The Salesforce.com “Success On Demand Tour” hit Toronto last month, showcasing some of the on-demand CRM vendor’s Canadian customers as the company looks to expand its share of the Canadian mid-market.
It’s been over a year since the San Francisco-based company opened its Canadian office in Toronto, and Canadian customers like Fusepoint Managed Services and St. Joseph Print Group were on hand to share their experiences using Salesforce.com with prospective customers.
Kendall Collins, vice-president of product marketing with Salesforce.com, said the company has seen strong adoption in Canada. “I think Canadian customers, in terms of technology, are just as much on the bleeding edge of what they want to be doing as anybody else worldwide,” said Collins.
Last month, the company announced its first acquisition. Santa Monica, Calif.-based Sendia provides wireless platform technology to enable mobile applications. The company also recently launched AppExchange Mobile. It’s a counterpart to AppExchange, a market of free and for-purchase third-party-developed add-ons to expand the functionality of the Salesforce.com platform that was launched in January.
Collins said AppExchange mobile allows any of the customer-developed applications to be seamlessly delivered to mobile devices as well, without rewriting or recoding.
Rival NetSuite launched the latest version of its CRM suite last month, which includes ERP, e-commerce and accounting functionality as well, taking what the company calls a suite approach. At the launch, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson called Salesforce.com’s decision to focus closely on sales force automation too narrow, saying companies needed a suite approach like NetSuite’s to integrate their disparate enterprise applications.
Nelson’s comments were dismissed by Salesforce.com’s Collins, who added that he sees NetSuite’s suite vision as close-minded and short-sighted.
“It really focuses on customers trying to get everything from a single vendor, and we know that’s not what customers want,” said Collins. “Customers want the ability to run a variety of different applications and choose the best, and they want to be able to leverage the business Web and all of the Web services out there.”
Mauricio Rodriguez, a senior research analyst with the Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont., said he still sees the integration issue as a weakness for Salesforce.com.
“They’re very specialized in CRM, and in particular in the sales force automation functionality,” said Rodriguez. “Companies like Microsoft or NetSuite, they also offer the ERP packages so there’s more integration.”
He notes Salesforce.com responded to this weakness with AppExchange, taking an SOA approach to the integration issue with third-party middleware. It’s a smart move that makes integration easier, but he said integration is still easier with a company like Microsoft.
In the Canadian market, Rodriguez said he sees Salesforce.com as a late entrant compared to companies like Siebel (now part of Oracle) and NetSuite, but he added that he sees them as well-positioned for future growth, particularly with Oracle distracted with integrating Siebel and its other acquisitions in Project Fusion.
“In the Canadian mid-market there’s so much potential that even though they’re a little bit late I think they’re still very well-positioned,” said Rodriguez. “They’re the masters of the on-demand model.”
One of the users on hand at the road show event to share its experiences with SalesForce.com was Mississauga, Ont.,-based Fusepoint Managed Services. Fusepoint manages mission-critical applications, Web servers and database servers for its clients.
Fusepoint’s senior director of marketing, Randy Fougere, said FusePoint has been using Salesfore.com since October and has been pleased with the flexibility and functionality of the product, and the frequency of updates.
The company had previously been using an internally developed CRM application, but Fougere said it just wasn’t flexible. Any time they wanted to make a change it took six months for their IT department to get around to writing the code. As well, at 40 per cent adoption, the company’s sales team just wasn’t using the tool.
As Fusepoint enters a higher growth stage in its development, Fougere said the firm needed a tool to help it grow in a managed way, with processes to ensure customer service levels are being maintained.
“We redeveloped our processes because we wanted to make sure that all the data driving our business right to the board level came from Salesforce.com,” said Fougere. “If you actually drive your sales through Salesforce.com it’s a bit of a stick approach, but they begin to start loving it as a tool that helps them manage their time and their sales cycle.”