Fresh off a throwdown with former SAP CEO Hasso Plattner, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, has hooked up with Google. Going forward, Google Apps (including Gmail and Google Talk) will integrate seamlessly with the Salesforce.com platform. For sales reps working in both Google and Salesforce.com environments, this integration greatly simplifies work processes. However, early media coverage of the partnership goes much further, claiming that cloud computing is finally about to take off in the enterprise environment. In order to evaluate that claim, it’s a good idea to look at what enterprises can actually do in Google Apps:
- Google site search
- Google internal search
- Google Earth and maps
- Existing Google tools (including Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs, intranet functionality)
All of these are popular and important online tools, but it isn’t clear why their integration with Salesforce.com represents any kind of forward leap for cloud computing. To relate this back to the Plattner-Benioff debate, one has to ask if online calendar syncing and email integration is the future of software. Whether you call it Software as a Service (SaaS), on demand, or cloud computing, can it: Calculate the profit margins on products based on changing inputs and production activities? Create flow-through, executable production plans for manufacturing? Segment suppliers based on their profitability to a buyer? Prevent stock-outs? Speed up the order-to-cash cycle? No one’s arguing that it’s impossible for SaaS to address some of these business needs, but it’s telling that two companies the size and prominence of Google and Salesforce.com are still trumpeting calendar syncing as some kind of killer business app.
Enterprise applications already address the core issues and challenges of business, which are not likely to change. In order to prove Benioff’s debate point against Plattner, SaaS companies have to do what companies such as SAP do, only cheaper. For SaaS to try to convince businesses that what they actually need is not a suite of applications but a handful of productivity tools is condescending to the complexity faced by business.
Demir Barlas, Site Editor