Salesforce Extends SaaS Platform With New Social Web Tools

 
 
By Robert J. Mullins  |  Posted 2012-09-19
 
 
 

Salesforce Extends SaaS Platform With New Social Web Tools


Salesforce.com is continuing to extend its software as a service business by adding new applications that businesses can use to mine social Web information and use it to keep in touch with current and prospective customers.

Salesforce is facing increasing competition from long-established enterprise application software giants, such as Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, and has continued to expand its CRM and social networking offerings to keep its SaaS platform the leader in the field.

At its Dreamforce 2012 conference that got under way Sept. 19 in San Francisco, Salesforce went directly into a market war with a current partner -- Box -- and against a flotilla of other online storage providers by introducing the Chatterbox storage and work collaboration tool.

Chatterbox combines Salesforce with Chatter and allows users to share and manage file, access files from mobile devices, and collaborate on business projects. Files in the Chatterbox folder are automatically synced up to allow access from any connected device.

Salesforce also launched Data.com Social Key for combing social Websites to discover useful information for communicating with customers and prospects. Data.com organizes existing customer contact information, and Social Key is designed to identify real-time public social data, such as specific customer tweets or other communications, in order to make deeper connections with customers.

Data.com: How to Clean Up Your Data Quickly

"Now with Data.com, not only can you clean up your data with one click of a button and import new targets, now using Social Key you can link the identities of your customers from the social Web to the information in your corporate systems," said Hilary Koplow-McAdams, president of the Commercial and Small Business unit at Salesforce. Social Key will be available in the second half of 2013.

Also new is Salesforce Touch, which delivers Salesforce cloud applications to mobile devices and is based on HTML5, the mark-up language standard for Web browsers. Salesforce said Touch "now brings Salesforce to any mobile device, regardless of platform," but noted that right now it's only available on Apple iOS devices.

The company is also rolling out Chatter Communities for Partners, a variation of its Chatter social networking platform, which connects partners, suppliers and distributors. Another offering, Chatter Communities for Service, based on its existing Salesforce Service Cloud, delivers customer service in a social networking environment. It also enables customer self-service when customers can share information with each other to answer their questions.

Rypple Turns into Work.com

Salesforce also rebranded and introduced its new career-management cloud service, Work.com, which is based on Salesforce's Rypple acquisition in December 2011. Work.com is a social performance and goal-setting application that gives employees feedback about how they're performing in their positions. The software is used by Facebook, Gilt Groupe, Mozilla and Rackspace, among hundreds of other customers.

For example, Work.com allows employees to thank colleagues, win badges and provide recognition from within Salesforce Chatter. Moreover, customers using Salesforce products such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and the Force.com platform will be able to leverage employee feedback tools to improve their own workforce.

Salesforce also revealed its plans for the integration of Buddy Media, which it acquired earlier this year for $698 million, and Radian6, which it acquired in 2011 for $326 million, to integrate social media into marketing campaigns.

Benioff Evangelizes the Social Enterprise


"In one system, I can collaborate with my peers, I can listen to the social Web, I can engage in a one-to-one [conversation] or on a one-to-many basis. We can publish all of the content and can create the next generation of advertising, which is using the voice of our customer, not our own," said Brett Queener, executive vice president of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud unit.

SaaS Competition Heating Up in the Market

Salesforce has pioneered the business of SaaS since it was created in 1999 as an alternative to software that businesses purchased and installed on their corporate networks. But today, traditional on-premise-based software companies like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and others have developed their own SaaS offerings and also adapted their enterprise business applications to the social networking era.

Such competition is to be expected as the market for business software delivered over the Internet is estimated to be worth $49 billion in 2012, up 25 percent from last year, according to a Sept. 10 Forrester Research report.

Microsoft in June announced plans to acquire enterprise social networking company Yammer for $1.2 billion, which would compete against Chatter. Oracle, meanwhile, acquired RightNow Technologies in 2011 for $1.5 billion, which markets cloud customer service and support applications. In turn, SAP acquired SuccessFactors to deliver CRM software in the cloud while adding some social networking capabilities.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff spent a good portion of his keynote address evangelizing about Salesforce and the "social enterprise" that the company's SaaS products enable.

"Our core mission is to help you, our customers, to connect to your customers in a whole new way," Benioff said as he strolled through the Moscone Center audience wearing a gray suit and athletic shoes. The keynote was streamed live online on Salesforce's Facebook page, while a live Twitter feed of comments scrolled by.

Might Be Largest IT Conference Ever in SF 

Benioff said that Dreamforce X had signed up about 90,000 registrants, which, if true, is far and away the highest-attended IT conference in the long history of Bay Area tech events. In the past, the largest conferences have attracted between 30,000 and 40,000 people to the Moscone Center.

Of course, those 90,000 people are not all on-site at the same time. Many are attending on one-day passes. Dreamforce started the evening of Sept. 18 and will continue through the rest of the week.

Benioff shared the stories of several companies who are using Salesforce to run their businesses, including the manufacturing giant General Electric, the French sports gear maker Rossignol, video game maker Activision, Facebook and Coca-Cola.

Benioff interviewed executives of some of those companies as they sat in the audience, including George Zimmer, CEO of Men's Wearhouse, a chain of men's apparel stores, who is known for appearing in his company's TV commercials. During his brief interview with Benioff, he delivered a variation of his famous tagline.

"You're going to like the way Salesforce works. I guarantee it," Zimmer told Benioff in his trademark gravelly voice.

Chris Preimesberger, eWEEK Editor of Features and Analysis, contributed to this article.

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