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Motivated by the desire to bring more value to their mutual customers, Marc Benioff, CEO of, and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, just over a year ago (May 29, 2014) announced a strategic relationship to the world. Twelve months on and we’re starting to see the fruits of this partnership, although these need to ripen somewhat to make them palatable for general consumption.

Microsoft and Salesforce could be a much more powerful combination than they are today

Benioff and Nadella described their joint mission as putting their mutual customers first by extending the Salesforce CRM platform with Microsoft’s productivity solutions. More specifically, this means enabling employees to use Office 365 and Salesforce seamlessly together, such as sharing Office documents in Salesforce1 or analyzing CRM data in Power BI for Office 365.

Part of the deal was also getting Salesforce apps onto Windows 8 devices (phones and PCs). By doing so, Salesforce would lend legitimacy to the new operating system that businesses and institutions were steering clear of. Salesforce did build a container/app for Windows 8.1, but it never made it past the invite-only preview stage. This was presumably because Microsoft changed tack and asked Salesforce to build a Windows 10 universal app instead.

Microsoft and Salesforce also made commercial arrangements with each another. Microsoft renewed its commitment to using Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly known as ExactTarget, acquired by Salesforce in 2013 for $2.5bn), and in return Salesforce made a commitment to use Microsoft database and cloud technologies to underpin the offering.

Microsoft used the 2014 Salesforce Dreamforce conference to introduce some new capabilities for the power user, such as the Salesforce connector of Microsoft Power Query for Excel. Salesforce reciprocated by showcasing productivity apps for less technical user at the recent Microsoft Ignite conference. On display was the Salesforce App for Outlook, which now includes support for Mac users, and the Salesforce Files Connector for SharePoint/OneDrive for Business.

All of these deliverables promise to make life a little easier for employees, but Ovum believes that greater strides are required by both companies if they are to deliver on their promise. For example, Salesforce and SharePoint both support the Open Data Protocol (Odata) for the consumption of queryable RESTful APIs (similar in style to ODBC), yet data access and interoperability between these two important business SaaS applications is still beyond the reach of the typical business user.

Microsoft is rumored to have offered $55bn for Salesforce, with Marc Benioff holding-out for $70bn. Whatever the story, we’ve now seen a glimpse of the business value that these companies can bring to their mutual customers. Progress now needs to accelerate for all levels of business users.


Further reading

SWOT Assessment: Salesforce Marketing Cloud, IT0020-000124 (June 2015)

SWOT Assessment: Salesforce1 Platform, IT0022-000230 (March 2015)

SWOT Assessment: – Salesforce Files, IT0021-000013 (July 2014)


Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Productivity & Mobility

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