Following the release of a financial report this week that saw revenue for the first quarter increase 37 percent to reach over $1.2 billion, it’s clear that Salesforce.com is a force to be reckoned with in the age of the cloud.
For IT service providers in the channel, that’s a potentially good thing on multiple levels. As Salesforce.com continues to gain momentum in both customer relationship management (CRM) and now marketing applications in the cloud, the odds that any one vendor is going to dominate the cloud application space remains distantly remote. That means that as far as the foreseeable future, demand for service to integrate Salesforce.com applications with the pantheon of other applications that make up the business landscape should continue unabated.
But perhaps more significant from the perspective of IT service providers is the larger cloud ecosystem that Salesforce.com is building around Force.com and the Heroku cloud computing platform. As the number of applications on those platforms steadily increases, Salesforce.com is in effect creating something akin to its own application economy. The more tightly those applications make use of the customer data stored in Salesforce.com the stronger that economy becomes.
By way of example, Salesforce.com recently moved to tighten the integration between its Salesforce1 application platform and the cloud applications running on Heroku at the database level. Rather than simply relying on application programming interfaces, the idea is to bind third-party applications dependent on the data stored in the database underneath Salesforce1.
That provides a lot of potential advantages to customers in the way workflow is actually managed across their organizations. The more applications running on Heroku or Force.com make use of the data stored in Salesforce.com, the easier it becomes to make sure all those applications are providing a consistent view of all the interactions with a particular customer. That’s especially significant at a time when more organizations than ever are relying on CRM applications as the primary application through which the rest of the business increasingly revolves around.
None of these means that Salesforce.com is moving away for application programming interfaces (APIs). To the contrary, Salesforce.com sees APIs as a critical first step towards pulling an organization into its orbit. Once there, the goal is to then bind that application to Salesforce.com at the database level as much as possible.
In fact, as part of a push to extend the scope of those efforts, Salesforce.com this week updated its Salesforce1 mobile computing applications while the week before it launched an effort to deliver financial service applications.
Of course, Peter Coffee, vice president of strategic research for Salesforce.com, notes that none of this is an accident. Rather it’s about making it simpler to integrate flows of data across multiple applications that share a common look and feel. For that reason, you’re starting to see the emergence of everything from ERP applications from FinancialForce.com to order management systems from CloudSense on platforms managed by Salesforce.com.
But while Coffee is right from the perspective of the customer, IT services providers should not lose sight of what’s happening from an industry perspective. With each successive application that gets pulled into its orbit, the greater the gravitational pull Salesforce.com is going to be able to exert across the entire spectrum of the cloud computing universe.