Counterpoint: What Salesforce Taught Us This Week

There are four major players in the customer relationship management market: SAP, Siebel, Microsoft, and Their market share differences are negligible. (This article is the counterpoint to an analysis by David Strom here.)

But this week, only one was behaving like it has the formula to dominate the market. Salesforce has the ingredients. It lacks the recipe.

1. The best clouds have the hardest cores. Salesforce is now officially an apps platform. At its core is Jigsaw, a rich database filled with exactly what its customers need. Jigsaw is the candy store. The Web doesn’t need a second Wikipedia, and CRM doesn’t need another Jigsaw. Control of Jigsaw gives Salesforce a command and control position that makes up for any market share it lacks.

2. Ecosystems are made of developers, not customers. This is where Salesforce demonstrated a chink in its armor. Simply adopting pre-existing open standards (HTML5) and systems (Java) does not relieve a market leader from the responsibility of growing its developer base. If Salesforce doesn’t start educating and nurturing its developers as well as it appeals to its customers, developers will build HTML5 apps on their own, leaving Salesforce little more than a glorified browser.

3. The era of platform leveraging is over. Microsoft’s success over the past quarter-century stems from its ability to leverage the strength of one plank to support another. To reap the full benefits of SharePoint, you need Office; to appreciate Dynamics, you need SharePoint, etc. The danger is that Microsoft becomes built like a Rubik’s Cube. It can get one side all one color at any one time, but only after neglecting all the other sides. Microsoft absolutely can conquer Salesforce in the CRM space. But that requires bold steps to differentiate Dynamics from Windows, and Salesforce knows Microsoft won’t take those steps.

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