InsightaaS: Techaisle is, in my experience, the best source of data and insight on IT use by SMBs and on the channels that provide services to the SMB market; its founder and president, Anurag Agrawal (who is thanked in the dedication to my new book on cloud) has earned the informal title, “SMB guru,” that he is known by in the IT industry.
This post provides a great example of why suppliers and buyers look to Techaisle for insight into SMB requirements and trends. In it, Agrawal looks at the new Salesforce.com (SFDC) analytics offering, Wave, examining “the good, the bad and the ugly” aspects of the offering. “The good” is easy to see: Techaisle’s extensive primary research demonstrates that SMBs are looking for BI/analytics capabilities, and as a result, Wave addresses a pronounced need. Agrawal positions BI within Techaisle’s “SMB wheel of CRM productivity,” showing that it is one of nine CRM extensions needed by SMBs. Agrawal goes on to explain that more than 40% of SMBs are looking for BI applied to one or more of financial analysis, sales tracking and business activity monitoring – making an SFDC-linked BI product a natural fit for the needs of SMBs.
However, the bad and ugly follow in quick succession. In Agrawal’s view, “the bad” stems from Wave’s focus on structured dashboards rather than ad hoc query capabilities means that it needs additional customization. Most SMBs shy away from this kind of IT involvement/investment – and in any event, the customization partners touted by SFDC at Dreamforce (Accenture, Deloitte) are not well-suited to SMBs. “The ugly,” Agrawal states, arises from SFDC’s emergence as a platform rather than an application. Agrawal believes that “When software becomes a platform it develops a tendency to move over to the ‘dark side’: It unconsciously forces a lock-in, reduces the pace of innovation, limits price protection and restricts future proofing.” Agrawal finds that SFDC SMB customers are already experiencing this, quoting one as saying that SFDC will “list per-month prices, but the contracts are executed in years’ terms”. Agrawal observers that “taken as a whole [SFDC’s approach] flies in the face of everything that is cloud,” and asks, “Is it time for SMBs to find a new champion? And can they, or is the Salesforce grip already too tight?”
Until a few years ago a set of scary questions used to be debated in many business board rooms. “Fire the CEO, CFO or SAP?” Nobody dared to fire SAP. Fast forward today, are we reaching the same set of questions with a difference — replacing SAP with Salesforce.com? Recent Dreamforce 2014, Salesforce.com’s annual gala event firmly established the company’s foothold in the industry and its increasing grip on the enterprise and businesses of all sizes. This year, there was also an increased focus on SMBs, a “back-to-the-roots” story, the backbone on which Salesforce.com launched its “no software” business but somewhere along the way lost sight of SMBs. But then Salesforce.com is no longer a software company, it is a platform company. Is the “no software” logo still valid? Is the company still suitable for SMBs?
Over the last three years, Salesforce.com has successfully added solutions to its portfolio and has checked off an important spoke in the SMB Wheel of CRM Productivity with business intelligence, one of key elements in the overall CRM productivity suite. Many of the other issues are addressed by the rich Salesforce.com partner ecosystem that connects via Force.com. Combined, these applications provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. Experience shows that as a software category matures, suite providers eventually win out against point product players. And Salesforce.com is winning.
As Salesforce began its foray into the enterprise world, it seemed that it neglected its SMB market, which grew almost in spite of Salesforce’s lack of attention. However, from 2015 onwards, SFDC promises change as it is committing to doubling its investments in SMB education and driving growth…