Salesforce and Workday deepen alliance, analytics at the center

Profile picture for user gonzodaddy By Den Howlett September 18, 2013
Summary:
Another day, another alliance. This time it is Workday and Salesforce.com that are cozying up.

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The timing could not have been better chosen for those who enjoy the back and forth among Silicon Valley titans.

As Oracle puts the finishing touches to its Q1 earnings release and polishes up its keynotes for next week's Open World, who should come along to rock the boat? None other than Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce.com and Aneel Bhusri, co-CEO Workday.

Earlier in the day, Workday and Salesforce.com jointly announced a deepening of their relationship. Explicitly they announced plans to:

...integrate the entire Salesforce and Workday product lines to enable their customers’ mutual success.

In addition, Salesforce.com said:

Salesforce.com plans to standardize on Workday’s applications, and Workday plans to standardize on salesforce.com’s applications and platform. Workday plans to integrate Salesforce with Workday Human Capital Management (HCM), Workday Financial Management and Workday Big Data Analytics. Additionally, salesforce.com intends to integrate Workday into its applications and platform, including Salesforce Chatter for collaboration throughout the enterprise.

Note the cautionary 'plans to' language liberally sprinkled around this announcement. It is not a done deal. But then we only have to wind the clock back less than 90 days to see another bromance under the spotlight: Oracle and Salesforce.com. At the time, many of us could understand pieces of the story but were still left with questions. I well recall how busy my email was with WTF? questions from all sides. This was THE opportunity to clear the air but we're not quite there.

Here are my takeaways from this latest announcement:

Integration matters. As Phil Wainewright has warned many times - just cuz its cloud doesn't mean you don't have integration issues. If deliverd as promised, this unquestionably eases the burden but it doesn't kill off the SI engagement. If anything, the promise of enhanced analytics could be a boon for SIs. Either way, plus one for customers.

Revenue growth in sight. I'm in agreement with Larry Dignan at ZDNet who says that this is about revenue growth. Having enjoyed some success in the enterprise space, Salesforce.com now needs to ratchet that effort up a notch if it is to make another big push toweards its near term goal of $5 million in run rate. Right now, I know it is on a hiring frenzy, looking to attract the top salespeople out of Oracle, IBM and SAP. It's also a good fit with Workday which itself is now closing the loop between HR and financials and only sells to enterprise.

Analytics is the real prize. I've felt for some time that Salesforce.com missed a trick when it talked vaguely about an in-memory database as the basis for analytics some three years ago. It never did anything substantial. Ask anyone on the Force.com and they'll tell you - Salesforce analytics are anaemic. Workday on the other hand has bit the bullet and got a much better grasp on this topic and especially for reporting. That's potentially good news for FinancialForce.com which has been working on this problem for a couple of years but been hampered by weaknesses at the Salesforce.com end. It is also potentially good news for the Exact Target solution now under Salesforce.com's wing. The promise of tying together financial, sales, marketing and HR data provides (near) end to end real-time analytics possibilities for joint Salesforce.com and Workday customers. This is something that has never been possible inside ANY landscape without huge expense.

Questions

There are some open questions. Workday has said that it won't likely sell its newly announced Big Data Analytics (BDA) as a standalone package. However, there are some very good cases to be made for doing so and enriching the Force.com partner ecosystem in the process. My guess is that as a combined Workday BDA and Salesforce.com could be an extremely powerful offering, especially for those looking to provide deep customer insights and - potentially - marketing insights. This would be a strong competitor in the larger enterprise space. In turn that benefits both companies and their customers.

Some will argue that the Oracle-Salesforce.com arrangement does much the same thing. While true, Oracle customers have yet to demonstrate a strong appetite for Oracle's Exadata machines and attendant solutions.

Operational analytics remains an open question for both Workday and Salesforce.com. Customers are more demanding of what can be achieved with data. Right now, there are many potential solutions out there. Workday has hinted that it might acquire to fill in some spaces. If it does then expect to see something that is an enabler rather than end point solution. That is for another day

This is a developing story and will be updated for a conference call due to take place: 1pm PT, 4pm ET, 10pm CET

Notable quotes from the conference call

We didn't really learn anything that wasn't already in the public domain. However, there were some interesting quotes from both sides of this agreement that will be pored over, examined and interpreted in the coming days and weeks. Most notably, Benioff said it is sticking with Oracle financials. For skeptics in the house - that makes absolute sense given Salesforce.com's global reach and the quality of Oracle financials which I certainly rank as one of the world's best when considering large scale operations.

Aneel Bhusri: "We finished up our user conference last week and this is exactly what our customers have been looking forward to. Customers like Thompson Reuters want this. We have been using every product  in the [Salesforce.com] sales and service clouds. Our salesforces work closely together. This is as much about the people you go into partnership with as the engineering."

Benioff: "This is primarily an engineering release. These phenomenal solutions are better when they work together. These are the kinds of partnership we want. Increasingly, customers will have an aversion to these kinds of [black box] relationships."

Disclosure: SAP, Oracle, FinancialForce.com, Salesforce.com and Workday are premium partners.

Image credits: Den Howlett and Stuart Lauchlan