Salesforce.com rolled out its Force.com Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) enablement platform last week after plenty of fanfare at its Dreamforce conference in September. The launch of the platform has sparked a new round of debates regarding the merits of Salesforce.com’s application development toolkit and its service delivery capabilities.
I’ve said many times in this blog and elsewhere, there is no more important or innovative player in the SaaS market than Salesforce.com. Every SaaS user and SaaS provider owes a debt of gratitude to Marc Benioff and Salesforce.com for pioneering the on-demand software services market and setting the standard for enterprise-class SaaS solutions.
While some elements in Salesforce.com’s strategies and solutions can be criticized as self-serving or ineffective, the company’s overall impact on the growth of the SaaS market cannot be denied.
Salesforce.com has set the bar for designing simple yet effective web-based business applications. It has shown how business applications can replicate the simplicity of popular on-demand services, while proving that SaaS can still meet the rigorous requirements of today’s corporate compliance regulations. It has also devised successful sales strategies for selling these applications to business end-users rather than IT departments.
Salesforce.com could have easily kept these accomplishments to itself in order to build its lead in the SaaS market, but wisely recognized that its long-term success depended on its ability to build an ecosystem of third-party applications and services around its core offerings.
This is the same strategy which has made every software company before it successful, including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. These companies, and others, built their ecosystems and expanded their market penetration by making it easy for third-party developers to build applications on their software architectures. That is exactly what Salesforce.com set out to do with its AppExchange and is now extending with its Force.com platform.
Others may bicker about the iterative way in which Salesforce.com has evolved its platform capabilities and branding strategy from its AppExchange roots to its current Force.com form. But, what other company has created the same runway for SaaS solutions?
When it comes to SaaS platforms and partner ecosystems, the established players are still getting their acts together. Microsoft is a work in progress. Google is an enigma. Oracle is seen as primarily a database company. And, IBM is primarily good for middleware and hosting services. But, none has created a comparable set of platform tools and partner programs to match Salesforce.com.