Saugatuck attended this year’s Cloudforce conference yesterday at the Javits Center in New York City. Amid a salesforce estimate of 10,000 people, Marc Benioff, saleforce.com’s CEO, walked on-stage to Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ and delivered an energetic keynote interspersed with guest CEO speakers focused on salesforce.com’s vision for the “Social Enterprise”.

The vision certainly came through in all its glory in a nearly two and a half hour keynote. Benioff laid out all of the tenants; from the mainstay offering of the CRM product to new integrations with Dun & Bradstreet as part of data.com, to the integration of the broader social media channels of twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, through their acquisition and digestion of the Radian6 social listening platform. He painted a picture of the social enterprise requiring a full deployment of all salesforce.com products for all employees for one enterprise price; a move that he described as the shift from tactical purchasing to strategic deployment. He was exuberant about the prospects of this integrated suite and the possibilities it offers.
 
Benioff’s goal was to energize the audience and push the boundaries of people’s thinking about what is possible and necessary, and he achieved this; however, there are many unspoken challenges to this initiative. No mention was made of B2B customers and the examples all seemed heavily tailored to selling to the general public. Additionally, salesforce.com is clearly fighting an uphill battle into the large enterprise market – a show of hands indicated that less than 1/3 of the audience was from companies with more than 1000 employees.

Benioff frequently derided the old guard, Microsoft and Oracle as the false cloud. His vision leaves no room for on-premises hardware and software, yet does not actually provide a solution outside of the CRM, ITSM and Collaboration market; general ledgers, ERP, and a number of other back-office products are outside of their catalog and even the force.com platform, and many cloud solutions available from other vendors do not scale to the large enterprise yet. Most important is that while he painted a picture of an open interconnected world, the fulfillment of the vision requires acquiring an entire stack of salesforce.com product with apparently no room to replace core elements.
 
Salesforce.com has a tough line to walk with their “no-software” motto on the one side and the reality of enterprise IT on the other. Rip and replace is not a strategy that all companies are willing to undertake. While the Social Enterprise stack that Benioff touted provides valuable tools to many companies, it is not a one stop shop to enterprise computing. With Benioff’s characteristic energy at the helm though, it may eventually be.

This blog originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.

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