4.19.2006

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.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

office 2.0

you are spot on with this post. thanks for the insight.

along this thought line, others are well on their way to making sfdc a major part of the office 2.0 desktop office killa:

http://itredux.com/blog/office-20/my-office-20-setup/

4/19/2006 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://itredux.com/blog/office-20/my-office-20-setup/

4/19/2006 8:44 PM  
Anonymous FODA-UK said...

Perhaps Microsoft does have an unexpected edge in the making?


http://foda.typepad.com/foda_consulting/2006/04/salesforcecom_w.html

4/20/2006 2:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clickable Link to Foda posting

4/20/2006 2:15 AM  
Blogger Saul Weiner said...

One suggestion that may lend some credibility to your posts: include your real name.

You say you work at salesforce.com, and that's great. But maybe I'm going crazy, but I can't tell who you are or if you really do work at salesforce.

4/20/2006 1:03 PM  
Blogger Omega said...

Thanks Saul for your advice. I'm going to leave this anonymous for now. I'll leave it to the people who read this as to whether I'm credible or not. It should be pretty obvious I am. My name shouldn't matter...and I'd rather not get pressure to filter what I say... which is pretty much exactly what would happen. The last thing I want to have to worry about is whether my boss or his/her boss (up to Marc) approve of my thoughts.

If anything that hopefully will make me more credible. Too many salesforce.com employee blogs seem written by our marketing department...I'd rather just speak my mind. Which is pretty much what a personal blog is meant to be, no?

4/20/2006 2:21 PM  
Blogger Saul Weiner said...

Wow, I understand but disagree.

Credibility is maintained through transparency. Regardless, this is my last post. Hope you have a good experience.

4/20/2006 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting attitude about Microsoft. If SFDC wants to dominate and go up against Microsoft, they need to rethink the fees they charge partners to get in front of their customer base.

4/21/2006 5:40 AM  

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