Salesforce1: platform or puff stuff? Benioff answers

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy December 2, 2013
Summary:
Is Salesforce1 just a bunch of APIs wrapped around some mobile goodness? Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff answers

A long Twitter discussion thread on the topic of Salesforce1 aka SF1 broke out, involving a variety of analysts including Estaban Kolsky and Alan Leopfsky. In response to something I tweeted, Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce chimed in with:

Kolsky was none too satisfied, arguing that Salesforce had succeeded in confusing the audience into believing that (SF1) Salesforce1 was really a mobile thing:

The argument went back and forth for a while and then - as always happens, the conversation petered out. The full stream was captured by Zachary Jeans - it is well worth skimming through.

Over the weekend, Ray Wang, CEO Constellation Research got in touch saying that while the company has no public comment on this topic for the moment, it will have something related to say in Harvard Business Review. Given Wang sent the email in confidence I won't reveal the content other than to say that Constellation takes a more expansive view of what is driving technology.

Benioff came back earlier today with an email in response to Wang:

"As the customer examples emerge over the next year it will be clearer that there has never been an enterprise platform like this that combines the best of:

  • mobile - native iOS and android support (as well as deployment to any browser)
  • social - deep collaborative enterprise user interface (the key elements from Facebook, Line, et al.)
  • cloud - proven scale and reliability over 15 years
  • connected - deepest api structure for any customer platform I’m aware of

combined with:

  • business logic
  • work flow
  • stored procedures
  • triggers
  • visual development tools that cross platform (visual force1)

The combination will yield amazing new apps for sales, service (including communities), marketing, customer touch points, internal collaboration and solutions for developers, ISVs, admins, end users, and customer entry points.
The app gap can be filled finally. This is an ambitious project, and its only just started.

Aloha.Marc"

This is an interesting and revealing response on several levels:

  1. In providing this detailed response, Benioff has taken some of the criticism over lack of clarity to heart. That's a  net good, largely because it is rare for a CEO to crank out an email of this kind. It has all the hallmarks of being an authentic, unfiltered response, largely because Benioff had no need to come back on the discussion beyond what is in the Tweetstream.
  2. Benioff is unequivocal - SF1 IS a platform that happens to have a mobile component.
  3. This is a vision that will take time to work through. Think 1-2 years minimum but with tangible results in less than one year.

The bigger picture

Salesforce is at a stage where it has to do two things:

  1. Develop a vision that positions itself as leading the ERP world. By that I define ERP as Financials + HR admin + CRM. In the past financials has lead the deal with HR and CRM following. This vision assumes that CRM comes center stage, largely because of both a perceived need and available technology to make it possible. In short, Salesforce wants to flip the power relationship inside large company deals based upon what it sees as a logical extension of its current roadmap.
  2. Execute against the vision in such a way that it puts differentiating clear space between itself and the incumbent vendors.

Verdict

It is great to see a large company CEO who is more comforting in marketing going toe to toe with some of the more technical analysts. It's the kind of dialog we all welcome because it both clarifies our understanding and helps the company see where the critique lays.

This is not a done deal. Salesforce vision and its component parts represent a big ask across multiple platforms. For example, I don't see where the transaction itself figures in all of this. That part is important in the longer term and especially for the glaringly missing analytics piece fo the puzzle.

However, this vision clearly places mobile at the center. Is Benioff right? According to today's London Evening Standard: "Tripwire revealed that 63% of UK consumers will use their mobile at least once for Christmas shopping this year." In our own traffic analysis, we see mobile accounting for 25% of total traffic.

Disclosure: Salesforce is a premier partner, I am a board advisor to Constellation Research, Estaban Kolsky is an occasional contributor for our Spanish readers.

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