossip I hear on a day to day basis, I'd be fired. Period. Then the SEC puts me in jail. And rightly so - my obligation as an employee of salesforce.com is to not cross that line. It's simply proof that we're not free to talk about everything - even though that's almost certainly the most interesting stuff.

Removing the confidential information from the conversation, all we're left with are ideas, opinions, and speculation. I'd like the freedom to disagree with everyone - all the way up to Marc. If I thought buying Sendia was a moronic move (I don't), I'd want to feel free to say that. If I think we're messing up, I'd like to feel free to publicly shout that out. If I think execs should be replaced, I want to feel free to express that. Saul and Kingsley say that they feel free to write whatever they want. I do not.

Let's say that I thought Marc should step down as head chef. Let be me clear, I think that's a horrible idea, Marc is a great leader and the right guy for the job. But let's say I did think that... and I was so passionate about it that I wrote about it in my blog. If it turned out my true identity was one of Marc's subordinates and he knew it - I'd be fired... or at least be sporting a very big black eye. So my choices would be, either not say anything because my identity was public, or take the black eye...

Now I'm a passionate person, but my financial advisor would probably recommend against risking my career by getting on my soap box with a name tag on. And this not only goes for posts I've already made - but also posts that I haven't made yet. It's the future posts that I'm most concerned about.

That's the main reason I stay anonymous. I'm not doing it to be mysterious - I'm doing it so I can truly speak my mind as freely as I legally can. Is who I am a mystery that can be solved? Probably. Do I wish people would try? No. Are people going to try anyway? Yes.

So what happens if and when my identity is revealed? If I'm the one revealing, nothing - it'll be my choice. If I'm outed, I'll probably just delete the blog and maybe later start a new one that's just not anonymous but filtered... though I admit the appeal of that is zero for me. Does that make me chicken? No. I made the choice to be anonymous when I started this blog, and I'm going to stick to it. If this blog is no longer anonymous, it no longer serves its purpose to me.

If I can't write an unfiltered blog, this blog won't be interesting for me or, I'd suspect, the majority of my readers - because then this truly would be yet another salesforce.com employee blog.


Why hasn't anyone...

If I was a crafty shoot from the hip consultant who was looking to raise awareness of my own little personal consulting company here's what I'd do...

I'd go register the domain name crmuptime.com or something equally witty and creative.

I'd buy one user license (or find a free license if they offer one that is on their "production" server) of every on demand vendor out there. Salesforce.com, Netsuite, Oracle, RightNow, Salesnet, Entellium, SugarCRM, and any other CRM vendor who has an on demand offering.

Then you get/write some simple software that just goes checks uptime, response time, etc basically doing everything I suggested trust.salesforce.com should do in a previous post. I'd then post all of those stats in a snazzy grid on the home page of the website I just created.

So it'll be like trust.salesforce.com, but this time you're doing it for every vendor, essentially forcing them to reveal how good/bad they really are.

I'd personally love that. Let's get some third party evaluation going on. It's such an itsy tiny investment and you could instantly be one of the most popular CRM review websites out there. Hell, maybe even a online news magazine or something could do this...

I'm not saying salesforce.com would necessarily come out on top (but my brainwashing compels me to think we will)... but I'd bet just about everyone who cares about CRM would visit the website on a regular basis.

Of course, ideally there would be some sort of auditing of the data because you know the worst vendor would say "oh, they're skewing the data to make their preferred CRM vendor look better" etc etc....

Once I've got that built I'd then do my own personal reviews of each of the vendors. Have forums where people can gab about their experiences and stories as to why they switched from one vendor to another.

It could be a pretty darn popular site...

Anyway, that's my thought for today.


Now I know why it feels good to come into work...

I just read that we're ranked #7 among companies, ethically speaking.


Actually I think that's pretty cool. It's the first year we've actually made it on the list and, as far as I can tell, the only public CRM company on the list. Not too shabby given the names I'm seeing below us on the ranking scale (Intel, Cisco, Dell, Texas Instruments, etc)...

No Oracle. No Microsoft. No RightNow. That makes me smile.

Good job us.

Now when are those pesky other CRM vendors going to finally go public so we can see where they compare? I'm holding my breath for Netsuite. This is only the 3rd year they've said they're going public... At least this time they're saying it more formally. I think when they figure out their valuation won't nearly be close to ours (http://www.salesforcewatch.com/2006/03/netsuite_to_go_.html) they'll quietly cancel plans....again.

Of course, I'm not going to start bashing on Netsuite... I'm far too ethical for that.

A little humor from the Dark side...

"Benioff tends to see the bright side of trouble. In this case, he notes, “Our sales leads have been spiking on the outages. They’re at an all-time high.” In fact, he says, whenever Salesforce.com has had problems over the years, it has only expanded interest in the company. “These are huge branding events,” he says. “Every time our competitors say something negative about us, it gives us more girth.”"

Click here to read the article.

Wait a second...
So as a public company, the company's primary mission is to increase share value...
and if sales leads spike when we have outages...
and more leads lead to more sales...
and more sales improves share value...
Shouldn't we have more outages?

Yes, I'm completely joking (about a not very funny subject matter) but it's just remarkable to me to watch our marketing engine do its thing.

Being completely objective...right or wrong it's a pretty impressive thing to watch in motion.


You can Trust me...I promise.

Let's talk about "trust" for a minute.

First, I'm personally not a fan of the domain name http://trust.salesforce.com. It sounds way too much like "trustme.salesforce.com" and I don't trust anyone who tells me to trust them. And I also don't trust anyone who would trust someone who told them to trust them. Apparently I have trust issues - who knew? That's probably why I'm the only person who bookmarked http://status.salesforce.com instead. But that doesn't mean I didn't do backflips when the decision was made to make a website which gave visibility into our datacenter. But I'd really like there to be more. A lot more.

First the praise. I can't find a single on demand vendor in any industry (other than gaming) that talks about their server status. I'm sure they're out there...but definitely not in our industry. A public website for all to see saying a) is our website up and b) show me the performance over the past month. It certainly blows my mind that others in our space haven't followed this example. I don't really think our competitors expected us to do something like this when it came out and they suddenly realized that maybe throwing stones from their glass house wasn't such a good idea. Sure, they'll still whisper in prospects' ears about our "service interruption" and just hope we don't talk about trust.salesforce.com because they know the question will always come back to them asking "where's your trust.salesnet.com" or "trust.netsuite.com" or "trust.siebacle.com" or "trust.salesboom.com" or "trust.rightnow.com" etc etc. The fact is they simply can't show the same stats that we do because they're not as good. Sure, a few of them offer some loosely written SLAs that essentially allows the service to come to a crawl and leave you completely unproductive - but since it didn't technically crash it's still considered uptime. I think the "average speed" column is the most daunting for our competitors...coupled with the number of transactions. That's some good stuff right there.

But I don't think that's where we should stop. At all. Not even close. We opened the door a little and we had a great response... but let's push further and deeper. Let's break the rules. Here's how...

In a previous life I worked at an ASP. We were always asked the dreaded uptime question and had us describe our datacenter. We were terrified of these questions and would throw up enough smoke and mirrors that people would eventually stop asking those questions. I'm not particularly proud of this. We'd talk in generalities about our uptime. We'd talk about how we'd need an NDA to talk deeper than that. We'd still talk in generalities once the NDA was in place. We'd show a "network diagram" that described the fundamentals of any ASP setup and not much more. Only if they were a huge company and we were losing the deal would we ever break out and really give full exposure. And you know what? When we did that... we won the deals. I can't think of any example of a deal we lost because we exposed too much to a customer. So what were we afraid of?

The typical fears around exposing too much are:
1) You expose weaknesses that competitors can exploit - what if their datacenter is better?
2) You expose weaknesses that hackers can exploit - why help the hackers out?
3) You expose weaknesses to our customers - maybe they're better off not knowing?
4) You invite feedback from everyone on the planet on how to make it better or what we're doing wrong - Do we really want to have to justify ourselves?
5) You tell everyone the vendors we use and that can cause problems - they still want our money though, right?
6) And what happens if something goes really wrong...and it's our fault?

I understand all these concerns... and, in just about every circumstance, I agree that if I were someone other than the market leader in our industry these are completely valid.

But salesforce.com is the market leader in the on demand CRM space.
We just invested (and continue to invest) more into our infrastructure than just about any of our competitors could dream about.
And by the way, I'm fucking proud of our infrastructure.

So why not push the envelope? Let's shake things up. This is more than just picketing about no software, this is changing the face of how SaaS providers will operate in the future.

Here's what my dream list includes for trust.salesforce.com...
1) Uptime stats for the last 7, 30, 90, 180, and 365 days.
2) Average speed stats for the last 7, 30, 90, 180, 365 days.
3) Maximum and minimum average speed time on a daily basis
4) Our network diagram. Posted. Yes, you read that right. With equipment and its role within the network clearly spelled out.
5) A log of every change made to the service (be it application or infrastructure) and what the intent of the patch/fix/update was.

And I want everyone to be able to view it: employees, customers, competitors, the press, stock holders, my kids, and anyone who cares to actually look.

Yes, I know that's scary. Parker I'm sure has 1000 reasons why this is a horrible idea. I'm sure a lot of them are valid.
But are they overcome-able? Is the answer really no? Can we work around the problems?

Just think about the benefits for a moment. Talk about trust... People would say "This is one very serious company about its service." I know I'd buy from a company to put all that information out there without thinking twice. And then think about our competitors... It'd crush them. There's really no response that I could think of that they could come up with other than "We've got an SLA" - which, as mentioned earlier, is nearly completely unenforceable from the customer's perspective.

Yes, when we go down, our customers would know it. And they'd know it for a long time. But now whenever we go down there's a press release and a ton of bloggers writing about it anyway - I'd rather them at least know the truth and angry rather than speculating and angry. At the end of the day, did it really hurt us to let them know what's up?

And yes, our vendor's won't like it if we point out it was their fault that something failed... but maybe that will motivate them to fix whatever went wrong in the future? And if we have some confidentiality agreements in place - I don't think anyone will mind too much if our network diagram has a little asterisks that says "we can't disclose the vendor - but this thing is bad ass" or something like that.

About the SLA thing since I know a lot of our customers are passionate about this one... I think we need one too. I just think we're not ready yet. That's definitely not to say that the people above me are in agreement that an SLA will ever come... The problem comes down, as I understand it, to how it would impact our ability to report our revenue to our stock holders. It sort of makes sense. If an SLA is in place that lets you get money back we can't really recognize that revenue until that money can't be refunded. That complicates things... But I'd love to start with an SLA % that we've never dipped below and just move it up and up as we feel more and more comfortable with our ever improving infrastructure. Does that mean it's coming? Nope. But it's definitely something that's debated regularly here.

So this post is about my dream feature list of trust.salesforce.com. Will sharing this sort of information eventually happen in the SaaS space? Yes. It has to. But will salesforce.com be the first to do it? I sure hope so.

What would your dream trust.salesforce.com feature list include?


Exactly my point...

One of the comments to my last post pointed me to http://itredux.com/blog/office-20/my-office-20-setup - Very cool stuff. Essentially Ismael is trying to do everything in a browser that's typically relied upon on with desktop applications.

Of course, it's great to see salesforce.com in categories like "database" - but look at all the alternatives. This, coupled with the StarOffices and Apples of the world, does seem to suggest that Microsoft had better wake up. With all of these options...and hopefully with clear winners in the pack coming out - and the appropriate consolidations and buyouts, Microsoft has some worrying to do.

And I did read that article about the "calm before the storm" of Microsoft... that Microsoft has some master strategy plan of dominating this whole thing before it gets too far ahead... But the fact of the matter is that's too late, in this completely biased blogger's opinion. Too many smaller companies being run by very smart people are too hungry to let that happen. A PM at Microsoft isn't nearly as hungry as the guy who can't feed his family if his brilliant web application fails. We'll see how it all pans out in the end. I think it's too big of pie for Microsoft to fully digest at this point. Will they come out with something to compete? Yes. But with so many alternatives and (hopefully) having them all standardize on formats, I don't feel compelled to use the products like I did in the 90s.

My next post will have nothing to do with Microsoft (if I can help it).


Drinking the Kool-aid...

Not all posts are going to be rosy...
but I wanted to start out on a positive note.

Salesforce.com has a lot of very very cool stuff going on. It's one of those situations where you want to take every prospect considering salesforce.com aside and say "I wish you knew what I knew when making your purchasing decision." As you might imagine, salesforce.com almost certainly has one of the most pimped out, crazy, deployments out there. One of the cool things they've got is a features tab that will basically give at least some level of insight into the next release or two. Are the features set in stone? Of course not. Do we talk about them with customers? Not if we can avoid it. Is it mind blowing to read through? Yes.

Really there are two main paths that are being developed. Obviously everyone's very excited about the AppExchange and everything it has to offer (more about that later) but something I get asked all the time is "what about CRM?". The fact of the matter is that we have a massive team of product managers and development teams focused on continuing to making our CRM tool the best on the market. It's definitely not like we're saying "welp, we mastered CRM, let's go tackle something new." Far from it. You're going to see some exciting advances in CRM that our competitors will continue to have to play catchup with. So CRM is path one. Path two is the AppExchange.

The AppExchange is what I really want to talk about. You've read all the marketing - you know it's a way to share essentially customizations from one entity to another. I remember people scoffing when the word "platform" is used. But play it out a little further into the future. Where can this thing go?

Let's break down what our application is today. Let's say I want an online application that has NOTHING to do with CRM. You need to capture data and store it somewhere. Report on it. You'll have many people that can submit that data, etc. Would you consider purchasing salesforce.com? No, probably not. But why not?

We're at the point now that CRM can be completely stripped out of the application. You can create your own tables in a database. The salesforce.com essentially becomes just a snazzy database table browser with a report engine on top. You can have pretty powerful security controls. You've got a $50M+ infrastructure making sure it's fast and as reliable as possible (I'm going to save my reliability rant for another post). Oh, and by the way, you can build this whole thing without knowing a lick of code. That's pretty cool!

Gah, I'm starting to sound like a marketing brochure.

But lets get in a little deeper...
I've seen some crazy examples of customers using our app in very cool ways.
Let's say I was a developer and wanted to build a desktop app (blasphemy, I know). I want to be able to log into the app no matter what desktop I happen to be on in our organization (or at home). You need a central repository for those logins which is accessible to everyone and everywhere. Buy a 1 user EE license of salesforce.com, create a table called "user", don't associate it to anything within salesforce.com, and store the user info in that table using our API.

Let's take it a step further. Let's say you want the data to be accessible wherever the user logs in from in this snazzy desktop app. Create the necessary tables in salesforce.com, have your desktop app push and pull the data out of the tables of salesforce.com as necessary. You're already handling authentication (in the example above) so now you can use that authentication to guarantee the right data is coming down to your end users.

So for the price of 1 EE license and you have 1Gb of data storage, a XML accessible database, and a ton of tools to help you build your app. That's pretty cool.

The possibilities start to get pretty crazy if you really stop to think about it. As a more technically minded sfdc employee, a day doesn't go by where I think about the opportunities out there for someone to make a killer app using a salesforce.com back-end. There's a LOT of low hanging fruit out there and salesforce.com's licensing model is friendly enough that you could pull it off without much hassle.

This is ultimately why I think salesforce.com only has one competitor (today, anyway). Sure you'll hear about the netsuites and salesnets of the world - but they don't have this developing platform play. They'll throw us under the bus saying that they're not going to do the same thing because they know not to lose their focus on CRM. And they're right - it might cause problems for their company... but when you remember that we've got a much bigger company and we're two integrated halves working half on CRM and half on Platform and either development half is bigger than their entire development staff...their arguments fall apart.

So, in my eyes, Microsoft is the only competitor that needs to be worried about. Microsoft has a CRM project and they have obviously have a strong platform play. Now I was around to hear how Netscape was going to take down Microsoft...and that story didn't end so well for the underdog. Microsoft has a track record of moving slow, making mistakes, but having enough inertia to just roll over any sort of obstacle. Their CRM product is still weak. It's incredible how many people will still consider (and even choose them!) the product simply because it's Microsoft. The reporting requires you to code or be an Excel junky. The endless popup windows as you click around the app will drive you insane. It's slow and a bandwidth hog. You've got to host it or pay some random third party to host it for you. It's ugly. It's annoying. It's broken. But that doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels.

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft is trying to change their entire business model into a subscription based model - or at least, have subscription options for all. They're going to try and have this on-demand option available...so CRM, office, and other things will be available for you to consume.

But they're going to have problems. Big problems. The problem with being Microsoft is that if you're not perfect, everyone will know about it.

Give me one security hole (Microsoft? Security problems? Never!) and it's over. I remember when I switched off hotmail. They had a bug that let me log in as any user - I just had to know their email address. It was great. Hotmail imploded that day. Now, that didn't get that much press because well, no one cares about your personal email. BUT, imagine if the same thing happens with your CRM data. Oops. Now I can log in and see a public companies internal forecasts. Microsoft just needs to do that once and the CRM story is over. By the way, we're in the same boat - but since this is ALL we're focused on and we take so many redundant steps to make sure that the data is secure that it's hard to imagine it failing. Microsoft just doesn't get the platform bit yet - the way that we're defining platform.

Do I think we're going to help destroy Microsoft? Yes.
Do I think we're going to do it this year? No.
Do I think we're going to do it alone? No.

Google, salesforce.com, and even Oracle is taking an axe to Microsoft's foundations. I think the business story of the next 10 years will be Microsoft's ultimate demise. Blindly optimistic? Maybe. But companies like Google and salesforce.com are rich enough and agile enough to keep ahead of the Microsoft beast.

Google will continue to become more pervasive on your desktop. Yes, that desktop will be running a MS operating system...but Google has a 3-5+ plan. Oracle is about to purchase Ubuntu (I hope) or some other Linux company. Salesforce.com is position to truly be the on-demand application platform. And there's much more than that coming down the pipe...

It feels like the waning years of the Roman Empire. Too big, Too fat, Too slow, and shit, are those the Visigoths coming over the mountain? I hope I'm the first to call salesforce.com a member of the Visigoth army.

Stay tuned for more rambling posts in the future.

Yet another SFDC blog begins...

Well, apparently it's all the rage to write salesforce.com blogs now days so I decided to hop on the bandwagon.

I'm going to say what's on my mind in this blog. I'm going to talk about the things that I'm excited about with salesforce.com, the things I find frustrating, and where I think this company is going.

A few notes right off the bat:
1) I love working at sfdc.
2) These posts represent my own thoughts as an individual and shouldn't be construed as official messages from salesforce.com.
3) All information here will be reflections on information that's publicly accessible.

That being said, I promote open communication - so if you disagree (or, god forbid, agree) with something I say - please don't hesitate to let me know.

That's all for now...