Be Nimble, Be Quick

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Given that Ingres, a provider of open-source information management services, embraces deployment flexibility, what were the requirements in choosing a software ecosystem?  

I came on six months after Ingres implemented Salesforce. I then had the opportunity to build and choose our business applications from scratch. Ingres decided the best way to provision [applications] was to look at doing everything with open source, and to do [software-as-a-service] if not. We wanted everything on a subscription basis so that we would end up with a variable-costs technology budget. 

Although Salesforce was the one application chosen before I arrived, it was the de facto best-practice decision. It’s highly extensible and we have a very distributed workforce with salespeople in most regions of the world. We also needed rapid implementation, so Salesforce was the natural choice. 

At first, there weren’t a lot of lead opportunities going on. We were mostly recapturing our customer base. Over time, we’ve been able to continue to improve upon that environment and Salesforce.com has set the bar for an extensible solution. I don’t think anybody’s seen unlimited-user playing fields, and the unlimited ability to add your own new tables for what you might want to store and retrieve, and the ability to add your own workflow. Over two years we’ve worked to improve outbound marketing and lead generation. 

For lead management functionality, we added in ExactTarget through the [Salesforce.com] AppExchange. Then, when we later looked for a more-complete marketing package, we began using Silverpop. Salesforce.com has this large and very open partnering style—there are somany solutions to choose from. 

Has utilizing software-as-a-service (SaaS) helped Ingres weather the tough economy?  

This year, for instance, we went a little smaller in Salesforce [seats] than last year, but we also had some groups of people using Salesforce that didn’t need to be. We took the number of users down by 20 percent. In the legacy-[software] world, I tried to do that and the vendor increased maintenance—I didn’t save a dime. [Scaling down with Salesforce.com], we saved our 20 percent and now I have a smiling chief financial officer. It’s about “How do I pay less now and then ramp up when hard times are over?” It really has worked. I can’t count the number of dollars we’ve saved by turning to open source, particularly for infrastructure, [business intelligence], and content management. I can’t begin to compare the costs of our business portfolio and the power we have and the application capabilities we have in our hands at the price we’re paying—it’s unparalleled. 

What advice do you have for other companies wanting to spend less but still do more?  

When you’re looking at rough economic times as a chief information officer, look at your application portfolio and look at where those big bills are coming at you. If you have a big software renewal bill coming your way, whether you have to pay a large maintenance fee, or if you have to rebuy licenses, those are moments in time to watch carefully and to get ahead and figure out whether it’s a good time to migrate off of that solution. In these times it’s justifiable to say, “That’s too expensive…to be the workhorse tool.” So maybe look at open source. It’s very doable to look at a portfolio and start changing out pieces of it and radically change the cost structure.

How does this change business operations?  

At my last job, I was taking legacy applications that were expensive to maintain and replacing them with open source or [SaaS]. Every time, we didn’t just save costs, we ended up with greater innovation. You can actually improve the quality of your portfolio by doing that. Rationalizing your application portfolio can unlock huge savings. 



When did the implementations take place?

Salesforce.com in 2006, and February 2008 for Xactly. 

Who was involved in the xactly decision process?

Me, the chief financial officer, and the vice president of business operations.

Best decision you’ve made in the past six months?

We decided we wanted to do better in marketing automation and do outreach via the Web and electronic media to reach out to potential customers. We weren’t getting the full benefit out of our software so we took one of our best people in our sales operations and had her focus solely on marketing automation. We’ve gotten incredible results by doing that. 

Biggest mistake?

I would have grabbed an integration tool—like Boomi or Cast Iron—sooner, to have in place for any situation that cropped up where we’d like an easy integration. 

Best tip?

Companies like Salesforce.com and Xactly have set the bar really high for creating tools for tailoring. [They’re] incredibly extensible, [but] not all SaaS companies have met that bar. I very much believe in best-of-breed, but it’s not a panacea, so do your due diligence.


For the rest of the November 2009 issue of CRM magazine — a look back at the first 10 years of Salesforce.com — please click here.

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