SAN FRANCISCO - On-premise enterprise software companies such as Microsoft and Oracle are scrambling to match Salesforce.com's strategy of delivering enterprise social networking applications in a software as a service (SaaS) model but have been too tentative in their execution, CEO Marc Benioff told reporters during a post-keynote news conference at the Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco Sept. 19.
"I think the competition in many cases has not moved fast enough," Benioff said at the end of the first full day of Dreamforce 2012, the 10th user conference Salesforce has hosted since the company was organized in 1999. His comments were in response to a question about acquisitions made by Microsoft, Oracle and SAP to deliver enterprise social media apps.
"You can see how they continue to resist multi-tenancy and shared systems and then they're kind of moving to there, but they're kind of not," he said. "I think it's really been a disservice to themselves what they've done, and to the whole industry."
He lauded smaller startups that have really brought innovation to enterprise social, and noted that the bigger companies have subsequently acquired some of them and Salesforce has acquired its share of those companies.
Some of its competitors' social media acquisitions include Microsoft's $1.2 billion acquisition of Yammer, Oracle's $1.5 billion acquisition of RightNow Technologies, and SAP's acquisition of SuccessFactors and Ariba, among others.
Asked about whether their move into SaaS-delivered social media poses a competitive challenge to Salesforce, Benioff gave the standard answer that all competition is good.
Benioff also acknowledged that enterprise social media has perhaps not yet yielded as solid a return on investment as enterprises might like to see for a new business model, but said that, in time, one will become evident.
"It's all about adoption, at the end of the day. You have to get customers to use the product," he said.
Benioff said that the theme of Dreamforce 2012 has been to tell stories about how Salesforce customers have used enterprise social media to grow their businesses as a way to educate the broader enterprise market that is still learning about how to use this technology.
Benioff also invoked the memory of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as an innovator he is trying to emulate in promoting a "vision" for enterprise social media. Benioff sees it as a way for companies to strengthen relationships with customers in order to grow their businesses.
"We are really missing in this industry a great leader, and we have all got to pitch in to fill in," Benioff told reporters and industry and financial analysts.
At the user conference, the company promoted several new and developing products, including the Salesforce Marketing Cloud that uses social media to implement a marketing campaign. Benioff said that chief marketing officers (CMOs) are increasingly taking part in Dreamforce, appearing in case study videos and participating in meetings when Salesforce reps come to call. He also cited a Gartner research forecast that by 2017 CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.
"As this technology and this industry that we're in collides with marketing, our need to be able to talk to and share and have a vision for marketing officers is paramount to our future," Benioff said.