Joining Salesforce's annual analyst summit in London, it was hard to overlook the theme of connectivity. Connectivity comes in many forms, from the physical connectivity of capabilities building broader solutions within Salesforce's own portfolio or in its wider ecosystem, to the products, process, and principles necessary to connect customer data. The march toward a more joined-up approach to customer relationship management (CRM) technologies as they evolve into what Ovum calls a customer engagement platform is helping realize some long-held, but thus far difficult to achieve, customer experience (CX) ambitions.
The network effect of customer engagement across systems, data, and CX objectives
Customers do not exist in silos – except when it comes to the discrete component technologies that deliver on CX (data points and records across sales, service, marketing, and so on) where the norm seems to be for them to do so. The well-worn mantra of a customer 360-degree view has been around as long as this analyst has been interested in customer data. Like so many well-meaning principles, the idea was sound, but the technology to achieve it either not mature enough or out of reach of the majority of enterprises. Salesforce has been investing in internal development and has made acquisitions to make customer 360 a reality.
Last year, Salesforce completed the acquisition of Mulesoft, bringing serious integration capabilities to the vendor. Primarily, this acquisition was aimed at helping enterprises achieve a substantial part of their digital transformation objectives – joining multiple applications that help recognize the reality that CX is defined by processes that run across multiple systems. At the event, Salesforce also discussed its Customer 360 product direction at length. While much of this discussion was under non-disclosure, Ovum can say that Salesforce is clearly serious not just about the principles of unifying customer data to enable joined-up experiences, but its roadmap is firmly targeted at delivering the technology that will enable it.
The role that data plays in delivering on CX is beyond doubt, and a new front is emerging in the battle for customer-serving solutions in the enterprise. This is a battle on two fronts, or put another way, data from bottom-up and top-down; unifying existing customer data for effective customer 360, while adding new technologies atop the application stack to utilize it. Salesforce recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Tableau Software. While this acquisition is a work-in-progress, in Ovum's opinion, it is aimed at serving that top-down set of use cases: once the data is unified, enterprises must be able to work with it to transform interesting data into actionable insight.
Tom M. Pringle, Head of Technology Research, Ovum