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Salesforce.com Review — An Independent Evaluation

4.5 stars Average rating: 4.5 (from 470 votes)

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Salesforce.com Fit and Alternatives

Sweet Spot
Short list Salesforce.com when:

  • Seeking best of breed or CRM-only solutions.
  • Seeking CRM software with tightly integrated social CRM capabilities.
  • Your focus is SFA, your requirements are not unusual and you desire fast time to market.
  • You are a brand buyer with generic requirements and no special considerations.
  • Your business is in one of Salesforce.com's designated vertical markets, including communications, financial services, healthcare, high tech, manufacturing, media, non-profit, public sector or retail.

Alternative Solutions
CRM buyers may be best advised to consider alternative CRM software products when:

  • Sales people need to take sales orders or have access to inventory information.
  • Desiring multiple deployment models, including on demand, on premise or a hybrid of both.
  • Seeking an enterprise-wide, fully integrated ERP and CRM cloud solution.
  • You are a non-US company with cultural or regulatory requirements which advocate data residing in an in-country or regional data center. This is mostly likely to apply to European organizations in the financial services, health care and government sectors.
  • Seeking vertically focused solutions with single-vendor accountability.
  • Acquisition cost and total cost of ownership (TCO) are primary decision criteria.

Concluding Remarks
Salesforce.com is an innovator—and this is a key strength that sets them apart from much of their competition. They were one of the first business software companies to inject consumer technologies into business applications—and continue to do this faster than most of their peers. They have accelerated the pace of platform as a service (PaaS), mobile CRM, social CRM and more, and show no signs of slowing their creativity and momentum. In fact, the company must continue to out-innovate its competition not just for product superiority or value-add purposes, but to stave off the inevitable downward pricing pressures that are otherwise unavoidable as online CRM software becomes commoditized. The cloud CRM software market is now plentiful with credible competitors, so Salesforce.com's innovation is far more about holding off price erosion than technology advancement.

Salesforce is now less of a CRM application provider and more of a platform and cloud infrastructure company. Creating a business web is the vision and Salesforce1 is the primary technology enabler. However, this second act requires significant retooling and is nothing short of a fundamental business model shift that puts the cloud company into direct competition with yet another set of behemoth competitors such as Amazon, IBM and Google.

While many discount the company's ability to compete with CRM giants such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft on one front, and platform-as-a-service giants such as Amazon, IBM and Google on another, they would be unwise to count out this formidable competitor simply due to its smaller size. For well over a decade, Salesforce.com has delivered what it said it would, out-maneuvered its slower moving old guard competition and assumed a leadership role in a market it helped to create.

Salesforce.com's core competencies are disruption, innovation, evangelism and marketing prowess. A potent combination that can leap frog competitors, create new category leadership and earn significant market share. In many ways, the company's future is less predictable now than when run from the bedrooms of a small San Francisco apartment well over a decade ago. End

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Comments (18) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Lem Swam
  Salesforce shows an uncanny ability to reinvent itself in tandem (or just ahead) of other disruptive technologies. I remember when they originally positioned themselves as the "business web", and then of course they were all about the 'cloud', but later declared they were reborn 'social'. I'm sure being the social enterprise won't be their last self-innovation.

Guest Larry
  Simply the wrong product for small to mid-size businesses - cumbersome and very expensive when adding customization and support services.

Guest Prashanth
  Hello experts: we are performing assessment for this Hi-Tech company, and they really need to improve their Channel Management process. They do have SFDC. So, wondering how good is Channel Management in SFDC. Any details, links to further information will be appreciated. Appreciate your response.
  Denise Chuck Schaeffer
    Salesforce offers some PRM functionality, but like most CRM players that similarly offer PRM within the constructs of CRM it's pretty basic. For indirect channels you may want to consider a best of breed add-on solution from Relayware or Treehouse Interactive.

Guest Chuckiechan
  I see SF as another attempt to understand what sales reps do. Being in sales is about as intangible as it gets, and management hates that! My experience with SF is that it is just more burdens on a rep's time, and as a sales manager, I'm quite aware that 50% of the entries are cut and paste, and the others are half hearted because good reps always under promise and over deliver. But management has the check book, and the are spending a lot of money to understand "Our reps are paid to do a job I don't understand"? I think it's a system that is being "bluffed" on a regular bases by end users.

Guest Becky Snipes
  I’m trying to align what Salesforce calls the social enterprise with the Salesforce products which support such a vision. Are Radian6 and the Chatter micro-blogging tool the two social products that Salesforce suggests make a company a social enterprise?
  Denise Chuck Schaeffer
    Radian6 and Chatter are two Salesforce social products, but not the only two. While Salesforce does position its products as enabling the social enterprise, the company takes a more strategic approach, and suggests that the social enterprise is best constructed with 1) an internal database of customer social profiles (which can be used to identify customer interests, motivations and what it takes to delight them), 2) an internal (secure) social network to communicate, collaborate and facilitate cross-departmental business processes and connect employees with the best information and experts in the organization, and 3) outwardly focused customer and product social networks. Radian6 and Data.com are social tools effective for the first tenant. Chatter is now much more than just a microblogging tool and can facilitate the second and third tenants. For example, Chatter has advanced to engage non-Salesforce.com users in (secure) group discussions and collaboration exercises. It has also been expanded to include chat, presence technology, screen sharing, Sharepoint integration and a more comprehensive API which will certainly result in third party developers integrating Chatter with AppExchange and other integrated products. Social products alone will likely not make a social enterprise, but clearly, when supplemented with strategy, culture and resourcing, the tools are an invaluable part of the mix.

Guest Bart Albright
  I like what Salesforce has done for the on demand CRM industry. However, it seems like their leadership position is under attack from much bigger and well run companies such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, and maybe even the next tier of competitors such as Sugar, Sage and Infor. They have a good CRM product, but it is clearly not the best CRM product for many companies. I also think there full steam ahead approach to become a platform software company will both detract them from the CRM market where they made themselves (and which represents the high majority of their revenues), and put them into a competition with Microsoft in a category they cannot win. It seems to me this might be a good time for Mr. Benioff to sell the company or plan his exit.

Guest THummel
  have used ACT in the past, dramatically more user freindly. Sales force hounded me into contract and then would not help me when i tried to use software. What a mistake all they cared about was the money they said I owed them, even though I nevr used their program and couldnt get support in a timely fasion. WOW

Guest Rahul Sheth
  Since salesforce is available only in SaaS, it becomes challenging for larger corporates specially banks to implement a CRM with a true 360 degree view, since the integration with core banking systems become difficult. Also the SLAs provided are not agreeable. Will you recommend it for a large bank which needs a highly scalable solution for an implementation at 2500+ locations and 20000+ users?
  Denise Chuck Schaeffer
    Salesforce retains several large banks and financial services customers. With the exception of certain compliance measures (i.e. GLB, FATCA, KYC), factors such as company size, integration requirements and scalability are no different for banks than other enterprise organizations. I do agree with you that Salesforce's SLA, or the lack thereof, is competitively weak, and may not be acceptable for certain organizations.

Guest Denis Kirk
  It seems off that Salesforce would create another proprietary development language, Apex, rather than use one of the industry standards. Nobody wants to learn another proprietary tool and build applications that work with only one vendor or CRM system.
  Denise Chuck Schaeffer
    This is a good point and one where I'm not aware of a Salesforce.com response. However, a number of Salesforce comments and some personal knowledge of multi-tenant architectures suggest that the company created the Force.com Apex development language to insert a layer of abstraction and protection between developers and the underlying data model in order to isolate data processing and ensure system integrity—effectively creating a black box at the data layer. Salesforce speaks of governors as boundaries around customizations that make sure technical staff don't inadvertently break anything. Could the company have accomplished the same thing using Java, .NET or another industry standard language? Sure, but I suspect it would have taken longer and the company viewed speed to market as a critical driver.

Guest Tom Pickner
  Super review! This really helps see through the fog. Social media seems like nice to have stuff that Salesforce is (over?) promoting as the end all to CRM systems. Chatter seems interesting, although not sure if other vendors have something similar or not. I don’t really grasp the value of much of social crm or events such as Salesforce’s acquisition of Radian6 and wonder where Salesforce is taking Radian6 from a CRM software perspective.
  Denise Chuck Schaeffer
    Social CRM and traditional CRM are complimentary—one will not replace the other although over time they will merge. To your first point, other CRM vendors have chatter-like products. SugarCRM offers a tool called Activity Streams, Microsoft has Yammer and SAP has embedded similar functionality in its Sales on Demand product. Social monitoring tools such as Radian6 help brand owners and businesses of all types locate the online conversations that are taking place, and then engage those social customers and better align the social data streams with CRM systems. Salesforce is not the first CRM maker to acquire a social monitoring tool. RightNow has a similar tool called Cloud Monitor and CRM vendor Kana acquired Overtone. I suspect we’ll see more of these types of acquisitions. The integration of CRM and social monitoring tools like Radian6 and Microsoft's Social Listening will permit companies to retrieve social content from third party social networks and the public web and associate it with sale opportunities, customer records, marketing campaigns, support cases or a variety of other record types that can then trigger action or be used for more comprehensive reporting. These social monitoring tools are still relatively young but maturing. Vendors are keen for these products to provide greater context and meaning and are improving features such as text analytics, natural language processing and semantic understanding. As these tools mature, they will most certainly help brand owners and businesses achieve real-time, two way conversations over a variety of online channels in an automated fashion—and improve their customer relationships in so doing.

Guest Tariq Bishar
  Salesforce has accomplished some great things no doubt but I don’t think the platform-as-a-service concept is as needed as software-as-a-service. Im an 20 year IT guy and while I’m a big cloud CRM fan, I don’t see the same need or upside potential for platform services in the cloud. Cloud CRM was driven by users many times because they couldn’t get the services they wanted from IT. Platform-as-a-service solutions are more geared toward purchase by IT buyers who often don’t have the same motivations nor propensity for as-a-service solutions. Salesforce is taking its eye off CRM in favor of something newer and cooler. This may very well achieve the quite predictable result that they lose their traction and leadership in CRM while failing to earn an even bigger market because that market isn’t really bigger or as ready for the cloud.
  Denise Chuck Schaeffer
    Research from Forrester suggests you may be right with regard to PaaS market potential. In their global public cloud market size graph depicting top line revenue projections through 2020, they forecast that SaaS revenues will exceed PaaS revenues by a multiple of 11 in 2020 - about $132 billion compared with $12 billion. While benefits such as time to market, capex savings, on-demand scalability and business agility are not limited to SaaS, there are clear cultural and procurement barriers to PaaS which cannot be as easily circumvented (as SaaS). I also don't believe that PaaS buyers (generally IT staff) share the same level of need or frustration as do SaaS buyers (their business counterparts) in terms of acquiring new or replacement services. And as any veteran sales pro knows, no pain generally equates to no decision in a purchase cycle.

Guest Chris Nichols
  I've been very surprised as to how Salesforce has maintained their price premium but the market is getting crowded and commoditized so I don't expect their premium pricing to continue.

 

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Salesforce.com is now less of a CRM software provider and more of a platform and cloud infrastructure company. Creating a business web is the vision and Force.com is the primary product.

 

 

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