• September 18, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Salesforce Strengthens Strategic Partnership with Microsoft at Dreamforce

SAN FRANCISCO — Following a partnership announced at last year's Salesforce Dreamforce user conference, Salesforce at this year's event announced plans to extend its strategic partnership with Microsoft even further, linking the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to Microsoft Office productivity apps and services.

Microsoft and Salesforce together plan to deliver new solutions that integrate Salesforce with Microsoft's Skype for Business, OneNote, Delve, and Windows 10. These new integrations will build on previous joint solutions that linked Salesforce 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. "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."

This year, the two companies have committed to working together to bring the following solutions to life in 2016:

  • Skype for Business Integration with Salesforce Lightning Experience: Salesforce will integrate Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync) into its new Lightning Experience. Office 365 customers will be able to use Skype for Business for Web conferencing, presence awareness, chat, and voice and video calls from the Salesforce Lightning Experience.
  • OneNote Integration with Salesforce Lightning Experience: Users will be able to associate notes with Salesforce records and view and edit notes directly in OneNote from the Salesforce Lightning Experience.
  • Salesforce Integration with Office Graph and Office Delve: Office 365 users will be able to view and discover Salesforce content, such as sales opportunities, customer accounts, and service cases, inside Microsoft's new search technology.
  • Salesforce1 Mobile App for Windows 10: Salesforce will deliver apps for the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in an afternoon fireside chat on Wednesday, 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, 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."

Partnerships, he added, are the future for platform vendors because software users today want solutions that work across whatever devices and operating systems they happen to be using.

Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky noted that while at first glance, Microsoft and Salesforce 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."

Lepofsky also pointed out that under Nadella, Microsoft has become much more comfortable going outside of its own closed Windows ecosystem and integrating with other successful vendors.

And few companies have had the success that Salesforce has been enjoying in the past few years. In fact, Benioff predicted that by next year, Salesforce would be the fourth largest software company in the world, behind Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP.

But still, for all its positive momentum, Salesforce has traditionally lacked a few items that continued partnerships with Microsoft will bring to the table.

"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 Salesforce and Microsoft "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 Salesforce was looking to be bought by another tech company, 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, but Microsoft has made no statements either way. 

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