Inside Analysis

Thunder, Lightning, and an Order of Magnitude in Growth

It’s a force to be reckoned with. That was the case 10 years ago. It’s arguably ten times the case today. What is this order-of-magnitude entity? Is it a bird, or a plane? What is that structure piercing the clouds in San Francisco, now the tallest West Coast skyscraper?

Salesforce.com. That’s what. The skyscraper’s name? It’s tautological: The Landmark.

When Salesforce burst onto the market in 1999, the concept of salesforce automation was rather nascent. The business world then was in the midst of the great CRM promise: Customer Relationship Management was going to take enterprising business people to the next level.

For those professionals who were unfortunate enough to use the early CRM systems, the name of the game was usually patience: as in, waiting for the record to persist, or load. Many of those early systems were so slow as to be essentially useless. People circumvented them.

Today, CRM is a massive market — Gartner pegged it at $36 billion for 2017. There are hundreds of vendors addressing such business needs, and at the top of the list? Salesforce. Rating agency Apps Run the World pegged the company’s 2015 market share at over 20%, roughly four times the size of its nearest competitor, Oracle.

Another company that sees the value of Salesforce is French consultancy Viseo. With 1,300 professionals worldwide, Viseo focuses on helping companies achieve effective digital transformation. The company has targeted two industry titans for serious investment, both in terms of training and partnership: SAP, and… Salesforce.com.

In a recent InsideAnalysis interview, Olivier Dhonte and Lionel Costa shared their Salesforce strategy, which relies heavily on the belief that Marc Benioff’s baby is here to stay. As CEO, Dhonte sets direction of the company, and sees tremendous opportunity with Salesforce. Costa, Salesforce Practice Manager for the USA, wholeheartedly agrees.

Costa noted that Tyler Prince, Executive Vice President of Alliances for Salesforce, offered a robust view of the near future in a recent blog on Salesforce.com. Wrote prince:

“Just a few months ago, IDC released data that showed that Salesforce partners today report an average year-over-year revenue growth of 48% and that, by 2020, for every $1 of Salesforce revenue, our partners will generate $4.14 of revenue. Applying this data to our own internal estimates, there is a massive, multi-billion dollar opportunity ahead of us—and Salesforce will need to attract nearly 10 times as many consultants as it has today.”

Ten times? An order of magnitude? That’s a market prediction rosy enough to get any consulting firm fired up! And there are plenty of reasons to expect that Prince’s prediction will have legs. In particular, Salesforce recognized several critical components of the modern cloud-based business world, and has focused on bolstering its offering accordingly. The new and improved Salesforce now boasts Thunder and Lightning. How so?

First, the Lightning. As most serious software developers will tell you, an application’s interface is not only critical, it’s often the hardest thing to design effectively. The software world in general has undergone a tremendous transformation over the past 10 years with respect to interface. The smartphone craze arguably kickstarted this transformation, specifically the iPhone.

The obvious design point with the iPhone interface is simplicity. Because the phone has significantly less real estate to work with than even a laptop’s screen, designers had to do two things in order to be effective: 1) decompose business processes to understand which options are relevant at any given point of a desired function; then, 2) create the optimal layout for an intuitive experience with the application.

This transformation is arguably the most significant since the early days of Graphical User Interfaces (GUI). Way back in the day, programmers dealt with the old, somewhat daunting Disk Operating System (DOS) prompt. Don’t know your commands? You won’t get very far. When the GUIs came out, at least users could navigate a more visually oriented environment; though the complexity of operating system (OS) vs application functionality would still leave much to be desired.

The GUI age gave rise to the menu system we all know and love: File, Edit, View… While the options change depending upon the program, the general idea is still the same: you have a horizontal list of options at the top of your screen, and can access almost any command the program allows via the vertically oriented menu options beneath each category header.

With Lightning, Salesforce is basically adopting the new vision for User Interface. They’re not alone in recognizing the intrinsic value of good UI design. Hasso Plattner, the beloved and infamous co-founder of SAP, noted at his company’s big SAPPHIRE event earlier this year, that UI is arguably the hardest, and most important aspect of modern software. As we’ve all learned over time, the more intuitive the user interface, the more success users will have with that software.

Costa notes the significance of this move by Salesforce. “Lightning is a complete overhaul of the interface, not just the interface, but also the way the application in your browser is communicating with the Salesforce back end as well. They changed a lot of stuff so that it looks more dynamic, tables get updates immediately, there is no refresh of the interface. Actually, they’re using the Web 2.0 concept, HTML five, and Javascript, and they’re using the maximum possibilities of that right now for a really modern interface.”

Second, Thunder: Salesforce realized that a cloud-based infrastructure affords tremendous opportunity for stitching together enterprise-caliber functionality. After all, the cloud provides an ideal marshaling area for both data and services. But the CRM leader took their platform a whole layer deeper. With Thunder, companies can now create new applications on-the-fly!

This move demonstrates the company’s deep understanding of business process management. In essence, Thunder amounts to an application development platform, and one that can be managed by business users with a standard drag-and-drop style interface. In many ways, this solution is the poster child of modern business IT: a flexible platform that allows complete customization of business process, regardless of industry.

The other a-ha moment that Salesforce experienced deals with the hottest topic in business technology today: the Internet of Things (IoT). Most industry analysts agree: the IoT represents a mind-boggling array of opportunities, for both consumers and companies. And we’re just at the very beginning of this remarkable journey.

Costa gave an interesting example of a new line of business being enabled by this IoT focus of Salesforce: “It’s a kind of valet parking. People want to park their car, they get an iPhone notification, click on it, 20 minutes later or 10 minutes later, depending on if there is someone in the neighborhood, someone comes up, drives your car, and off you go. That’s it. You don’t have your car anymore; you just ask for when and where you want your car delivered, and you get it. It’s a solution that has Salesforce as an underpinning.”

By giving entrepreneurs the capacity to leverage IoT technology for new business models and processes, Salesforce has placed itself at the epicenter of modern business innovation. And, true to its original form, the CRM expert is enabling small businesses. That said, Costa notes that Salesforce is also being used by some very, very large organizations.

“They have shown the capability to scale to very large companies,” said Costa. “That’s the thing.  One of their biggest customers in the past? The Japanese post office: 45,000 simultaneous users of the system, and it works.”

Dhonte notes that Viseo takes its Salesforce investment very seriously. “We have created an innovation center, and we’ve dedicated teams which are not billable to our customers, which are really investing in these technologies. We have Salesforce, and some of our customers are willing to play the game with us in order to try and innovate on some of this area around IOT and other areas. This is also the way the Salesforce ecosystem is evolving.”

He also stressed the importance of understanding the business models of their clients, not just the technology that Salesforce offers. “We really need to have an integration focus from a functional perspective to make sure that the processes are managed seamlessly. This is something that most of the Salesforce partners didn’t have in the past, and this is something we bring to the market, this capability to have an integrated vision from a functional and technical perspective.”

Both Dhonte and Costa see Salesforce as formidable player in the realm of business technology. They’re not alone. With a market cap in excess of $60 billion, the company is closing in on major players like SAP, whose value stands at roughly twice that, or $126 billion. And Salesforce has a history of investing in itself: it has never turned a profit!

Eric Kavanagh

About Eric Kavanagh

Eric has nearly 30 years of experience as a career journalist with a keen focus on enterprise technologies. He designs and moderates a variety of New Media programs, including The Briefing Room, Information Management’s DM Radio and Espresso Series, as well as GARP’s Leadership and Research Webcasts. His mission is to help people leverage the power of software, methodologies and politics in order to get things done.

Eric Kavanagh

About Eric Kavanagh

Eric has nearly 30 years of experience as a career journalist with a keen focus on enterprise technologies. He designs and moderates a variety of New Media programs, including The Briefing Room, Information Management’s DM Radio and Espresso Series, as well as GARP’s Leadership and Research Webcasts. His mission is to help people leverage the power of software, methodologies and politics in order to get things done.

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