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Cloudforce 2009: On Salesforce and Crowd Sourcing by Cloud Sourcing

credit j4mie's photostream on Flickr

Yesterday I headed out to the Excel center in Docklands for Cloudforce, a free event run by salesforce.com. I was happy to be going along for a couple of reasons – firstly because I had missed the last couple of salesforce events I had originally planned to attend, so it was good to make it along, and secondly because salesforce is continuing to invest in Europe, at a time when other vendors such as Adobe and SAP are reducing their local spend on community events. The euro cheerleader in me approves.

The crowd (in person and on twitter) lapped his keynote up, though if CEO Marc Benioff wants to show he understands Europe he probably needs to support, or at least mention, Nokia phones. Note to Nokia – give salesforce a call. Its absurd the new salesforce Mobile Lite user interface only runs on the Crackberry, the iPhone, and Windows Mobile.

Benioff’s Big New Theme is the Real Time Cloud. I am not sure I fully understand this positioning yet, but the narrative is a work in progress and talks to current, or should that be real-time, Silicon Valley buzz.

As MT-Hacks puts it:

During the past few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about whether Twitter’s “real time search” could pose a threat to Google.

If Twitter is threatening Google its threatening pretty much everybody. Certainly, ideas of synchrony and asynchrony of information flow are firmly on the agenda. Where blogging gave us asynchronous ways to engage with information and people,  twitter has reintroduced synchrony: if you miss it, you miss it, if you don’t use it you lose it.

Check out Imogen Heap on Twitter: Real-Time, Real-World Creative Process, an interesting post about how some musicians are twittering and giving us insights into the creative process, drawing us into their world, no PR necessary. Its not just musicians however that are increasingly working this way.

At this point you may be wondering what the hell I am talking about: isn’t this post about salesforce.com, a hosted salesforce automation application (SFA) provider? Well yes. But much of the SFA whitespace has been filled in getting to $1bn in annual revenues. So what is salesforce doing for its “difficult second album” (in tech that’s the difficult second billion). The answer is the Service Cloud: an evolving customer interaction platform and approach. I don’t want to label Service Cloud as customer relationship management (CRM), mostly because a horrifically abused as term. Apparently I kinda predicted Salesforce’s new strategy back in July 2006, which is nice.

Service Cloud brings salesforce into the call center automation game, with early customers such as BT and Orange, telcos with huge customer service organisations and massive installed bases. But what makes Service Cloud interesting, and a strategy for 2010, rather than 2000, is that salesforce understands, and wants to help customers understand, that top down command and control the message won’t cut it anymore.

Customers and prospects talk to each other using Internet services such as Facebook and Twitter- they might provide customer support for one another, or lead a rebellion about poor support or terms of service changes.

As Jeff Jarvis famously said:

“One of the great lessons of the cluetrain era is that your customers are your best customer support agents and marketers if only you allow them … and respect them enough to listen to them.”

Well, Service Cloud is an ear trumpet for all these web conversations – aggregating mentions on social networks and triangulating them with more traditional case management tools.

The other night I signed up for a DVD delivery service called Lovefilm, and tweeted:

“not being blown away by the registration and get started on lovefilm.com. feels like a web app designed by a marketing plan”

One of my followers, geekgirl397, came back and asked whether I had given the same feed back on the Lovefilm site itself… well of course not. If Lovefilm was using the Service Cloud they would have got the same feedback and could have integrated it with my other details. God knows what the implications are for Data Protection law, but that’s a subject for another post. Suffice to say the IP issues of Internet conversation harvesting are going to be very complicated indeed. Who are the gatekeepers? Who are the owners? Who are the mafias?

I broached these questions with Scott Holden, senior product manager, mentioning a post I had recently written on the subject of customer influencer clouds, Whose Conversation Is It Anyway? Scott is very savvy and real time clouded me by simply saying: “I just read it.” All he needs to do now is tweet more regularly ;-)

Jeremiah over at Forrester has also taken a good look at Service Clouds – he calls it Social CRM.

I have already mentioned potential IP gotchas. Another issue is that its so early in the curve for this stuff. Salesforce is currently demonstrating what could be done with twitter, rather than pointing to real customer deployments – at Cloudforce the demoware was all about Orange. Early pioneers of twitter for customer service are the now well worn case studies of Comcast, Jet Blue and Zappos. Comcast, which is a salesforce.com customer, but wasn’t actually a Service Cloud customer, is likely to be the test bed for further Service Cloud work.

What do I like about the salesforce.com story here? Funnily enough its not so much about twitter and social software tools per se, but really the understanding that traditional CRM is so broken. Now if they could just persuade BT, another customer, to be just a little less agressive in sales calls to business customers…. ;-)

Enough Crazy-Handwaving

So that is the new cool vision stuff. what about the blocking and tackling? A few bullets because I have to get out of here.

  • Surprising factoid of the day. Cap Gemini’s biggest salesforce.com cloud project to date was six consultants for six months. If i was a systems integrator that would terrify me- “oh no! not enough complexity to justify a ton of billing hours.” No wonder IBM was always a little ambiguous about saleforce.
  • APEX is working. Java developers will learn it and get productive pretty fast. So far, APEX adoption has been ISV led (see Coda2go), but second order adoption will take it into the enterprise.
  • The audience make up was very interesting- pretty much 1/3 SMB, 1/3 nidmarket and 1/3 large enterprise
  • Salesforce is offering some simple content management services, and in the cloud everyone loves a bucket of bits – consider all sales and marketing collateral associated with relevant cases.
  • After Service Cloud we can expect to see others. Financial Cloud and Marketing Cloud are likely to be the next

My strong advice – a prediction

salesforce.com may at this point be Fabric only, but I can’t see see the situation lasting. in order to drive volume we’re almost certainly going to see salesforce.com offer instance-like clouds a la Amazon EC2. Many salesforce.com customers, and cloud integrators such as Appirio, are using a dual cloud topology, with salesforce for transactions and AWS for large scale business intelligence. Economically and technically speaking it would make a great deal of sense for force.com to offer Intel as a service instances, especially if they plan to go after enterprise developers. Don’t make them learn something new, but offer them the opportunity to do so.

disclosure: salesforce.com, Amazon, and Appirio are not customers. IBM is.

picture credit: j4mies photostream on Flickr

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Comment Feed

23 Responses

  1. some thoughts on cloudforce 09. http://bit.ly/1jml48 now i gotta run. late to meet @identitywoman for a beverage at the Princess
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. http://bit.ly/jOuHg James Governor on Salesforce realtime cloud
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Liked “http://bit.ly/jOuHg James Governor on Salesforce realtime cloud” http://ff.im/-216HP
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. Liked “http://bit.ly/jOuHg James Governor on Salesforce realtime cloud” http://ff.im/-216HP
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. @monkchips thoughts on the real-time cloud – covers a lot of ground here but some great nuggets $CRM http://bit.ly/4Ea4a3
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. Is this the same James I know? Has the block been hacked? Where’s the critical thinking here?

    Benioff demo’d a social media monitoring app in a way that showed the SaleForce.com don’t under stand how information flows in social media, or what is required to engage in them.

    I love what can be done with SalesForce.com, I’ve been a user for many users. However, difficult second album it is indeed. I hear crashing cymbals from the drum kit as operations folks ponder the 3 9′s availability and outage Windows.

    Also, what’s with all this software from the no software company? Why do I need it for my Nokia phone which has a perfectly good web browser that works for other Enterprise 2.0 apps?

    Why is what was pitched Cloud and not SaaS run from three data centres?

    Help me out here!

  7. Liked “http://bit.ly/jOuHg James Governor on Salesforce realtime cloud” http://ff.im/216HP
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. Reading @monkchips post on the Salesforce Real Time Cloud from London event yesterday http://bit.ly/o5lV
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. Liked “http://bit.ly/jOuHg James Governor on Salesforce realtime cloud” http://ff.im/-216HP
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. hey Ben. how much negativity do you want? I don’t think I was exactly gushing, just saying what I saw.

    Its fair enough to catch them on No Software I guess, but given that world plus dog are now building iPhones apps that only run on Apple kit, this seems to be the way things are moving. Me- gmail *sucked* through the Nokia browser, but the Java app is really nice. I have always thought No Software was kind of silly- I am a software guy, after all, but it has certainly helped people “get” cloud.

    I think you’re possibly a bit harsh about *this isn’t cloud*. Like most technologies they are ten year overnight successes. Think AJAX. SaaS was always a really really good idea, derailed by the 2001 crash. Well Cloud is a really really good implementation of that idea, which will benefit from the 2008 crash. Go figure.

    I disagree that Benioff showed they didn’t get it. He asked an audience of mainsteam business people to search their brand or product on search.twitter.com… that’s a stunt I use, and I think its effective.

    My biggest problem was probably that the Orange demo was just a demo, but I explain that here.

    If its cloud, other than for data protection, who cares what or how many data centers there are.

    James GovernorApril 9, 2009 @ 5:25 pmReply
  11. is responding to @benjaminellis comments that i was not negative enough about salesforce.com in this post http://bit.ly/1jml48
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. Excellent @monkchips post on Service Clouds – http://bit.ly/4Ea4a3
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. Not after negativity, just that sideways look under the covers that RedMonk uniquely gives.

    There were some bold claims during the day, and I want to know if SF.com is going to be a bigger part of my life, or if they are over stretching from their solid ground.

    My comment about cloud wasn’t saying that it isn’t cloud, hence the question mark. I hear other cloud folks insinuating that it isn’t cloud, but no-one has given me a decent ruler that says “this is cloud” “this is SaaS”. I genuinely want to understand what the empirical difference is, if any, then I can go back and say “it is cloud because…”

    I was (and am) a SaaS fan, and I’m with you that it was a shame to see it crushed in the 2001 mess. It had lots of benefits: I knew where my data was (I could point to it!), and the costs scaled with use. Traditional SF.com messaging. I’m expecting Cloud to bring me something more/different. Is it really just going to be SaaS on a distributed platform? Or should I be looking for portability and standard APIs? Either way, I agree with you: It’s good to see SaaS making a come back, even if it is wearing new clothes.

    Any commercial enterprise absolutely should be caring about data protection as a top priority – they have a legal obligation to do so – both from a governance perspective and also from a contractual perspective in many instances. I still availability modelling, so things like number of data centres and the like are important to me.

    I’ll come back to the Twitter demo, I want to run through the video again (they are now posted: via the developerforce blog) and point out the difficulty with one of the claims – I’m actually hoping someone can give me a more in depth demo. I’m a detail guy, but you know that. Likewise, I’ve used SF.com for managing collateral for a long while, so really want to understand what’s new there.

    One thing’s for sure I guess: The Cloud War volume just went up a notch.

  14. Nice: “If its cloud, other than for data protection, who cares what or how many data centers there are?” – @monkchips – http://bit.ly/4Ea4a3
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. I want a free service that does some of this: Salesforce and Crowd Sourcing by CLOUD Sourcing – Social CRM? http://bit.ly/B4g5I
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. informative & seriously excellent! RT @scorpfromhell @p0ps Salesforce and Crowd Sourcing by CLOUD Sourcing – Social CRM? http://bit.ly/B4g5I
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  17. @jkerrstevens I thought so, too….@monkchips put it in perspective here http://tinyurl.com/d7yt4f
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  18. Benjamin- the twitter Service Cloud demo was very much a demo. i was initially confused too, but came away with the impression the strategy was right, but salesforce just needs to get some more customer experience to really nail the scenarios and workflows.

    Standard APIs – we will see some, for sure, but the cloud is not going to be some universal panacea of everything works with everything. IT doesn’t work like that.

    James GovernorApril 14, 2009 @ 8:44 amReply
  19. James, nice to see someone else notice that the new mobile version of SF.com is focused on the North American/USA market.

    Benjamin, i see the need for software on your phone being due to operators/carriers not offering reasonable roaming or data packages to *everyone* i.e. you sync over WiFi to get the large inital data population (8GB memory cards are cheap now), then sync/update only very small volumes of data either over 2/3G or WiFi

  20. http://bit.ly/jOuHg Service Cloud brings Salesforce.com into the callcentre automation game
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  21. James, it was good of you to share your thoughts on the first Cloudforce event in Europe, so I thought I’d let you and your followers know that the global Cloudforce Tour will touch down next in the Netherlands at Cloudforce Eindhoven (http://tinyurl.com/dm6bfx) on June 9th and then in Germany at Cloudforce Munich (http://tinyurl.com/d5xfq8) on June 15th.

    It’s always good to hear the reactions of real people to our events, announcements, and demos – so keep the feedback coming.

    Your comment about Cap Gemini is interesting because what I am hearing from our partners is that it’s these smaller, more digestible projects that keep them going and allow them to acquire new business in this economic climate. Nobody’s signing up for the mega projects anymore.

    My take on the Cloud vs. SaaS debate is that SaaS is part of what you get from the cloud. I think it’s the applications in the cloud we are talking about when we say SaaS. There are other pieces too – like Platform as a Service (force.com) and Infrastructure as a Service (think Amazon web services). There will be more categories too over time. One cool thing about this model is that the innovation is very fast.

    Oh, and Benjamin if you want a more in depth demo of the service cloud and haven’t gotten it yet, I’d be happy to set you up.



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] Governor’s interesting post about the Salesforce realtime [...]

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