• November 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

On the Scene: At Dreamforce 2015, Salesforce.com Strengthens Ties with Microsoft

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Following a partnership announced at last year's Dreamforce user conference, Salesforce.com at this year's event in San Francisco in mid-September extended its strategic partnership with Microsoft even further, linking the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to Microsoft Office productivity apps and services.

Microsoft and Salesforce.com together plan to deliver new solutions that integrate Salesforce.com with Microsoft's Skype for Business, OneNote, Delve, and Windows 10. These integrations, which are due out in the first half of 2016, will build on previous joint solutions that linked Salesforce.com applications to Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Excel, Power BI, and Office 365.

"Customer success is at the heart of everything we do at Salesforce, including our partnership with Microsoft," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com. "Our collaboration has been so successful that now we're doubling down and delivering even more innovation that will help our mutual customers be more productive and connect with their customers in a whole new way."

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, called this latest partnership "a new era of collaboration" that will help companies "reinvent the way they do business."

Nadella also outlined plans to greatly increase his company's cloud portfolio. His stated goal is to have Microsoft's cloud business reach $20 billion by 2018. To achieve that lofty goal, it would have to triple its cloud revenues in the next three years; currently, Microsoft's cloud business is valued at about $6 billion. Partnering with Salesforce.com, whose solutions are entirely cloud-based, is a big step in that direction.

"Furthering our mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more is the motivating force behind our partnership with Salesforce," Nadella said. "As a platform and productivity company, we are focused on bringing together the best of Microsoft Azure, Office, and Windows with partners like Salesforce to empower our mutual customers to network, collaborate, communicate, and discover information in more effective ways."

Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky noted that while Microsoft and Salesforce.com have several competing products, "this move showcases that both companies understand they have a large number of overlapping customers, and providing a seamless productivity and business process experience is a winning situation for everyone."

For Salesforce.com, continued partnerships with Microsoft will bring to the table several key items that it has lacked.

"Salesforce has never had a unified communications platform, so they need Microsoft for that," says Predrag Jakovljevic, an industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC). "They also need to do something with Microsoft around Office 365 because everyone in business is using it."

The partnership between Microsoft and Salesforce.com "makes sense" for other reasons, Jakovljevic says. "A cooperative/competitive relationship benefits both companies," he states. "That close partnership can come in handy if the two companies ever merge."

Earlier this year, rumors began to surface that a tech company was in talks to acquire Salesforce.com, and Microsoft was frequently named as a leading potential suitor, along with SAP and Oracle. Both SAP and Oracle quickly denied any interest in purchasing Salesforce.com, but Microsoft has made no statements either way.

Salesforce also used the Dreamforce event, which this year drew 170,000 attendees, to launch SalesforceIQ, which uses advanced data science to analyze company relationships with prospects, customers, and partners. SalesforceIQ, which is based on technology that Salesforce.com gained in its acquisition of RelateIQ for $390 million in July 2014, includes Salesforce IQ for Small Business and SalesforceIQ for Sales Cloud.

SalesforceIQ automatically captures, analyzes, and surfaces information that is relevant for customer relationships from email and calendar apps; uncovers patterns; and proactively recommends actions.

"Today's massive influx in communication data creates powerful signals about the health and potential of business relationships. It also creates a lot of noise," said Steve Loughlin, CEO of SalesforceIQ, in a statement. "With SalesforceIQ, companies can now make sense of this data and pull out insights to drive their businesses forward with intelligence."

According to Benioff, Salesforce IQ for Small Businesses and SalesforceIQ for Sales Cloud are the first of many apps that will apply artificial intelligence to sales processes.

Salesforce.com also introduced Salesforce IoT Cloud to connect billions of Internet-connected devices with Salesforce.com's platform, unlocking insights from the connected world.

"Salesforce is turning the Internet of Things into the Internet of customers," Benioff said. "The IoT Cloud will allow businesses to create real-time one-to-one, proactive actions for sales, service, marketing, or any other business process, delivering a new kind of customer success."

"With the Internet of Things, everything we do will be connected," Benioff said. "And behind every connected thing is a customer." 

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