The on-demand vendor celebrates a new social networking feature -- and its millionth subscriber.
Posted Dec 6, 2007
NEW YORK -- Salesforce.com announced the release of Salesforce to Salesforce, its latest service, at the company's Million Subscriber Celebration here Wednesday. This multitenant business network will enable partners to communicate simply and seamlessly, according to the on-demand business software vendor. Not only does the company hope to improve partner relationship management, but also the connections in various other areas as well, such as recruitment, marketing, advertising, and supply- and demand-chain management, all of which depend on business becoming a collaborative effort.
Sharing Salesforce.com's multitenant network, users can easily communicate via a common infrastructure, regardless of customizations made on the Force.com platform, and continue to be maintained by Salesforce.com, says Kendall Collins, the company's senior vice president of marketing. Collins adds that the new feature is designed to ease the extensive burdens of having to integrate and communicate information -- such as leads -- via email or electronic data exchange (EDI). "Sometimes, you get an email with every lead listed in the body of the email," he says, often forcing companies to then manually enter each piece of data into another system.
Salesforce to Salesforce "brings a selected set of social networking and Web 2.0 technologies to [the company]," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group, a CRM consultancy. He believes these features will enable the company to better reach out to its customers and continue to foster long-term relationships with them. Furthermore, Pombriant sees Salesforce to Salesforce as an answer to the vision of a "learning relationship" expounded by Don Pepper and Martha Rogers, founders of consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group. Companies are finally able to provide back-and-forth dialogue, he says, educating each other about respective needs and becoming more responsive as a result.
The Salesforce to Salesforce interface attempts to emulate the convenience and accessibility of popular social networking sites such as Facebook. The company seems to be committed to making this as easy as possible for anyone using its on-demand software. "The most satisfying thing is to see a business user who knows nothing about integration, nothing about middleware, say, 'I want to share some business information with my business partner'...and all they have to do is send an invitation," Collins says. "They don't have to worry about any of the underlying pipes and plumbing to get that information there."
Experts agree that Salesforce.com is building a better way to manage businesses. "What this approach does is it begins to provide a digital envelope for communication," Pombriant says. "You're able to better analyze -- and better use -- the input in a variety of other business processes, so you can make smarter decisions."
In addition, developers working on the company's Force.com platform are encouraged to build their applications with a bigger vision. "You don't have to think about your application living as one entity," Collins says. As an example, he adds, "You can think about a marketing application that can work across a web of advertisers." Salesforce to Salesforce will allow companies to create smoother, more-integrated cross-organization workflow, he says.
Companies are allowed to set up their own standardization rules that apply across each individual connection. Everyone has to share the same amount or fields of data, Collins explains, but they can choose to share specific records. There is a significant amount of control and visibility on the administrative level in terms of defining a connection, or forwarding or accepting an invitation. With that comes a measure of accountability as well: Each transaction has an audit trail detailing precisely who did what and when.
For Salesforce.com users receiving invitations via Salesforce to Salesforce, the new feature is absolutely free of charge. The payment model charges Salesforce.com users who send invitations an additional $1,200 per year, or $100 per month, on a per connection basis -- hopefully deterring the fear of "spam" invitations.
Although Pombriant does not see any competitors currently offering this service, he has no doubts others will catch on sooner or later. As with most new products, market acceptance will be one of Salesforce.com's first challenges, though Pombriant admits it will be a relatively low hurdle. In fact, he says, "any reluctance [to accept] would be shortsighted because of the need for ubiquity of standards to take root." Still, Pombriant believes there's much more business innovation to come: "What we're seeing is a down payment on a bigger idea that will bloom over the next couple of years."
If the feature takes off in popularity, current users may seek to bring partners into the Salesforce to Salesforce network who are not yet Salesforce.com customers themselves (which, Collins admits, would only serve to help drive growth in Salesforce.com's subscriber base). Before that happens, however, Pombriant believes the next step for Salesforce.com should be "heterogeneity." In other words, the company's growth may require that it extend the service to any company, regardless of its product, service, or business process.
In other news, Salesforce.com founder and chief executive officer Marc Benioff revealed the identity of the company's millionth subscriber: Citigroup Global Wealth Management. "If we had a wine glass, we'd have you step on it," Benioff said to Ken Blechman, managing director at Citigroup. "Welcome to the family."
To commemorate the million-member milestone, Salesforce.com announced that it has donated $1 million to charity through its Salesforce.org philanthropic arm -- $100,000 dollars to each of 10 different nonprofit organizations.
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