Home Salesforce.com Buys Assistly to Pull Even with Dynamics AX in Social

Salesforce.com Buys Assistly to Pull Even with Dynamics AX in Social

Just three short weeks ago, a relatively new player in the CRM space, Assistly, made its biggest debut at the Dreamforce conference by integrating its social CRM service with Salesforce.com. The result was the beginning of a cloud-based customer service portal that lets Salesforce users initiate direct contact with customers, aided by Assistly’s innovative “agents.”

Days later, Microsoft unveiled an addition to its Dynamics AX 2012 product that should have surprised no one: a feature that gives salespeople direct insight into customers’ Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn activity, using Outlook as the portal. Today, Salesforce has countered that move by purchasing Assistly outright for $50 million in cash.

Assistly had been a breakthrough member of Salesforce.com’s emerging AppExchange ecosystem, having made the Final Four in the independent CRM Idol 2011 competition. A contest spokesperson noted that Assistly had indeed been chosen for the Final Four even after news of the company’s pending acquisition had leaked out. (EDIT: Assistly remains in the running and has not been eliminated; a top 3 list posted yesterday consists of the European finalists for the same competition.)

“Assistly qualified this year. They still met all the criteria and, despite the slightly bad timing, they were chosen as finalists before their announced acquisition,” the spokesperson wrote. “Since this was year one, we will have to allow in year two that we may change this – there are a lot of things we are going to consider ‘post-season.’ But there is no reason to think that they are anything but qualified.”

The two take-aways from the last Dreamforce conference should have been 1) customers can and should be reached through social media; 2) an ecosystem can be built around tools for doing precisely that. But rather than wait for such an ecosystem to form organically, Salesforce has chosen to make one of its AppExchange partners into a division, putting Salesforce into direct competition with members of its own ecosystem.

Citrix is one of those companies that may find itself today in an awkward position, having just announced the integration of its GoToAssist product with Salesforce. At that time, Citrix indicated to RWW that this particular integration should not be considered exclusive to Salesforce, or part of a deal with that company. Citrix and Microsoft are already friendly with one another, especially in the virtualization field. Already, Citrix has one GoToAssist-branded product that enables customers to start support sessions from a link attached to Outlook (PDF available here). Outlook is already established as Microsoft’s portal of choice for communication (as opposed to setting up a new portal screen in Dynamics).

So Citrix is no stranger to Outlook integration, or at least something that looks like it. If Salesforce’s strategy continues to be to harvest its own ecosystem for features, the bigger players in that new ecosystem may be compelled to hedge their investments elsewhere. Citrix is among the companies RWW has contacted for comment this morning.

UPDATE 5:32 pm ET September 27: Citrix General Manager for IT Services Elizabeth Cholawsky tells RWW this afternoon that her company officially perceives Salesforce’s purchase of Assistly as an opportunity for her company’s GoToAssist product line.

“We find the Assistly acquisition by Salesforce very interesting,” says Cholawsky. “First and foremost, we don’t really see it as competitive right now. Where we really add value in our sweet spot right now is on the remote support side, and that was really our main intent with the AppExchange integration with GoToAssist – to be able to launch one of our rich remote support sessions from within a Salesforce case.”

Assistly’s communication takes place through chat windows, or by integrating with existing social services such as Facebook and Twitter. By contrast, GoToAssist’s remote session takes place through a dedicated viewer. Cholawsky believes the two can and will co-exist.

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