At Salesforce's almost overwhelming Dreamforce end-user conference in San Francisco (some 150,000 attendees) there was plenty of pizzazz and product announcement to get excited about. However, the message this analyst took home was simple: the battle for the enterprise end user's attention has begun.
Salesforce might have started in sales, but its reach is across the enterprise
Once enterprise users grow accustomed to effective, easy-to-consume enterprise solutions as part of their day-to-day business, getting rid of those solutions becomes difficult, then borders on the impossible. Industry observers often talk of "land and expand" or "viral" adoption of technology solutions – both descriptors with negative connotations for this analyst (and many of his clients). I would rather state that they are successful in their objective, a fact demonstrated by the robustness of their adoption and ongoing use.
This is not a fact wasted on the expansion of the darling of the cloud: Salesforce. Having watched Salesforce grow from its IPO in 2004, I have witnessed it offer a growing range of solutions that meet a raft of needs across the enterprise which have, in many cases, gone unserved by existing providers. Or, and is often the case, it offered solutions that lacked a strong-enough driver to broad adoption, namely sales (if you don't sell the product / service, then you failed, right?).
Salesforce has in the past year drawn my attention to its Wave Analytics product, an analytics tool focused on entirely non-expert users who have basic – but often unserved – needs for analysis (yes, you guessed it, in sales, and service too). At Dreamforce, Salesforce announced business applications built on the Wave Analytics platform, solutions that allow even faster adoption of Wave Analytics. By providing pre-built reports, among other features, Wave Analytics enables sales and service professionals to get at the data and insights that they're interested in, in minutes rather than the days, weeks, and worse they're used to from centrally provided business intelligence capabilities.
It wasn't just Wave that caught my attention, however. It was a range of capabilities, not least SalesforceIQ's email tools, which complement a key principle of enterprise productivity in my view: the ability to execute on decisions in the tool an end user "lives in." Bringing analysis or collaboration capabilities into the UI that a user spends the most time in is a no-brainer. If I wish to make a decision, why shouldn't I be able to act upon that decision in the same, familiar interface I spend the most time in?
A parting shot – Salesforce's moves in this area are the first steps in a whole new battle within the enterprise IT solution market: the battle for eyeballs. It is my firm opinion that the vendor who controls the workspace of the user will ever increasingly control the IT (and maybe ICT) of the enterprise.
Tom Pringle, Practice Leader, Information Management