Cloudforce Tour: Collaboration Innovation Outpaces Partner Business Practices

June 24, 2010 at 12:34 am Leave a comment

Beth Vanni – Director, Market Intelligence

Salesforce.com’s Chatter Goes G.A. and challenges solution providers’ own collaboration insights and habits

I am wowed again.  Each time I see a demo of the new Salesforce.com’s Chatter platform my imagination is ignited around how totally interconnected and truly collaborative a work team can be.  Now the much-anticipated collaboration extension to the cloud leader’s platform is actually ready to deploy.  In fact, supposedly 7,000 (or 10%) of Salesforce’s customers have already activated it and are playing around.

As I sat at the Cloudforce 2010 event today, I heard a wide variety of industry leaders like BMC, Computer Associates, Google, Accenture, Deloitte and Informatica talk about how they’re building innovative new applications and services practices based on this “social media goes corporate” SaaS technology.  In that moment, I was struck by what seems to be a dramatic chasm.  The chasm I’m referring to is the delta between the sophisticated business process and application collaboration driven by Chatter and the relatively immature collaboration sophistication of the average solution provider which Salesforce.com will need to take this solution to market long-term.

Marc Benioff
Salesforce.com CEO:
“Our Chatter beta customers
experienced on average 22%
productivity increases.”

The Chatter application demos like a rock-star — no
product or business unit divisions, no cross-functional barriers or data integrity divides.

Everyone openly sharing content, resources, competitive info and customer insights with each other and their workgroups. Now in a private conversation, Salesforce.com execs did admit that the broadest adoption of this collaboration functionality during the product’s beta has been with the company’s largest enterprise customers.  And, there were only a handful of tier 1 ISVs and leading SI’s on board so far with applications and services practices built so far.

But, doesn’t it stand to reason that solution providers will be more effective selling the technology, building custom applications around it and helping customers with the supporting business process if they themselves understand the power of collaboration and social networking? Well, our data suggests that the average regional solution provider has a long way to go in this area. In our 2009 study focused on Partner Collaboration and the Role of Social Media, nearly 50% of solution providers indicated they are only “opportunistically” collaborative with peers.  Their top five preferred collaboration vehicles with both their customers and vendors were all face to face, not on-line.  These included user groups, regional events, 1:1 meetings and conferences.  And, they are currently using social media mostly to find new customers and do outbound marketing of their services and solutions – not to collaborate with their vendors or their customers.  In fact, nearly 30% said they don’t use social media in their normal course of business at all.

At today’s event, Salesforce.com indicated that their Chatter beta customers experienced on average a 22% increase in productivity by using the new corporate collaboration functionality.  Interestingly enough, when we asked solution providers in our own research what revenue impact social networking had on their business, 52% said they didn’t know because they weren’t tracking it.  Well, they’re the very regional channel community who is going to have to help their prospective Salesforce.com customers define those metrics, and measure them.

I’m not suggesting that solution providers have to use every technology they sell.  You know, it’s the old story of the cobbler’s children wearing tattered shoes.   And, every new breakthrough technology definitely has early adopters – both customers and partners.  Time will tell how impactful this type of corporate communication becomes for the “average” corporation.  However, beyond their existing tier 1  Global SI’s and broad ISV base (who are already largely SaaS converts) Salesforce.com is ultimately going to need a bunch of VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix mid-market focused solution providers to drink the cool-aid and evangelize this new platform to a broad set of customers.  It’s these local trusted advisers that are going to need to be zealots for innovative corporate collaboration, interconnecting mobile users on all types of devices and understanding the underlying business processes that make this all take life.

Did I mention that Microsoft employees were handing out anti-SFDC propaganda outside the San Jose Convention Center at this event?   They see the momentum building and have good reason to be concerned, despite the market dominance of Sharepoint. However, in order to secure a solid market position for this breakthrough technology, Salesforce.com needs to ensure the business insights and habits of their own broad-based partner community can support this vision and help it take hold in more than 10% of their biggest customers.


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