• December 1, 2013
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

New Year, New Strategies

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It's the end of the year once again. Often around this time, CRM magazine composes its collective thoughts and considers the events that brought us here. The hope is that we and, more importantly, our readers can reflect on the state of the industry and try to imagine where it will go in the year to come.

It's an important job, and we take it seriously, so we've assembled some of the sharpest minds in the business to help out. Together we will remind you of what you need to remember, and tell you what you need to know going forward.

Partner power and the platform

One very noticeable trend from 2013 that we should expect to see more of in 2014 is partnership. Time and again, rivals joined forces to answer their own needs, and those of their customers. Oracle announced a pair of big ones: Microsoft and Salesforce.com.

Under the terms of the Microsoft partnership, Oracle will certify and support its product line—applications, middleware, database, Java, and Oracle Linux—on Windows Server Hyper-V and Windows Azure. Microsoft, in turn, will offer Java, Oracle Database, and Oracle WebLogic Server to Windows Azure customers.

The Oracle-Salesforce.com deal also touches on cloud infrastructure, but reaches into the worlds of platform and applications as well. As reported in June by CRM News Editor Leonard Klie, Salesforce.com plans to standardize on the Oracle Linux operating system, Exadata engineered systems, the Oracle Database, and Java middleware platform. Oracle plans to integrate Salesforce.com with Oracle's Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM) and Financial Cloud, and provide the core technology to power Salesforce.com's applications and platform. Salesforce.com will also implement Oracle's Fusion HCM and Financial Cloud applications throughout the company.

Salesforce.com also cut a deal with Workday to build more integrations between their respective platforms. Workday will integrate Salesforce.com with Workday HCM, Financial Management, and Big Data Analytics; Salesforce.com is integrating Workday into its platform and apps, including the Chatter enterprise collaboration system.

In addition to these major announcements, a great number of smaller tactical partnerships formed—too many to list. The through line of the trend, though, was that platforms are the future of business applications. "It's about the heterogeneous process—linking apps together in a seamless continuum that is a business process and not simply an attempt to automate data retrieval," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group and The Bullpen Group. "To achieve this, integration at the platform level is required. This is why companies such as Oracle, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, and Workday are all announcing integrations among their platforms. The plane on which vendors compete is shifting from applications to processes."

"It all means that the big players know that cloud platforms are where it's at," says Brent Leary, cofounder of SMB consultancy CRM Essentials. "They need to be able to show enterprise customers that their platforms are extensible and can play with the other big boys, because one company will not own the cloud. So they need to show customers and prospects that they can build on their cloud offerings and still use services from...apps they depend on from other vendors."

Mergers, acquisitions, and more

As of October, when this issue went to press, 2013 hasn't been a year of wild M&A behavior the way some other years have, and there are no signs of surprises for the remainder of the year. While the number of acquisitions wasn't great, the ones that did occur were key.

May saw contact center and customer engagement systems vendor Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories acquire SoundBite Communications. Valued at just over $100 million, the acquisition adds cloud-based proactive customer service, collections, payments, and mobile marketing to the Genesys stable. Genesys executive vice president David Rennyson noted at the time that the deal would also "[extend] the geographic footprint of our cloud business in key territories, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and South Africa."

In July, Salesforce.com completed its acquisition of cloud marketing platform vendor ExactTarget. The $2.5 billion deal helps consolidate Salesforce.com's CRM offering by augmenting its platform's marketing capabilities. ExactTarget joins previous acquisitions Radian6, BuddyMedia, and Social.com in rounding out the Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud.

Speaking of clouds, Adobe added Neolane to its own marketing cloud, renaming the new acquisition Adobe Campaign. The platform, developed from Omniture when it was acquired by Adobe in 2009, provides alternatives to companies seeking to differentiate their approach to marketing. "Adding this piece to the Adobe Marketing Cloud adds an important plank to the platform, which also has Adobe Social, Adobe Analytics, Experience Manager, Adobe Target, and Adobe Media Optimizer," Leary says. "With their aggressive acquisition strategy, they look to be a serious player now and into the future for any organization serious about digital marketing—as we seem to be entering the era of the CMO."

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