NEW YORK—Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has not only drunk the Web 2.0 Kool-Aid, he's having it injected intravenously into his bloodstream.
The on-demand applications vendor added a new service to its growing portfolio of SAAS [software as a service] applications that allows customers to add other Salesforce.com customers as contacts, much as LinkedIn or Facebook allow individuals to invite people into their networks.
Salesforce to Salesforce, as the offering is called, allows companies to not only share information with partners, but control the level of granularity at which sharing is permitted.
Other Web 2.0-inspired concoctions include a way for companies to use the wisdom of the masses to generate innovation and a product that lets customers integrate social book-marking, tagging and rating on their internal documents as a way of organizing information and making it more accessible.
Social networking in the business world means having access to customers, partners, application developers and ideas from all over the world. According to Benioff, even Salesforce.com itself is leveraging partnerships from both technological and business model perspectives.
"The key for us is not just to be the best in the world, but to have a strong platform built by developers in a Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat gestalt, and empower and enable it and become more successful ourselves," he said during a luncheon here to introduce the new applications.
The notion that customers can give companies their best business ideas was seconded by Chris Bates, director of Dell's reseller program. Bates acknowledged that Dell, one of Saleforce.com's prominent customers, got the idea for shipping desktop computers with Linux operating systems from its Ideas Web site.
Salesforce-to-Salesforce allows tenants of the applications platform to collaborate in a transparent manner if they so desire. "Friends" can share information, such as the status of leads, in real time, as well as custom applications or objects developed as individual customizations to the platform.
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Customers can also choose to withhold some information from their partners.
Clearly, the application wouldn't be as useful if Salesforce.com's ecosystem weren't growing as strongly. The company now has over 38,000 customers and one million individual users. And while some networks are so huge as to be practically useless (the phone book and MySpace come to mind), the Salesforce.com platform tacitly qualifies its members.
George Hu, the company's executive vice president of marketing and applications, said its ability to leverage such a large customer base over its platform is "a huge differentiator for us."
Salesforce.com competes with a host of pure-play SAAS vendors like Netsuite and SugarCRM, as well as traditional software vendors like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, which are increasingly focusing their powerful resources at the on-demand space.
Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, said the networking tool offers a more transparent for companies to mange their partners, and gives partners more assurance that the rules of engagement are being respected and that no one is getting preferential treatment.
"It's a good way to cement relationships and to see how fruitful the collaboration can be," she told eWEEK.
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