Category: CRM

by Adrian :: 2.05.11

Place your bets on (Sales)force.com

It took a trip out to San Francisco last December for me to confirm my belief that Salesforce.com was opening up the next round of opportunity for business large and small with their Force.com platform.

It is true to say they started with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at the heart of their business in the early noughties and it’s also true to say they’ve perfected and cornered this market. And in doing so they’ve created the Force.com platform that allows over 92,300 customers to operate their business on the same platform: not just the sales process but any functional area – all the way from front-  to back-office. Because the platform is a pay on demand platform it offers robust scalability from the day you sign up irrespective of the size of the business.

I’ve been watching things develop withe Force.com over a few years and paid extra attention when they opened the platform up to non-proprietary development tools like Java and Ruby on Rails. This made practical sense allowing the business world to tap into the existing development skills-base without having to be constrained to their proprietary tool base called Apex.

A decade ago, CRM earned a bad reputation when Gartner reported that 50% to 70% of CRM software installations failed. The acronym CRM is tainted, I’ be the first to admit that but I’d like you to argue with me that you don’t need a system that puts your customer right in the heart of your organisation – call it what you want. There is no business without a customer.

Most of the damage done to the reputation of CRM was a result of huge-budgeted implementations of Siebel or the like – monolithic, expensive, inflexible requiring massive investment in hardware, software and implementation. Salesforce.com has changed all this and Gartner awarded them the Magic Quadrant leader. Have a look at Salesforce.com’s UK customers success stories.

Since the advent of Facebook and the emergence of f-Commerce, CRM has become even more important and the ability to interact with your existing and potential customers online  (and specifically in Facebook) is increasingly important. Whether it’s just a conversation or whether that conversation turns into a recommendation or even a sale you will surely want it to happen on the same technology platform: a platform that allows you to be develop quickly and reliably; a platform that allows you to have that conversation and transaction on any device – mobile or otherwise.

The Cluetrain Manifesto is now over a decade old but their predictions hold even more true today. Markets are about conversations (take the old Bazaars) and technology is restoring those old values. Salesforce.com isn’t just about CRM, it’s about the future of building your business out of those Cluetrain.com conversations using a trusted, robust and scalable platform available to all regardless of your business size. Doesn’t that sound empowering and compelling?

 

 

 

by Adrian :: 7.12.10

Dreamforce Day 1: Top 5 learnings

Today was always going to be a low-key day as it’s the run-up to Benioff’s opening keynote on Tuesday (have you registered to watch the live webcast – I’ve travelled five and half thousand miles for it- trust me, it’ll be worth it).

Although today’s event I attended called Cloudstock is primarily targeted at the developer community, I still learnt  enough to share 5 things:

1. There is nothing that prepares you for the scale of an event of this size.

Close to 30,000 people are expected to have registered to attend Dreamforce and everything works and works like clockwork (everything except the WiFi that is). When first arriving, I didn’t have to queue when registering. I walked up to a terminal entered my email address – my badge was printed and I then walked up to a materials issue desk where my badge was scanned and I was handed all the bits I needed.

2. Salesforce.com *is* truly disruptive and they’ve put a few noses out of joint:

Out on the street outside the conference venue there are warring factions. I first saw this tweet from Marc Benioff

Microsoft can run anti-salesforce WSJ ads, protest our cust events, and even sue us. But they can not stop the cloud. The force is with us!

Stepping out for some fresh air I was nearly knocked over by a Microsoft Segway slamming the Salesforce.com cloud and promoting some crazy Microsoft alternative. Oracle had placed huge posters in windows of surrounding buildings claiming to be the #1 CRM solution. Benioff (who came from Oracle) returned the gesture with a placards claiming that “30,000 attendees at Dreamforce can’t be wrong”  I’ll get some of this action on camera tomorrow. That edgy, disruptive feeling  made me feel it was worth traveling so far.

3. You need to have reliable and robust internet connectivity to work in the cloud

I watched both Google and Salesforce.com flounder yesterday in their demos (poor chaps) when even their cabled internet access wobbled – in fact it stopped working for a large part of their sessions. This is just such a deal breaker: its the greatest threat to Cloud adoption and because the internet backbone is so weak outside the major cities in the UK it can’t really promise a revolution to off-premise working (yet one hopes) It felt staggering that we suffered so many outages at an event in San Francisco organised by the people who claim to be leading the Cloud Revolution: not a great example

4. Advantages of scale, speed and cost

Developing applications in the cloud now allows large and small enterprise to deploy scalable, custom built software solutions quickly and cost-effectively. I’m not a developer and a lot of what I heard went straight over the top of my head (especially the contined use of acronyms) but I have a firm grasp that this wave of change is here to transform small business and we need to grasp it with open arms as it will be a great differentiator and enabler: very, very exciting.

5. The UK didn’t go completely unnoticed.

I am definitely one of the few delegates from the UK. The event is awash with friendly event staff who are around to help you with anything you need: and they love our accents (they don’t notice that mine still has a bit of a South African twang to it)

Tomorrow is a big day: Benioff’s keynote (we’ve been told to take in snacks as he likes to talk!) – and then the Gala Party featuring Stevie Wonder – between that its going to be packed with learning, networking and lots of thinking… in the cloud.

PS: If you can’t figure out what’s on the small billboard in the above photo – click here

by Adrian :: 6.12.10

My questions for Dreamforce

Over 27,000 cloud computer enthusiasts are congregating in San Francisco this week. We’re being hosted by Marc Benioff the Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com at a conference called Dreamforce. Benioff has grown Salesforce.com from a startup in a rented apartment into the world’s fastest growing software company in less than a decade.

A few months ago, I was at the Royal Festival Hall where Benioff presented to a circa 2,000 head audience in a London gathering called CloudForce at the  Royal Festival Hall. In the Youtube clip below he says:

As we’ve travelled around the world in the last 12 years our message has been clear: Cloud computing is the future. The first time I came to London I did not play at the Royal Festival Hall- and I think there were about 4 people that showed up – two of them were lost and the other two came for the free food!

There are a few things I’m hoping to figure out at Dreamforce
1) Is, as Benioff evangelises, Cloud Computing and more specifically Salesforce.com really for companies of any size? My experience is that SMEs in Europe are battling to afford the per seat charges that Salesforce.com expect. Is pricing the barrier and what is the extent of customisation. I advised a big-budgeted financial services company (with 800 employees globally) who were looking at Salesforce.com and, disappointingly, they couldn’t afford it.
2) Are the hurdles in the European race to Cloud Computing higher than our compatriots’ in the US? Firstly there’s the culture, fear and lack of understanding. Secondly there’s the bandwidth issue in the UK – working in the cloud can’t be achieved on bandwidth speeds that most of the population outside the major cities have to settle for. Why are we Europeans slower to adopt new technologies?
3) At Cloudforce London, Benioff promised a UK data centre in 2011 – but is this enough to alleviate worries about data being transported across borders. I need to understand more.
4) How easy and feasible is it for SMEs to custom develop applications on the force.com platform and is this something on which I should be looking to skill up?

Of course I’m also looking forward to hearing President Bill Clinton’s address and Stevie Wonder sing at the Gala concert on Tuesday night. For those who won’t be here you can register to watch Benioff’s keynote online on Tuesday afternoon European time. It’s really something you won’t regret.

by Adrian :: 3.12.10

Social Software for Business and the death of email.

Email isn’t a collaboration tool

I’m not the first to claim that email will slowly be phased out of our workplace as the tool of choice. To explain this rather ballsy statement I need to start by ensuring you don’t glaze over when I talk about an tired old term:  Web2.0

Explaining Web2.0

If you asked me, I could write an epistle on how Web2.0 brought us social software that changed our lives forever, helping us to share, discover and collaborate: how it liberated access to the vast information stores we never imagined. My awards would go to Wikipedia (wiki) , Delicious (social bookmarking) and Twitter (social networking)

Enterprise2.0

Knowing and understanding how Web 2.0 continues to enrich our lives, we’re now ready to introduce Enterprise 2.0 into the equation. That’s an easy jump: it’s all about taking the principles and value of Web2.0 into the workplace. Don’t get confused by the word Enterprise because I’ve experienced Enterprise 2.0 tools adding enormous value to a modest little startup. Its easy to imagine how Web2.0 tools can help us share, discover and collaborate in the workplace.

Mountains have been written about how Enterprise 2.0 has opened up the information flows and encouraged people to work better and smarter; to share knowledge. You don’t have to look hard to find some robust case studies too. But… more people agree that Enterprise 2.0 hasn’t yet transformed the workplace because of the culture of command and control. In a traditional business, change is brought about by management and the very same management ends up scared by Enterprise 2.0 worried about losing control. Up until now, Entreprise 2.0 success stories have been brokered by early adopters lower down the ranks in an organisation. These change agents have written their job specs because management have inevitably seen the value that they have created by opening up the control structures of their organisations. Also an ageing piece of collateral but check out the Meet Charlie Case Study

Facebook for the Enterprise

I’m excited by Salesforce.com‘s ambitions to turn their cloud platform into “Facebook for the Enterprise” by creating social network hubs around data points in their organisation. salesforce.com is the first to to this because they are agile by the very definition of being a cloud vendor. Chatter was launched to all salesforce.com‘s existing clients one morning – at a flick of a switch. Of course it’s still up to management whether to turn on the Chatter functionality in their organisation which can also be done at a press of a button – no additional costs or implementation nightmares. The other benefit ist its adoption is championed socially (almost virally).  Any organisation that’s had the foresight to move its data and applications to the cloud won’t have a challenge grasping the enterprise 2.0 “nettle”but the difference with Chatter is that its a social tool integrated in and around their existing data points. Let me explain

Client records and documents become a social networking hun

No longer do you have a social network centred around a vertical practice or a geography but now you have a social network built around a client record. So using a Twitter-like service called “Chatter” everyone in an organisation that has an interest in a particular client can collaborate around that common interest. Who might those people be? Obviously the account manager but also the credit controller who wants to make sure the account manager isn’t selling something new without getting the client to first pay their outstanding bill, the product manager who needs to know if the product isn’t meeting customer expectations; the customer service agent who fielded a call centre call and the programmer who created the product in the first place. Suddenly you can see an organisation able to move away from the left-hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Suddenly, you’re able to cut across the functions of a business to co-ordinate what counts the most – a happy customer and a profitable business.

Equally so you could develop a social network around a document which obviously allows you to collaborate and knowledge share to a greater degree. All the activity on the areas of the business I care about – customers, client contacts, colleagues &  documents – all falls into my enterprise stream. Powerful stuff.

….and email is allowed to slowly die a a very welcome death.

Update Consider reading this article on the Cloud Blog it was posted just before the main event at Dreamforce opens.