More than 160,000 people are expected to attend Dreamforce next week, the annual Salesforce conference in San Francisco. With those kinds of numbers and millions of users, it's hard to argue the company's customer relationship management (CRM) software is anything but popular. But perhaps the huge interest in the conference is also an indication that Salesforce users and those who manage its deployment want to learn how to get more from the many cloud-based services the company offers.
That idea seems to be confirmed by Bluewolf, an enterprise consulting and integration firm owned by IBM, which recently released a report showing not all companies are maximizing their investment in Salesforce.
In its fifth annual "The State of Salesforce" report, Bluewolf surveyed more than 1,700 Salesforce customers worldwide and found that while 96 percent of respondents say they see innovation potential with Salesforce, 77 percent think their companies could be doing more with their Salesforce investments.
The "best" companies—the ones getting the most bang for the buck out of their Salesforce investment—are those that "are leveraging intelligent applications, investing in multi-cloud integrations, and improving experience design to drive exceptional customer experiences," according to the report.
"Salesforce, more than any other enterprise company, has seen the most uptake in its adoption rate," Corinne Sklar, chief marketing officer at Bluewolf, told eWEEK. "But with any enterprise application, users expect the same kind of innovation they see with consumer devices and services so there are always going to be challenges."
The report found two major areas holding companies back from getting more from Salesforce. The first, user experience, showed up more significantly as a factor than in last year's report.
"We see the best companies investing in the front-end user experience," said Sklar, who cited Bluewolf client T-Mobile as an example of a company that invested in Salesforce Lightning tools to create a more user-friendly front end for its salespeople and business users.
"The best companies are investing in making Salesforce easier to use by considering their users' routines and ensuring that they can do their jobs from anywhere, on any device," the report states.
Salesforce said it had no comment on the report. Bluewolf has been a Salesforce consulting partner for 15 years. IBM bought the firm last year.
The other area holding companies back, according to the report, is data integration. The report notes that 58 percent of Salesforce customers have implemented a multi-cloud deployment of Salesforce and other cloud services or plan to in the next year. "Whether that's separate clouds for sales, service, marketing or something else, it means there's a lot more data being collected, both structured and unstructured, and more need for integration," said Sklar.
A third consideration, which may be a driver of the first two, is simply having the resources or commitment to keep up with new releases of Salesforce, of which there are three major updates a year. Sklar said companies need to have or develop "a culture of innovation" that embraces the new releases as an opportunity to make their deployments more effective.
"Salesforce has done a superb job of suggesting that its solutions can power innovation within organizations. But Bluewolf's report clearly shows that organizations need help gaining the benefits being promised," Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies, told eWEEK in an email.
"One of the biggest impediments in gaining the innovative results that organizations are seeking is the challenge of migrating their legacy data into Salesforce's cloud-based applications," Kaplan added. "This isn't a Salesforce-only issue. Migrating data to any cloud-based application from a legacy system can be difficult and make it more difficult to gain the innovative benefits desired. This has led to the growing demand for data integration tools and skills like IBM/Bluewolf offer."