Salesforce.com Makes Friends With CIOs - InformationWeek

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3/16/2012
09:10 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Salesforce.com Makes Friends With CIOs

Parade of CIOs at CloudForce shows how social networking inroads are making Salesforce.com a larger part of the IT infrastructure.

Salesforce.com isn't just for sales forces anymore. Its Chatter app has opened a social networking avenue into the enterprise, letting Salesforce.com reps talk to people whose office doors never used to be open to them.

Take the CIO, for instance. Salesforce.com used to boast that it didn't sell to IT, that it could go around the IT staff to sell directly to sales managers who wanted to keep tabs on their personnel. Going around IT was part of his firm's guerrilla marketing and sales tactics, chairman and CEO Marc Benioff once said. At Thursday's CloudForce event in San Francisco, Benioff tried to prove what a good player he's become with IT. He offered a parade of CIOs and CTOs commenting on how Salesforce products were helping them transform their companies.

John Douglas, CTO of luxury retailer Burberry's, visiting from London, observed that some of the programmers among the 17,000 in attendance could be outfitted more stylishly, but he had nothing but praise for Salesforce.com's CRM and social network products.

Michael Blum, chief medical information officer at the University of California at San Francisco, said research at the school's new Mission Bay campus and in-the-works teaching hospital has benefited from the social networking installed by Salesforce.

[How do Salesforce.com's fiscal 2012 results reflect on competition with Microsoft, SAP, and particularly Oracle? See What Salesforce.com Results Say About Oracle Battle.]

Ramon Baez, CIO of Kimberly Clark, said the dispersed offices of his company were gaining "a surplus of cognitive power" with the collaboration enabled by the "plug-and-play business capabilities" of Chatter and the Force.com development platform. "You can be either a boulder or a bold leader. Social networking allows us all to be bold leaders," he said.

And John Hinshaw, executive VP of global technology at HP, said the giant technology firm is replacing its Oracle Siebel Systems with Salesforce.com CRM. All in all, it was a two-hour demonstration of how Salesforce.com has come in from the cold and been embraced by IT.

Salesforce.com has had to change its tune about IT, because it needs IT's acceptance to make its next big leap as a software company and become a larger part of the IT infrastructure. Chatter was the first big example of this. The latest is Rypple, a human resources application that manages performance by collecting a variety of social feedback.

Benioff tirelessly sounds the theme of the "social enterprise," and he displayed the social networking aspects of Rypple, which Salesforce.com's acquired earlier this year. Team leaders, supervisors, and even co-workers can award an employee a "turkey gravy badge" for successfully completing a project or an "under the radar" badge for winning a new customer.

The Rypple badges appear in other Salesforce.com applications, such as the sales force management app, where they can be activated upon completion of a deal or other activity. Rypple is a better match to how people think and react at work and makes performance management a less onerous task than conducting annual reviews, said George Hu, Salesforce.com's chief operating officer. If a sales manager sends an under-the-radar badge to an employee after she closes a deal, it's displayed in Rypple and also her Chatter profile "where the whole company can see it," Hu said.

Benioff also cited Sites.com, Salesforce's new online content management application that puts drag-and-drop website building capabilities into the hands of the chief marketing officer. It builds content features on top of already roughed out templates, without IT needing to do the coding. And it lets a change in style or marketing slogan ripple through many pages of a site at once, without individual pages needing to be recoded.

Asked how deep he plans to go in producing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite, Benioff shied away from sounding too ambitious. "We have been very cautious in what we try to do," he said, noting many applications are not a fit for the Salesforce.com approach to online applications. At another point, he noted Salesforce.com is taking "a very disciplined approach."

On the other hand, Parker Harris, executive VP for technology and co-founder of Salesforce.com, said in an interview that the Salesforce software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform made it possible to integrate new applications quickly. The Rypple acquisition was announced in mid-December, and Salesforce was ready to announce its integration into the product line at its March 15 event.

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