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According to Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, SAP has “not seen innovation in the last 10 years.” Those comments were made in a recent interview with ZDNet, in which Benioff twice claimed that SAP has not been responsible for creating anything “unique to the industry or value-added technology.” This comment was particularly provocative because Benioff seems to believe that Salesforce.com has been responsible for e-business innovation in a way that SAP has not. The logical response to that assertion is that, whatever the case with SAP may be, Salesforce.com is not an innovator either. Siebel tried hosted CRM before Salesforce.com, and the Salesforce.com AppExchange is manifestly indebted to the iTunes and eBay B2C models.
Salesforce.com’s key innovation has actually been its marketing strategy, which has caused Salesforce.com to become the company most commonly associated with the hosted/on demand paradigms despite the fact that other companies got there first. Sure, Salesforce.com got the execution and marketing right, but this still doesn’t constitute the kind of disruptive innovation that Benioff wants to claim for himself and deny to SAP.
SAP, meanwhile, pursues innovation through not only its regional labs, which may commit as much of 10-15 percent of their resources to investigating emergent technologies, but also through the SAP Innovation Institute, which reaches out to universities and executives to collaborate on emerging technology and business trends. Much of SAP’s innovation is on the business process front, as the company assimilates process flows into the core platform. Business process change is not as sexy as the debut of a fancy Web 2.0 tool, and the daily grind of development represents more of an incremental than a game-changing innovation, but it’s none the less important for all that.
Benioff states, “I have a hard time thinking about what SAP is going to be known for at the end of the day.” This comment demonstrates the Salesforce.com guerrilla marketing culture in action; it signals the importance Benioff places on an e-business company to be “known” for something rather than, for example, to do something quietly well.
To read what SAP thinks about Salesforce.com’s model, read our interview with SAP’s Zia Yusuf.
Demir Barlas, Site Editor