Salesforce.com CRM Software Review
By Nuria Nunez Rojas
Table of Contents
Products and Pricing
Workflow and Business Process Automation
Business Intelligence (BI)
Software Customization and Integration
Data Center Reliability and Security
Professional Services Support and Training
Salesforce.com CRM Software Summary
Other Comparable Vendors To Consider
Editors note: If you are evaluating Salesforce, you may also be interested in the recently published Salesforce.com CRM review by CRMsearch.com.
Incorporated in 1999, Salesforce.com (SFDC) has become the poster child for the concept of software-as-a-Service (SaaS). SaaS business systems are delivered over the Internet to users’ web browsers from a centrally hosted data center. SaaS eliminates the costs associated with procuring, installing and maintaining business applications within the customer’s information technology infrastructure. SaaS or on-demand business systems are normally licensed for a monthly or annual subscription fee instead of the much larger up front capital expenditures required of the more traditional on-premise enterprise applications. As a result, on-demand applications require substantially less initial and ongoing investment in software, hardware, implementation services and perpetual IT labor.
The Salesforce.com CRM software subscription service comes in multiple editions: Group Edition, Professional, Enterprise and Unlimited. Some users interviewed commented that they were unexpectedly up-sold after the initial acquisition, driven by function points that were only available in higher level editions. Certainly this is the case with Team Edition which has a limited functional set and few “bells and whistles”. The professional edition provides a reasonable baseline but still has basic limitations in many areas. For example professional edition has no campaign management, product catalog, offline or mobile access and one of the main gripes of this edition is that SFDC does not provide its application integration web services API (force.com) in Professional Edition. There are also limitations on the degree to which the solution can be customized, even in areas as basic as adding user defined fields to forms. A number of other features are simply not available without moving to the more expensive Enterprise or Unlimited Editions such as data integration through web services, territory management and basic workflow (Salesforce.com, 2008). A number of respondents that we spoke to indicated that these limitations resulted in them adopting the more expensive versions of SFDC’s popular solution, either immediately, or overtime. At the time of writing Unlimited Edition is priced at approximately £170 per ($199) user per month, Enterprise Edition is £85 ($125) per user per month and Professional Edition is £45 ($69) per user per month. (Salesforce.com, 2008). Several concerning comments were repeated in a theme substantiated on industry blogs and social media sites:
”They’ll Nickel & Dime you to Death”: “… One of my biggest complaints with Salesforce.com is how they seem focused on ways to nickel and dime their customers …”
InfoWorld Article, Howard Brown – Bait & Switch: “… the 'help' pages all make mention of exporting MY data--they just won't let me do it. This is so obnoxious and offensive to me as a user that I can't wait to get off this platform. The worst part of this is that I can't actually get MY DATA until a Sf.com sales person writes me back and sets me up to pay for it! What a joke, and what a terrible customer experience.”
Strategically, SFDC appears to be more focused on the concepts of delivering a platform for SaaS (aka Platform as a Service or PaaS) applications than the customer management or business applications themselves. The AppExchange provides over 800 applications that can be added to a SFDC Enterprise or Unlimited Edition installations. AppExchange is central to SFDC’s Wall Street driven growth model and has management and board room focus on Market Street in San Francisco.
Since 1999 with vast Silicon Valley funding, Salesforce.com has preached its mantra of “no software” representing the “on demand” nature of its information systems delivery approach. Initial investors in Salesforce.com were Marc Benioff, Larry Ellison, Halsey Minor (Minor was the founder of CNET and also the largest investor as well as silent partner in the development of salesforce.com), Magdelana Yelsil and Igor Siller. In June 2004, the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol CRM. The stock has performed well tripling in value since the IPO. SFDC’s 2008 revenues (at the time of writing) are estimated at $USD 748M and it expects to earn $US12M in net income.
The company's roots began with the provision of a SaaS based CRM (customer relationship management) solution. The primary modules supported included sales force automation, marketing and customer support. Each successive release of the product added capabilities to support customization and integration with other applications. More recently, SFDC has focused on expanding its market share through a series of initiatives under the banner of “force.com”. Force.com attempts to package SFDC enabled services into an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and includes a user interface technology called VisualForce. SFDC further supports this initiative through a series of solutions provided through the AppExchange. Applications that are available run the gamut from Finance & Administration to Marketing and everything in between. Partners such as Tibco & Informatica (Integration), Appirio (Sync), Intacct (Finance & Accounting), clickNconnect for Telephony are common examples. These applications have been built by independent software developers using or integrating with the sForce.com platform. The applications vary in scope and price depending on the specific solution. The AppExchange solutions are not supported directly by SFDC and therefore it is of strategic importance to recognize that your overall solution will have multiple points of accountability under this model. Some industry observers have criticized the AppExchange as simply a method to bridge gaps in the core SFDC solution set. AppExchange is still in its relative infancy and the future will determine its success or failure based on the ability of the applications to seamlessly integrated as SFDC changes the core solution and the longevity of some of the developers in whom SFDC customers using AppExchange place their trust.
Salesforce.com is headquartered in San Francisco, California, with regional headquarters in Dublin (covering Europe, Middle East, and Africa), Singapore (covering Asia Pacific less Japan), and Tokyo (covering Japan). SFDC currently has 43,600 customers and over 1,000,000 online users. Published documentation does not disclose the average number of subscribers in each customer. It is however recognized that while touting some large implementations, the predominance of SFDC’s customer base remains within the Small and Medium business sector (SMB).