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Salesforce.com Review


Company Information:
  • Also see the more thorough CRMsearch.com Salesforce.com review.
  • Founded March 1999. Founder Marc Benioff was previously with Oracle for 13 years.
  • No particular target market. Company strives to serve all types and sizes of organizations.
  • The company's primary theme is "No Software", a tag line illustration for the SaaS CRM industry.
  • Company is known for its flamboyant CEO, guerilla marketing and bear baiting ads primarily against Oracle on Demand (previously Siebel on Demand).
CRM Software Information:
  • In CRM sale opportunities, Salesforce.com leads with sales force automation (SFA) and a suite of supporting tools. The SFA software was Salesforce.com's initial product entry to the software as a service CRM market and is strong relative to much weaker marketing and customer support modules. The company's CRM software product direction appears much more focused on adding ancillary software systems as opposed to advancing current products or adding depth to the CRM software modules.
CRM Software Products and Modules:
  • Team Edition. About $995 10 user workgroup limit. Limited functionality.
  • Group Edition: About $1,200 per year for 5 user license.
  • Professional Edition. About $65 per user per month. Reduced functionality compared to Enterprise.
  • Enterprise Edition. About $125 per user per month.
  • Unlimited Edition. Provides customers four additional value added services that raise the bar from the $125/month per user Enterprise Edition to $199 per user per month.  Unlimited permits an unlimited number of Salesforce generated applications on the AppExchange (Enterprise edition users can run a maximum of 10 AppExchange applications), increases storage per user to 120MB, provides access to Salesforce sandbox for testing, includes AppExchange mobile (via the Sendia acquisition) and training of Salesforce applications; and platinum support which includes an assigned support representative. 
  • Platform Edition. This version gives users the ability to install and customize downloaded applications from AppExchange without the CRM. CRM software developers get access to Salesforce.com's multi-tenancy infrastructure and visual point-and-click tools with which to build their applications for a fee. Also included, the Apex Web Services API, analytics and the Apex code language. The users will use the underlying Salesforce.com hosting platform with the shared common data model, security architecture, interface, version tracking, and meta-data-based application development model provided by Salesforce.com's Apex programming language and framework. Platform Edition is priced $50 per user each month to new and existing customers on Salesforce.com's Enterprise Edition service, which features the platform and ability to run up to 10 AppExchange applications, 25 custom tabs and 200 custom objects. Salesforce.com Platform Unlimited Edition is priced $100 per user per month and features the underlying platform with more than 2,000 customer objects, development sandbox, premier support and mobile capabilities.
Salesforce.com Strengths:
  • Brand. Salesforce.com is the 800 pound gorilla of the software as a service CRM industry. The company (primarily its CEO) is bold, aggressive and unapologetic.
  • Third party solutions. AppExchange is a large and growing third party software directory. AppExchange can provide several types of broad solutions to compliment your salesforce.com CRM subscription.
  • Innovation. Salesforce.com continues to innovate and expand its flagship on-demand CRM solution with value-added solutions such as Apex (development platform), ContentExchange (content management) and Successforce (user community).
  • Value. The Professional Edition is perhaps one of the best customer relationship management subscription values in SaaS market.
Salesforce.com Weaknesses:
  • Lack of flexibility. While this solution does provide several customization tools, the reality is that Salesforce.com supports over a half million users using the same solution and varying too far from that solution is not a feasible option.
  • Lack of functionality. The company seems to use a tools approach (e.g. build it yourself with the Apex development language) to compensate for missing functionality that exists in competitor solutions such as Oracle on Demand and Aplicor.
  • Systems downtime. Recurring system downtime and service interruptions over the last two years have been a major sore spot for many customers.
  • Lack of SLA (service level agreement). Salesforce.com's practice of selecting which customers to provide SLAs is unacceptable. Small and midsize businesses deserve SLAs as well.
  • Multi-tenant architecture. While salesforce.com (and the other SaaS vendors who use this shared architecture) would claim this to be a strength, most analysts recognize it is only a cost savings benefit to the CRM hosting company and provides reduced autonomy, flexibility and customization capabilities as compared to a single tenancy alternative. Currently, only SAP and Aplicor provide single-tenant hosting solutions, however, look for other to follow suit as customers increase this demand.
Salesforce.com Customers:
  • Merrill Lynch - 25,000 seats (largest salesforce.com customer)
  • Cisco - 15,000 seats (some media stories have reported this to be a troubled implementation)
  • SunGard (this was Salesforce.com's first 1,000 seat license)
  • SunTrust Banks (> 2,000)
  • ADP (> 2,000)
  • Advanced Micro Devices (> 1,000)
  • General Electric (> 1,000)
Salesforce.com Competitors:
  • SugarCRM at the low end
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the middle market
  • Oracle Fusion CRM and SAP CRM in the enterprise software market
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Salesforce.com CRM Review

Corporate Strategy
Salesforce.com approaches the web-based Customer Relationship Management industry far different than any other software as a service CRM competitor. In fact, the company is quite deliberate in promoting a message and delivering product advancement away from customer relationship management software and toward a software platform or SaaS operating system capable of supporting broad types of SaaS solutions across seemingly endless business scenarios. Salesforce.com has set its competitive sights not on other CRM SAAS solutions, but on platform software companies and most notably - Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Whether this strategy will result in loss of CRM focus or garner much larger market share for Salesforce.com remains to be seen.

Company Message
Salesforce's biggest promotions and repeated messages over the last two years have really been around the delivery of their supporting tools - primarily AppExchange and Apex. While the tools are innovative, they may also be double-edged swords. Supporters of AppExchange would point to the expansive virtual catalog of third party business solutions as a means to further take advantage of the SaaS hosted delivery model. Critics of AppExchange cite that these third party products are needed to address the many significant shortcomings of the Salesforce solution. They also point out that each AppExchange provider hosts the application on its own platform - which means that the client is left with managing multiple contracts with different companies, overseeing multiple SLA's (most of which all calculate uptime differently), deciphering performance or operational metrics or problems on different networks and reviewing and paying multiple invoices. When further considering the security ramifications and single-point-of-failure, the AppExchange is a model which should only be pursued if a single vendor solution is not available. Supporters of the Apex development language would applaud this tool as it is purpose built to create multi-tenant solutions and empowers organizations to create their own SaaS solutions. Critics would point out that Apex is a proprietary tool that locks client created solutions into salesforce.com and does little to nothing that industry standard development tools such as Java or Microsoft .NET can not perform.

Vertical Markets
Salesforce.com's approach to vertical markets appears inconsistent to those that follow the company. As reported in CRM magazine (May 2007) by editor Marshall Lager, "Salesforce.com, and its chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, formerly took an antivertical stance, stating that Salesforce.com is easily customizable and expandable to any need, and insinuating that vertical solutions don't truly address the needs of individual businesses. Siebel was often targeted because of its vertical focus, but now it appears the taunts were a smokescreen." Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies also chimes in stating "If it's disingenuous, it's not the first time a person or business has changed their approach. If it's Machiavellian--distracting the industry while preparing to do verticals their own way--that wouldn't be surprising either." Industry insiders indicate Salesforce.com's next push to an industry specific solution may be the non-profit sector.

Horizontal Markets
With Salesforce.com's apparent goal to be the next on-demand operating system, the company seems without a method and vision to deliver back-office systems, including accounting, finance, distribution, supply chain, manufacturing, human resources or payroll. You may recall that back in 2002, when competitor NetSuite (then called NetLedger) added CRM software to its accounting software, Salesforce.com said they would add ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to rival them in a new product called the "Salesforce.com Billing Edition." Salesforce.com's original shipment date of Q4 2002 quickly slipped to Q1 2003, and then to Q4 2003. Salesforce.com Billing Edition has of course never arrived. We've heard some scuttlebutt that the design was poor and the execution terrible and the experience was bad enough for Salesforce.com to abandon any more thoughts of producing ERP software and similar back-office systems. Salesforce.com customers are left with the AppExchange and Apex approach of attempting to tie together a band of multiple vendor programs (what many like to call a hodgepodge) for their core business applications. While we like the AppExchange concept for software utilities and small components intended to fill small voids, it does not make sense for core enterprise business applications.

Company Evolution
Salesforce.com's skyrocketing growth is nothing short of extremely impressive. The company has succeeded in creating an enviable brand, a thriving business and shareholder returns. However, in many ways, Salesforce.com's strategy places the company at a crossroads. The migration away from a Customer Relationship Management software solution toward a product platform or "SaaS operating system" as well as an emphasis on tools and third party solutions may contribute to the 'jack of all, master of none' notion that give its more traditional software as a service CRM competitors significant upside.

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