Salesforce Launches ‘Social Enterprise’ Drive

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Salesforce kicked off its annual Dreamforce show by telling customers to start building the Social Enterprise

Buoyed by the success of its claimed rapid adoption of the Chatter social networking service, Salesforce.com kicked off its annual Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco by saying businesses of all sizes should get ready to build the “social enterprise”.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff says these organisations can do this by using Chatter within the Salesforce software as a service (SaaS) platform to create “social customer profiles, employee social networks, customer social networks and product social networks”. This will make it easier for enterprises to share information, answer questions, make deals and keep customers happy, he said.

More Than Just Chatter

Salesforce introduced a number of capabilities for Chatter that will run across the SaaS platform. These included Chatter Customer Groups, which will allow Chatter users to invite people outside of their organisations to join their chatter groups so they can participate in “private secure groups” to discuss ideas, solve problems and serve needs; and Chatter Approvals which will enable users to take action on any business approval process directly within their Chatter feeds.

The requests in Approvals, such as expense forms, travel plans, sales discounts and holiday leave, can include all supporting documents along with comments or approvals required from the management chain.

Another feature is Chatter Now, which will provide enhanced collaboration features by enabling users  to chat in context by sharing their screen, without leaving Chatter, to discuss business matters.

The company also announced Data.com, which enables Salesforce users to aggregate contact information of companies and business professionals, particularly “crowdsourced” information from Jigsaw.com, a contact and business directory Salesforce.com acquired in May 2010 for $142 million (£88 million). Salesforce.com users will also be able to access company information from Dun & Bradstreet from within Data.com.

National Border Workaround

A significant element of this announcement is that it means Salesforce customers have the option to store at least some of their Salesforce.com data in their own data centre, Denis Pombriant, principal analyst with Beagle Research wrote in his blog. The requirement to store all Salesforce-related data in the cloud was a sticking point for some enterprises concerned about security and retaining full control over corporate data.

“In some geographies, they can’t let data cross national borders. So, in Europe, for instance, that would, at least in theory, mean a need for a Salesforce data centre in each locale. That’s clearly not going to happen, so the move to in-house storage makes a certain amount of sense,” Pombriant wrote.

This move also eases a competitive issue for Salesforce, he noted. “This certainly takes a little wind out of the sails of the competition who have been hammering on [about] the idea that their solutions are more configurable because they offer on-premise options. That’s getting to be a difference without a distinction,” wrote Pombriant.

It is apparent from the massive growth of Salesforce’s customer base that the issue of data security is not a deal breaker for most companies. Salesforce says it now has more than 100,000 customers and millions of individual subscribers. The company is also claiming the distinction that it has been the fastest to reach its current annual run rate of $2.1 billion (£1.3 billion).

What Would You Do For A Coke?

Another sign is the kind of deals the company is signing, large corporate-wide deployments involving thousands of seats. To facilitate these big deals, Salesforce said it is offering the “Social Enterprise Licence Agreement” that will allow big companies to buy massive deployments at below-the-standard, per-seat cost. It is billing the deal as “All products – all you can use – for a fixed fee”.

This would include the main services Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Force.com and Chatter. It would also include the new Database.com online cloud database service, the Heroku tools for building social and mobile applications, and the Radian6 service for social media monitoring.

On stage, Benioff also introduced CTO Alan Boehme from the Coca-Cola company, a marquee customer for the Social Enterprise Licence Agreement. Salesforce is planning to link up Coca-Cola’s 700,000 global employees, bottlers and partners through its SaaS platform. Benioff credited Boehme for giving Salesforce the impetus for the Social Enterprise Licence Agreement.“Allen is always teaching me something new,” Benioff said.

Boehme talked to Salesforce about broadly deploying its cloud platforms at Coca-Cola. Benioff recalled that Boehme told him: “I’m not going to pay per user for the social enterprise; you have to come up with a new way to deal with Coca-Cola.”

Benioff did not disclose what kind of pricing it offered Coca-Cola or what it would offer any other enterprise that wants to buy a similar licence, apparently leaving it to be negotiated on a deal-by-deal basis.

Attendance Up 5,000 Plus

More evidence that Salesforce is breaking down the last barriers of resistance to its cloud computing vision is that the company is talking to more chief technology officers and chief information officers at the early stages of contact, according to Salesforce officials. The company claims that these officials frequently contact Salesforce to initiate discussions.

Further evidence of Salesforce’s current success is provided by the growth of the Dreamforce show itself. The company claimed that nearly 45,000 people registered to attend the week-long event in person, including more than 1,500 C-level executives, up from around 30,000 last year. Another 35,000 registered to view Dreamforce keynotes and breakout sessions remotely.

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