Congrats to the Giants and to all my friends in the Bay Area on the World Series victory. Giants are my favorite NL team — though I am a member of Red Sox Nation, I allow myself this guilty pleasure. Wasn’t Bumgarner great?!
On Sunday I was strolling through Boston wearing my Giants hat and was surprised to get so many kudos from strangers for the team. They are truly a national team, sort of like the Yankees. Right, Paul?
We’re doing some new market research for a friend that’s a little out of the wheelhouse but could be illuminating. Here is a short, 10 question survey about night time jaw clenching or grinding. People who grind their teeth wear them down and can get headaches and other troubles. If you have this condition or know someone who does, I’d appreciate it if you’d take a minute to provide your insights here.
Bluewolf, the consultancy that was founded to assist customers implementing and deploying Salesforce.com, has released its annual State of Salesforce report. The company started this practice a few years ago using MIT Sloan School of Management personnel to interview Salesforce customers and the methodology is tight.
So what’s in the report? Just what you might expect with growth in all sectors of Salesforce’s business and Bluewolf’s CEO Eric Berridge attributes all of these floating boats to the rising tide that Gartner has forecasted — that the CRM market will Eclipse ERP as the largest enterprise software market by 2017.
There is very little that’s controversial about Bluewolf’s numbers — Salesforce is a juggernaut at this point growing at an exceptional and exponential pace and if Bluewolf’s numbers are to be believed, there is significant demand in most areas of the company’s business.
My only quibble, and it’s just that, with the account is that it mirrors most of the industry in not looking very far, if at all, below the surface of the statistics. Most of the data simply reports on exponential growth and forecasts that it will continue. To say, as the report does, that this is all driven by digital disruption is to give a name to a phenomenon without identifying a cause and the cause is important.
Throughout the front office, the impact of Big Data is being felt as businesses realize that rather than following hunches as they might have just a few years ago, they can collect customer data and, using advanced analytics, extract meaningful information from it that helps managers drive the business. This is a big deal because applying analytics to relevant data is elevating front office business from a random set of actions supported by electronic file cabinets, to a science.
It will take time for us to grasp the significance of Customer Science but it is causing a revolution as important as when the back office adopted Six Sigma and ISO9000 approaches. A long time ago ERP went from back office accounting to statistical management of manufacturing and the approach spilled over into many other disciplines where quality and precision were vital. The result has been far better manufacturing techniques and much more reliable products. Statistical quality approaches have also enabled manufacturing at smaller scale and can be credited with at least part of the gadget revolution. Sometimes I think we make these things at least in part simply because we can.
So the front office is decades behind the back office in adopting statistical quality techniques but it was arguably a harder job. In the back office you can attach various sensors to machines and gather data but in the front office you first need to build the sensors — things like the Internet, websites, and then social networking and other tools — so the lag is understandable.
Nevertheless, the front office’s time is here and as The State of Salesforce shows, the marketplace is adopting advanced sales, marketing, and service automation, community, analytics, mobility and other technologies because most managers sense the scientific revolution now taking place even if no one has yet put a name on it.
So let’s turn our attention from the fact of uptake and deployment to their aftermath. What happens when every vendor has the ability to reliably and accurately access customer input regarding products, services and unmet needs? In ERP we got higher quality products but we also saw finer grained improvements.
Thirty years ago cars still had carburetors and distributors and could be hard to start on a cold morning. Today there’s electronic fuel injection and distributors have been replaced by direct ignition. These and many other improvements came because carmakers could build smaller and more refined components because of optimized robots and because the cost of chips to drive them came way down all thanks to better manufacturing.
So the question should be asked — What improvements in the vendor-customer relationship will accrue because of Customer Science? It’s a tantalizing question with scary and exhilarating answers. Vendor-customer relationships will be tighter while many of our devices gain the autonomy to act on our behalf to order and pay for products and services. Will there be a backlash against the automation the way some people voice privacy and security concerns today? And will the automation make it nearly impossible to change vendors? Will vendor relationship management (VRM) a long-term research project for some finally become the customer response to all this automation?
Many other questions will need to be answered but I firmly believe that contrary to some of the recent prognostications that CRM was dead, it is alive and morphing before our eyes into Customer Science.
A number of Salesforce AppExchange partners including Apttus, Kenandy and ServiceMax formed an alliance called the Force United Consortium back in April but I hadn’t had the chance to talk to anyone about it. It’s a cool idea and a way to differentiate a partner that makes good use of the Salesforce1 Platform. I got more information at Dreamforce and discovered that this is not some marketing idea with little substance but a way to demonstrate value to customers that emanates from the platform and the applications built natively on it.
To be sure there are many good applications on the AppExchange and many are 100 percent native, but not all are. Being 100 percent gives a vendor an easier time of ramping up a customer so that adoption is easier and customers have a better time solving complex business challenges.
But there’s more. Being native like this gives members an easier time of building integrated business process support so there’s little worry about data or process hand-offs — things just work. That would be all there is to say about it if it wasn’t also for the fact that apps don’t live in a vacuum, their purpose is to enable end to end business processes. That enablement has always been something of a dream because few, if any, vendors could string together all the software support needed. Somewhere along the way the highway turns into a dirt road and, if you are lucky, it reverts, but not always.
But with the platform approach disparate vendors can do what they are good at and leave the process integration to almost no one, and I say this with tongue in cheek because no body is just about what’s needed. The integration becomes more one of process than of applications and data.
A small aside here. As I recall, for many years this has been one of those things I’ve written about from time to time usually under the moniker of best of breed or process integration, or something else. But now it looks like the vendor community is catching on. Joy!
To be honest, I don’t know what Apttus (CPQ), Kenandy (ERP), and ServiceMax (field service automation) have to do in a unified process, seems like they’re pretty far apart but that’s not the point. All three products already integrate well with Salesforce CRM to extend the functionality and processing of that tool in predictable ways. Nevertheless, this is an important start. With Salesforce, Kenandy, and maybe IntAcct or FinancialForce you have the makings of a complete front and back office suite. Add Apttus and selling becomes more robust. And if you have a product company that rolls trucks daily for deliveries or service then ServiceMax might become integral as well. This kind of reminds me of the Kevin Bacon Game back at the dawn of social networking. Look what that did.
Dreamforce has always been about many things happening at once — a three-ring circus in a good way. There are announcements about applications, platforms, philanthropy, entertainment and, importantly, parties. This year there was all of that and then some I was a guest with a ringside seat.
Since most of the product announcements came out over the last few weeks some of us were wondering what there would be to talk about but in retrospect that worry wasn’t worth the effort, there was plenty. Beginning in Indianapolis a few weeks ago with the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud event and continuing with the announcements of Sales Cloud1 and Service Cloud1last week we had a good sense that Salesforce was doubling down on core products to make them more at home in the mobile and social environment of modern business.
Perhaps the worst kept secret of the event was the company’s announcement of Wave, its analytics cloud and it was a minor controversy among the chattering class. Wave tries to leapfrog ahead of conventional analytics and business intelligence for the obvious reasons that those other technologies are based on old, legacy, set piece paradigms for the most part and therefore less suitable for handheld business.
Salesforce wanted to deliver analytics to the hands of people on the front lines who need information to make good decisions in the moment of truth and I think the company’s first offering does that. Wave is not only graphical to an extreme but also somewhat animated if by animation you mean being able to change presentation styles on the fly. Two things I like about the UI — first, it enables the user to switch from a bar graph to a pie or donut chart with a finger point. Second, it’s zippy, the graphics are live meaning, for instance, that you can turn a donut chart like a dial to get to the segment you want to drill into. It’s also intuitive and I think any reasonably smart person (i.e. someone who can draw a breath and a paycheck) can easily think up questions to ask of the data and get a usable answer.
The snarking class is asking if the product is ready for prime time but this is stuff I’ve heard for 15 years. Salesforce has developed a reputation for not talking about things they can’t deliver so I am a believer when they tell me they have some very large companies involved with the product.
With Wave Salesforce appears to have built out its platform, which now includes clouds for sales, marketing, service, app development, social, mobile, and analytics. So with all of that you can in theory build an application that will run everywhere from the desktop to the handheld, in multiple operating systems and browsers.
Of course there will be new versions and improvements but to me this now signals the closing of the frontier and the opening of the market to settlement and expansion. In practical terms, I hope this speeds up the adoption of more process oriented business — as opposed to a more conventional transaction orientation. In other words, I think the biggest changes are ahead of us. Vendors want transactions but customers expect process and the newest technology at last enables vendors to meet customers half way.
It was one thing when the company could point to standard CRM plus a mobile browser capability but quite another now that a vendor can capture its customers’ data, analyze it, and offer up next best actions in a wide variety of situations. With this capability, we turn a corner from ad hoc business designed to capture a single transaction to a kind of customer science that operates inside of customer moments of truth. When I say science I mean it literally, not as a metaphor. Customer science will someday be seen as a specialty part of sociology, I am sure.
The difference between the old order and science is not only striking but the science is so much more efficient and adept at developing and maintaining the customer relationship that I doubt we’ll see very much of the old approach to business in a few years. This is a tipping point enabled by big data, analytics, and a lot of technology and it is amazing to me that so few software vendors have understood the moment they inhabit.
I can accept that the above might sound confusing or perhaps even tantalizing. In either case I write about it in more detail in my new book. My buddy and former CMO at Salesforce, Cary Fulbright, tells me I am not making a shameless plug for the book if I don’t reveal the title so let’s leave it there. But watch this space.
Finally, it has to be said that Dreamforce might someday be referenced as the show that ate San Francisco if this year’s numbers are any indication. There were 145,000 registrations and I am told 5 million online viewers. Having all those people in the Moscone neighborhood presented challenges such as when using the sidewalks. But the crush also brought into close proximity an abundance of like-minded people who at times seemed to think as one. I liked the mind meld but can do with fewer humans — however, for a few days it was tolerable especially when considering the upside.