As 2012 draws to its conclusion, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff can look back on a year when he took his firm past an important milestone as it broke the $3 billion a year run rate.
“We're one of a small number of software companies to ever achieve this milestone,” he says. “No other enterprise software company of our size is growing faster than Salesforce. What's amazing is we're delivering this growth while pushing through this $3 billion revenue run rate, heading right into $4 billion.”
The next target to be broken is in the area of number of transactions handled in a single day. “Salesforce delivered more than 66 billion transactions in the quarter, far more than any of the other enterprise Cloud company, that's up 65% from a year ago,” says Benioff.
“This is not shelfware. This is a service that is live and being used by hundreds of thousands of companies around the world. That's 930 million transactions every business day. And now, we expect to deliver that billion transactions in a single business day any moment.”
One way Salesforce.com has managed to grow to hit these goals is through the ongoing expansion of its functional footprint. It seems a long time now since the firm was purely a sales force automation play and life was perhaps somewhat simpler. “When you're a one-product company, it's very easy to execute,” admits Benioff. “It's ‘see a bear, shoot a bear’. And that's how it is with sales force automation.”
But since then the Sales Cloud has been joined by the Service Cloud, the Chatter Collaboration Cloud and the Salesforce Platform – and in 2012 the expansion continued with two new offerings: the Marketing Cloud and Work.com.
Benioff says the Marketing Cloud, built on the acquisitions of Radian 6 and Buddy Media, has accounted for some of the largest transactions in recent months, citing the likes of Expedia, Fox and HSBC as examples.
“We are at the very beginning of our journey with the Marketing Cloud,” he states. “What we have been excited about with the Marketing Cloud is that it has a huge runway. By 2017, Gartner says that CMOs will spend more than CIOs on technology, and we want to be prepared for that as the worldwide leader in providing marketing automation to our customers.”
He cites consumer goods giant Unilever as an example of this in practice. “They're on a mission to become the world's number one marketing company,” explains Benioff. “Unilever is reinventing the way it builds brands by connecting more than 7,000 marketers and 3,000 agencies around the world with an app that was built in just under eight weeks.
“With the Salesforce Platform, Marketing Cloud and Chatter, the new Unilever app will be the central hub for marketers to manage all of their campaigns, fostering an entirely new way of collaborating.”
Another development in 2012 came in the shape of Work.com, Salesforce.com’s dabble in the HR market. “Work.com is an application in the HR category, but it's not a traditional HR application. It's an application that gives you productivity,” says Benioff.
“In today's time and today's age, this is something all of our customers need. We have deeply integrated Work.com as an extension into our core platform and into the Sales Cloud, into the Service Cloud, into the Marketing Cloud,” he adds. “That means that when you're using in Salesforce Chatter, for example, you're able to now give recognition to other employees. Through that recognition, you're also able to badge other employees, and employees start to build a social profile.
That social profile leads to the awarding of ‘badges’ that employees collect as they go through training courses or appraisals or any number of standard employee-centric corporate activities. “It's a bit of a gamification into our core enterprise application suite,” notes Benioff. “This whole concept of productivity, of training, of badging, of gamification, we think is going to drive Work.com very rapidly.”
A changed landscape
Not everything went right in 2012 though. Benioff had been using the term Social Enterprise to define the vision for organisations using the Salesforce.com portfolio. But he ran into trouble when it was pointed out that the term was used outside the US to describe not-for-profits and third sector organisations.
The term was dropped after a vigorous online campaign by protestors which climaxed shortly before the annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco in September.
But while the branding has changed, the vision remains the same and is made manifest by companies such as BSkyB. “By using Salesforce as their social front end to their back-office systems, BSkyB is making their entire business social,” says Benioff. “They plan to deploy Salesforce Chatter across 30,000 employees and put every customer-facing employee directly in touch with their Sky Guide experts to resolve cases and respond faster to questions from customers.”
There will be more to be heard on this ‘Business is Social’ meme in 2013. Meanwhile Benioff offers up another definition that is likely to resonate across the next twelve months the notion of Salesforce.com as The Customer Company.
“No other enterprise software company in our industry has defined itself before as the customer company,” declares Benioff as he contemplates the competitive landscape at the close of 2012, a year in which both SAP and Oracle put a lot of skin (and cash) in the Cloud game.
“In terms of those two companies, it's not that we don't see them. Of course, you see them. You'll see customer flare-ups or places where they have especially strong customer relationships,” he says. “But they have not provided the next-generation vision for customer-based systems, whether it is how to connect with your customers, your employees, your partners and your products in an entirely new way.
“My analysis is that for SAP, they have repositioned themselves as a company that offers analytics through Business Objects and data warehousing with HANA, and that this is their major focus of their work going forward,” ponders Benioff. “And both of those technologies [are] on-premise with a somewhat immaterial percentage of their revenue as in the Cloud.
“With Oracle, I think that they repositioned themselves as a mainframe company and operating system provider and also de-positioned themselves in our core space through their [Oracle OpenWorld] conference,” he adds.
It means that going into 2013 there is a changed landscape. “We have future-forward positioning. We're trying to be extremely mindful and project the future for our customers,” says Benioff. “It's a very different approach than how [SAP and Oracle] have been marketing their products and the areas where they've been focused on in their bookings. And our focus has been fairly consistent over the last 36 months. It will continue to be very consistent in these areas.
“While they have their positioning in their company, whether it's SAP as kind of the HANA company and Oracle as the Exadata company, we want to be The Customer Company.”