Voices of CRM

April 28, 2010  7:22 PM

Is this the end of Apex and other questions about VMforce?

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

Salesforce. com and VMware got together yesterday and released some details on VMforce, their much anticipated collaboration.

It left me with more questions than answers though.

In fact, Denis Pombriant over at Beagle Research may have asked the best question about VMforce.

One thing that remains cloudy (sorry) is whether a transformed Java application running on VMForce inherits the multi-tenancy that every other Salesforce cloud application has.  If not VMForce reduces Force.com to the status of a simple server.  This would be a big departure for Salesforce and something that was not alluded to in the presentation.  But it is a question that ought to be asked.

And I have a few questions of my own to ask.

First of all, now that developers can work in Java while leveraging the Force.com platform, why do they need Apex (Salesforce.com’s proprietary programming language)? Salesforce.com has always said that Apex is very “Java-like” but nothing is more Java-like than Java, no?

Salesforce.com told SearchCloudComupting’s Carl Brooks that Force.com users will continue to use Apex if they wish and that 80% of Force.com development was basically point and click anyway, so they didn’t expect much change. Salesforce.com also said that AppExchange will continue on and Apex Force.com apps will not suddenly be available in Java on VMforce.com.

But what’s holding AppExchange partners back from moving to VMforce? As it’s been laid out, it appears developers could use VMforce for test and development and then pull it back off the cloud and in house, giving them more choice. Additionally. Salesforce.com made a big deal about the integration between VMforce and Force.com, including a “publish to Force.com” button that was well received.  Seems like one less reason to use Apex.

Of course, the big questions are around licensing and there was no word on that. None is expected for a while either but it seems to be a pretty relevant topic.

For example, will people using the VMforce applications be charged a license or is there some sort of usage-based fee? Do you get a Force.com license with a VMforce license? According to Salesforce.com, developers will get access to the Force.com platform, including the database, workflow management, Chatter social collaboration platform, search and application performance analytics.  Does that mean companies will be able to swap out Force.com licenses for VMforce licenses?

And why no word on pricing? SearchCloudComputing’s Brooks makes a good point that VMware will want to make it fairly cheap to encourage as many users as possible. Salesforce.com on the other hand is going to want to turn this into a bigger revenue stream, particularly if it cuts into Force.com usage.

Finally, I wonder, how much of this is an effort by Salesforce.com to extend its footprint beyond the core CRM users in sales, service and marketing. The AppExchange applications were supposed to do that, but most of them still seem to focus on some sort of CRM extension.

Chatter, which I had some questions about when it was released, seems to be Salesforce.com’s latest effort in that area and the fact that they are opening up Chatter to Java developers seems a clear step in that direction.

April 22, 2010  9:34 PM

Salesforce.com buys Jigsaw – experts piece together reasons and implications

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

It was only yesterday that Salesforce.com announced its plans to buy Jigsaw, but already there are a number of varied takes on the reasons and the implication for the deal.

If nothing else, it does offer an answer to a question we asked earlier on the Voices of CRM, What should Salesforce.com spend $500 million on? This was only $142 million, but it’s a start.

A quick examination of some of the CRM-focused blogs found many different perspectives.

Gartner analyst Michael Maoz, in a perhaps tenuous but certainly much appreciated analogy, compares the deal to The Last Waltz and wrote in an earlier post that it’s the beginning of the end for social media vendors:

 The point is that in social networking, a business needs to move beyond silos into fitting Social processes into an overall CRM strategy. There will be many approaches. Maybe SOA and WOA techniques will make best of breed a viable approach for some businesses. Yet, however it unfolds, the goal is to insure that process consistency is achieved.

Meanwhile, Dana Gardner concludes that the acquisition means lead generation is the new advertising:

 So think of Jigsaw as bringing cloud-based ETL from all of your web interactions that feed the leads that enter into your sales and customer resource data bases and interactions. I’m proud and happy to have been successfully experimenting with the knowledge-driven content onramps to the search and social media myself for five years. It’s strong, knowledge-based content that precisely attracts and informs the users that begets their participation that begets the data that gets cleansed that nurtures more information sharing that begets the CRM process that leads to a sales cherished by both parties.

 Denis Pombriant, on the other hand warns, don’t call a customer contact a lead. His takeaway was that B2B CRM’s days of ceding attention to social networks are now over:

 Nonetheless, one of the big annoyances that many prospective buyers have is being barraged by irrelevant offers.  If the combination of Jigsaw and Salesforce can produce better targeted offers, offers that make sense to the recipients, then the combination will have done its job.

 Pombriant does, however, question the purchase price.

Jeff Kaplan, on the contrary, still considers it a wise investment. He sees the deal as Saelsforce.com’s venture into Data as a Service (DaaS).

As I see it, Salesforce.com will easily generate a far greater return from this substantial investment in the following ways:

  • A CRM system is only as good as the data which it houses. Making quality contact information more easily available will increase the value of Salesforce.com’s CRM system and increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, etc.
  • Jigsaw’s data-as-a-service (DaaS) gives Salesforce.com a new revenue stream and gives it access to an estimated $3 billion cloud-based data services market. This enables Salesforce.com to further diversify its product portfolio.
  • Adding Jigsaw’s DaaS to its portfolio also raises the bar to Salesforce.com’s competitors who will now have to tighten their relationship with third-party data sources or make similar acquisitions.

Salesforce .com is already gearing up a new layer of marketing efforts around this acquisition centered on a new tier of services which it will brand as the “Data Cloud”


My own take is twofold. As Kaplan notes when talking about the acquisition’s potential for the company to diversify its product portfolio, what struck me is the line in Salesforce.com’s press release that “Jigsaw’s data cloud platform also creates an enormous opportunity for developers and independent software vendors to deliver entirely new applications.” It seems Salesforce.com sees opportunity in layering new applications on top of Jigsaw and bolstering the AppExchange.

It’s also looking more toward acquisitions and partnerships than in years past. Salesforce.com’s acquisition history reveals something about their future plans and their upcoming partnership/deal/announcement with VMware (a platform as a service for Java developers as our friends at SearchCloudComputing hypothesize) demonstrates willingness and even an eagerness to extend beyond CRM.

Finally, Data as a Service (DaaS), the Data Cloud, Platform as a Service (PaaS), VMforce — can we agree on a nomenclature? Do we even need it?

April 6, 2010  2:53 PM

Richard Snow on hosted contact centers

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

Considering a hosted contact center? There are plenty of considerations for picking the right vendor. In this podcast, we discuss how to determine your key evaluation criteria when selecting a hosted call center provider. Hear tips on creating the proper RFP and crafting an airtight SLA, and find out who from the company to include on the vendor selection team.

In this podcast, SearchCRM.com sat down with Richard Snow, a contact center technology and strategy expert and analyst with Ventana Research, who offered insight and best practices into how to select the right hosted contact center supplier.

In this 16-minute podcast, appropriate for both business and IT professionals, Snow offers insight  into:

  • The proper evaluation criteria and how businesses should tailor them to the organization
  • Who should be included in the hosted call center selection team
  • Where other organizations have run into problems with hosted contact centers
  • Specific areas technology buyers should pay attention to with their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Requests for Proposals (RFPs)

For a full transcript of the interview with Richard Snow on hosted contact centers, click below.
Continued »

March 24, 2010  2:01 PM

Dispatch from CRM Acceleration

Meghan Kelly Profile: Meghanbkelly

Yesterday, Barney and I attended CRM Acceleration: Accelerate Sales with Social Media and CRM, a joint series of talks sponsored by BrainSell and SugarCRM at the Boston-Woburn Hilton in Woburn, Mass.

Of course, being a talk about social media and social CRM, it wouldn’t be complete without some live Tweeting. The hashtag for the speaker series is #crmaccbos and I’ve linked, below, each speaker’s own individual Twitter account. You can also find BrainSell’s Twitter account at @brainsell

The keynote speaker was Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot. He was there to discuss his book, “Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs” as well as his thoughts and ideas about social media and inbound marketing. Specifically, he discussed how to reach customers who are more and more sophisticated about blocking out traditional advertising, or “outbound” marketing.

“We’ve become increasingly efficient at blocking out marketing messages,” he said. While marketing used to be about pushing a message out, it’s now about pulling customers in.

He recommended using an SEO strategy, with a slide titled “As ye SEO, so shall ye reap,” as well as blogging, even if your subject matter isn’t as exciting as, say, fancy cars or celebrity gossip. Because blogs tend to have more new and fresh content than regular Web sites, they can get higher ratings in Google, he said.

Shah emphasized how important social media is when trying to reach your customers, and how easy it is to spread your content far and wide, without really too much effort on your part.

Besides Shah, the other speakers were Mitch Lieberman, vice president of strategic solutions at SugarCRM, who discussed social business through social CRM; Umberto Milletti, CEO and founder of InsideView, who spoke about social CRM from the sales department viewpoint; Martin Schneider, director of marketing at SugarCRM, who gave a demonstration of SugarCRM; and Chip Meyers, who, along with Milletti and Schneider, talked about how SugarCRM has been a success at his company, Insource.

If you were there, let me know what you thought. How are you using social media and social CRM to reach your customers?

March 8, 2010  3:56 PM

Altimeter’s social CRM research — open and free

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

Ray Wang and Jeremiah Owyang at the Altimeter Group have recently published a report entitled ” Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management.”

Their new approach to research is “open research,” meaning they’ve published it under the creative commons license and are asking the market to share it and help it grow. This is, in fact, the second piece of research they’ve released this way. The first was their SaaS Customers’ Bill of Rights.

In that spirit, we’re posting the slide share of that research here. Feel free to comment here or at the Altimeter site.

March 5, 2010  6:25 PM

Software buyers are the big winners in RightNow’s cloud services pact

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

RightNow yesterday released a new standardized pricing and licensing model for its customers and a challenge to its competitors.

Right now today, I’m wondering how much that will influence purchases by potential customers and how (or whether) those competitors will respond.

The move has brought some very positive press for the company in the past 24 hours. It’s been called “a Continued »

February 25, 2010  2:07 PM

Whatever happened to SAP’s CRM OnDemand?

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

SAP released a new SaaS-based BI suite yesterday.

One oddity from the presentation — it comes with a pre-built integration for Salesforce.com data.

Is SAP not even bothering to pretend it has its own on-demand CRM product anymore?

Continued »

February 2, 2010  2:48 PM

John Ragsdale on building a business case for self-service technology

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

John RagsdaleIn many ways the business case for self-service technology seems easy: customers get online and answer questions themselves, thereby saving calls into the call center (and costs).

Yet questions remain about just how successful the technology is, what metrics should be measured and tracked and how to build the knowledge base for the right customer segment. Given the current economic conditions, senior management still needs to be convinced of the potential ROI.

In this podcast, recorded in 2009, John Ragsdale, research director for the Service and Support Professionals Association, explains how to build a business case for self-service technology.

Ragsdale discusses:

  • The future of the market for self-service technology
  • How to approach upper management about self-service technology
  • Where organizations are realizing cost savings
  • Where they’re seeing revenue from self-service
  • How to monitor customer satisfaction with self-service
  • How to measure success

  Continued »

January 25, 2010  9:05 PM

Gartner: CRM no longer a priority… or is it?

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

Gartner’s business and technologies priority survey is out and the news is not good for CRM technology.

While “attracting and retaining new customers” comes in at #5 of the top 10 business priorities, CRM software doesn’t even make the list of technology priorities. Last year, it came in (along with other enterprise applications) at #2.

Yet, according to the more than 1,500 CIOs that took the survey, the business priorities typically associated Continued »

January 13, 2010  6:57 PM

What should Salesforce.com spend $500 million on?

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

There were a couple of pieces of news out of Salesforce.com this week.

Today the company released Spring ’10 the 30th edition of its software. Among the enhancements to the latest release are a new service and entitlements feature that allows customer service agents to track a customer’s entitlements and maintain SLAs; Salesforce Answers; the Adobe Flash Builder for Force.com; and, public and private authenticated sites as part of Force.com Sites.

Yet, more interesting was the news earlier in the week that the company is raising $500 million through convertible notes. Proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes including funding acquisitions, Salesforce.com said.

While $500 million certainly isn’t going to buy someone like Siebel ($5.85 billion in 2005) or PeopleSoft/JD Continued »

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