The last time Salesforce.com acquired a company—Kieden, in August—it created a new category within its hosted services business to help users manage Google advertisements. With another quiet acquisition at the end of March of content collaboration software developer Koral, Salesforce.com looks to be setting a trend.
With the purchase of the tiny nine-person San Mateo, Calif., company, Salesforce.com is adding another new category to its growing business: unstructured content management and collaboration. The company announced April 10 two new products to help users wrangle unstructured data into a collaborative format, both as a function of its Apex on-demand platform and as a stand-alone application.
The new capability from Salesforce.com looks to rival software from Microsoft—both its SharePoint and file management systems—and pure-play vendors such as EMC Documentum, which provides an enterprise content management platform.
Bruce Francis, vice president of corporate strategy at Salesforce.com, said that document management capability is important given that 85 percent of todays business information exists in an unstructured format—videos, e-mail, presentations—and that number is growing "incredibly fast." (Korals Web site is slightly more conservative, pointing out that only 80 percent of business information exists in unstructured formats.)
"We zeroed in on a central disconnect," said Francis, in San Francisco. "Only 44 percent of people can find what they need on a corporate intranet, [whereas] 87 percent can find what they want on the Web. … The consumer Web has shown us a better way with Flickr, where you can always find the right image, or YouTube, where you can always find the right video. So why is it so hard to find corporate information?"
Koral, launched by three "serial document management entrepreneurs," as it states on its Web site, has a very informal bloggish communication format with its Web site, which makes a good case for content management in the Web 2.0 world by promising to "put an end to wasted hours trying to find your most recent and relevant content by synchronizing it in a central place and making search very intuitive." The companys CEO, Mark Suster, blogs consistently on the site about the company and its capabilities, meandering all the while between various topics, from Google alerts that keep him up-to-date on the fracas between Yoko Ono and her bodyguard, Koral Karsan, to the woes of sitting in the emergency room for the third time in a week with a nasty case of the flu because he didnt heed his wifes warnings to take an antibiotic.
The format and the softwares functionality obviously appealed to Salesforce.com, a company that strives to remain on the cutting edge of on-demand capabilities. Francis declined to discuss the terms of the deal between Salesforce.com and Koral but said the entire Koral team has moved over to Salesforce.com.
The Koral software—now Apex Content—will bring additional capabilities to the Apex platform including work space management, library services, content classification, full text indexing and workflow management. Francis declined to commit to a release date for Apex Content, saying the company is excited to talk about platform implications, but its too early to make any predictions on pricing, packaging or availability.
The Apex programming language itself, in beta now, will not be available until sometime later this year.
And as a function of timing rather than any specific functionality connection to content management, according to Francis, Salesforce.com also announced today the 2.0 iteration of its namesake Partner Relationship Management channel management application, a new product line introduced last summer. A boatload of functional upgrades includes partner role hierarchies to provide companies with better insight into their partners pipeline, the ability for users to brand all partner communications, the ability for users to create or modify opportunity product line items to allow partners to sell from individually tailored price books, and time-based workflow so users can schedule business processes.
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