Salesforce CRM Solution : The Big Picture

The proven leader in on-demand CRM (Customer Relationship Management), salesforce.com, empowers customers to stand out from the crowd by delivering the most innovative technology and making it as easy as possible to share and manage business information.

Founded in 1999 by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com has become the cloud CRM software market share leader. The company is largely known for its flamboyant and controversial leader who seems to be either regarded as a visionary or a blowhard depending upon who you are speaking with. The company’s use of guerilla marketing tactics, near limitless marketing spend and frequent gifts for industry media and analysts have earned it an interesting and mixed reputation – from being referred to as the next Google to being referred to as the SaaS industry bad boy.

In CRM sale opportunities, Salesforce.com leads with sales force automation (SFA) and a suite of supporting tools. The SFA software was Salesforce.com’s initial product entry to the software as a service CRM market and is strong relative to much weaker marketing and customer support modules. The company’s CRM software product direction appears much more focused on adding ancillary software systems as opposed to advancing current products or adding depth to the CRM software modules.

Company Evolution

Salesforce.com’s skyrocketing growth is nothing short of extremely impressive. The company has succeeded in creating an enviable brand, a thriving business and shareholder returns. However, in many ways, Salesforce.com’s strategy places the company at a crossroads. The migration away from a Customer Relationship Management software solution toward a product platform or “SaaS operating system” as well as an emphasis on tools and third party solutions may contribute to the ‘jack of all, master of none’ notion that give its more traditional software as a service CRM competitors significant upside.

Corporate Strategy

Salesforce.com approaches the web-based Customer Relationship Management industry far different than any other software as a service CRM competitor. In fact, the company is quite deliberate in promoting a message and delivering product advancement away from customer relationship management software and toward a software platform or SaaS operating system capable of supporting broad types of SaaS solutions across seemingly endless business scenarios. Salesforce.com has set its competitive sights not on other CRM SAAS solutions, but on platform software companies and most notably – Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Whether this strategy will result in loss of CRM focus or garner much larger market share for Salesforce.com remains to be seen.

Functional overview of Salesforce CRM

Within the functional areas, there are various touch points where the business teams concerned with marketing, sales, and customer service have to agree on roles and responsibilities for aspects of the business processes as indicated next:

  • Marketing Management
  • Sales Force Automation (SFA)
  • Customer Support

Salesforce.com’s feature sets are generally broad but not deep across these three modules. The core application provides a simple and intuitive interface to basic functions. If functional depth is required you will likely need to turn to Salesforce.com’s AppExchange in order to meet gaps or deficits in the core Salesforce.com solution. At first glance, the simplicity of the user interface is appealing. The interface is similar to those found on ebay or Yahoo with lots of movement between screens and scrolling up and down pages. This familiar user experience makes the solution comfortable to many users, and in particular, users who are new to CRM software. The interface is generally responsive considering that the application is hosted and not client based. In the testing conducted to research this paper, it was only necessary to access the online help system a limited number of times.

 

Value Added Services

Since beginning its corporate life as a SaaS customer relationship management system, the larger than life company is aggressively seeking a new direction away from focused business applications and toward platform applications – and as is traditional with Salesforce.com, the company latched on to the next big marketing term of “platform as a service” (PAAS) in order to steer the business sector it seeks to serve.

While the Salesforce.com CRM application is not the strongest in the online CRM software industry, the company down plays the limited value of commercial off the shelf business systems and instead attempts to expand the value proposition with a comprehensive third party directory of integrated products called AppExchange and a custom programming environment called Force.com. The growth of AppExchange has been impressive; however, the integration between AppExchange products and Salesforce.com is many times trivial, giving the appearance that the third party solutions are using AppExchange as just an additional sales outlet. Force.com is a very respectable development environment; however, getting the development community to part with open and industry standard development tools such as Java or .NET and move to a proprietary development environment is of questionable motive and no easy task.

 

Salesforce CRM Advantages

  • Firstly, there is little to no risk when using Salesforce. Due to its low acquiring costs and low-risk management as an organization tool, there is very little to lose and a lot to benefit from.
  • The database that Salesforce uses is also helpful in digitizing and organizing company sale records. Thus, improving the overall organization of a company.
  • Salesforce and good customer service comes hand in hand.  It allows customization of profiles for individual customers as well as quick, organized access to individual records
  • There is also no need to purchase software and hardware systems to help maintain and keep the application running.  Therefore, unlike most software, Salesforce requires no capital investment.
  • The integrated solutions allow users to work more efficiently and increase the value of each part of the customer life cycle.  Moreover, Saleforce analytics and its reporting function gives its users the ability to expand their campaign capacity.  As a result, overall productivity can be increased and profit can be maximized.
  • Since Salesforce is an application and no software is required, there is no need for constant updates as Salesforce will update automatically.
  • Salesforce.com is a proven innovator. The company delivers new product features, and new capabilities, on a continuous basis.
  • Salesforce promotes an active user community—including customers and partners. Salesforce uses its Ideas software function to manage community input, its Radian6 cloud monitor to listen to online channels, social networks integration to liaise with customers in online venues. Too often CRM vendors do not practice the Customer Relationship Management strategy and execution they preach to the market, however, Salesforce.com clearly walks the walk.
  • The Salesforce user interface (UI) maximizes consumer technologies to deliver a simple and rewarding user experience. Navigation and logic follows that of eBay or Amazon.com. No instruction manuals required. This has delivered a strong positive effect in achieving user adoption—especially among sales professionals.
  • Salesforce.com’s combination of Force.com, other Platform as a Service tools and the AppExchange online marketplace lead the cloud CRM industry in terms of SaaS integration, software customization and third party extensibility.

 

Salesforce CRM Disadvantages

  • As Salesforce continues its transition from a CRM vendor to a platform provider, several CRM competitors have exceeded Salesforce’s CRM features and capabilities.
  • The marketing software is competitively weak in the cloud CRM industry.
  • Salesforce also does not offer sophisticated business intelligence (BI). If you seek data mining, data warehousing, online analytical processing (OLAP) or predictive analytics you will need to acquire third party software from AppExchange or elsewhere.
  • When reviewing features to features Salesforce is the highest priced product in the cloud CRM industry.
  • Salesforce becomes less competitive when looking beyond CRM. For businesses seeking broader business software suites, such as including accounting or ERP systems, the inconsistency and shallow integrations delivered with third party AppExchange vendors do not stand up as well to single vendor software products from competitors such as NetSuite and SAP Business ByDesign.
  • Salesforce generally does not provide a Service Level Agreement (SLA) unless the customer negotiates it. Even then, SLAs are inconsistent from customer to customer and offer lesser uptime guarantees than primary cloud CRM competitors.
  • At times, there can be too much customization and the interface can be filled with cumbersome and tedious tools which can be seen as repetitive or distracting.
  • Some users face difficulties in the transition between transactions.  Some have to go through multiple screens to process transactions.
  • Salesforce has its own maintenance schedule since runs on its own cloud server.  As a result, there are times that the application will not be accessible.
  • Users can also lose a personal touch as in the process of automation
  • Salesforce contains barriers to adoption.  This means that even though Salesforce is cheap, the cost to integrate the application and redesigning their IT to incorporate it into a company is not the same as the cost of acquiring Salesforce. It is possible that the cost of integrating it can exceed the costs of the software itself.

 

Next Steps

When evaluating Salesforce.com or identifying and recommending the most relevant and direct Salesforce competitors for comparison, we typically align specific company objectives to Salesforce software functionality and consider company size, user count, user goals, vertical market, geo-locations, internal resources, constraints such as budget and technical considerations such as integration and customization.

 

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