SmoothSpan Blog

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Archive for September, 2007

New Tool for You, New Workflow for Me

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 21, 2007

I’m no Robert Scoble reading over 600 blogs every day, but I read a lot of blogs.  I try to process the information there, take notes in WordPress about anything I want to blog about, and then mark the item as read.  The trouble has been getting my Google Reader’s “Inbox” to empty.  So, I borrowed a tactic from the esteemed Scobleizer, and started using the Reader’s sharing feature.  Any article that looks interesting after a quick perusal gets marked for Sharing.  This leaves me with a searchable repository of articles that I’ve distilled around my interests–the feedstock for my blogging.  It leaves you with a resource, should you decide to use it, that let’s you access other blogs that I’ve personally selected as having interesting content.  Just click the link over on the left marked, “Bob’s Shared Google Reader.”

Welcome to my nightmare. 

Enjoy!

BW

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This Guy is Funny! (To Engineers at Least)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 21, 2007

EV only has 2 rants so far on his blog, but I wanted to pass along a few quotations that I found amusing.

From “On Programmers and Business“:

“The knowledge of at least one simple programming language soon will be as essential as basic writing skills. Because as the complexity of average software increases, professional programmers become less affordable and less accessible for basic programming tasks.”

There’s been a scarcity for a long time.  IT used to write all their own software, now a tiny fraction can still do it.  Engineers moved into ISV’s.  ISV’s used to be entirely onshore and centralized, now they use lots of overseas talent.  Great software engineers are born, not made, and the US has no monopoly on them.

“I have grown to suspect that a lot of companies are failing simply because they hired dumb engineers. “

Building a bad product is certainly one way to fail.  Building a great product for a non-existant market is another way.  People seem to worry more about the second than the first.  I’m not sure why.  The second problem has always seemed Tragically Knowable to me.  Go talk to customers.  Show them a prototype.  It need not take a huge investment to answer whether there is a market.

“It is damn near impossible to tell good programmer apart from a bad one unless you happened to be an engineer yourself. And most companies are not started by engineers.”

Unless you are an engineer, or you choose your head engineer based on a careful examination of their personal track record and references from people who would know.  It is an interesting conundrum for a Sales or Marketing background CEO who is non-technical.  Having a great CTO partner is a key ingredient to success.  It is extremely easy to baffle a non-Engineer with technical gobble-di-gook.

“A sufficiently dumb engineer may hurt you more than most competitors will. When organized in loose formations, even in modest numbers, they can even kill an otherwise healthy business.”

From “On Ecosystems of Smart Hackers“:

“As shocking as it may appear, money is not everything. Smart people like to hang out with other smart people. “

This is true, and absolutely a corrollary to “It is damn near impossible to tell good programmer apart from a bad one unless you happened to be an engineer yourself.”  It is damned near impossible to hire great engineers unless you have great engineering leaders and architects, and unless your culture values great engineers.  I’ve seen companies where the engineers are locked away and handed stone tablets by Product Managers.  If they get to make a decision at all, it’s about the deep dark internal guts of things.  Not helpful!

“Just don’t put “Java” in the job description and you’ll be fine.”

Now that’s funny.  Increasingly, Java is viewed as “not hip” by the intelligentsia out there in the Java community.  You’d be surprised by who doesn’t love Java.

“And no meetings, of course. Those who are terrified by total absence of meetings are worried for a very good reason. If you do not have much to do in such meetingless environment, maybe your position should… (it is always hard to call someone else’s baby ugly) … not exist to begin with?”

On this one, I will part company.  The alpha geeks I’ve worked with love to strut their stuff.  They like architecture reviews and discussions.  They like to see demos as features near completion.  They want to hear the gameplan from other groups.  They do, however, have little patience for rote meetings that involve going around the room and asking everyone what they did since the last meeting.  I would amend this to, “Don’t waste Engineer’s time by holding any Dilbert-style meetings.”

“The coolest software projects, most of their code base, were written between 10pm and 4am. And those, folks, are not your normal business hours. Surely some code gets written and checked in before lunch. Remember the last time your browser crashed? That was probably it.”

I had to laugh out loud on that one, but there is a grain of truth to it.  I haven’t seen a modern software outfit lately that insisted folks get in before 10am, but you never know. 

It’s good to hear a geek speak out.  There aren’t so many of us who are vocal.  Sales and Marketing Guys, take note.  Understand this guy’s scrawlings.  He represents the sort of mindset you will have to learn to reason with and influence if you want your product vision converted into great code.

Posted in saas | 3 Comments »

Oracle Could Buy NetSuite, But Salesforce is More to the Point (aka SaaS strategy for BIG ISV’s)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 21, 2007

Larry Dignan has an interesting post about Larry Ellison’s recent remarks on SaaS.  Ellison was responding to SAP’s ByDesign announcement, of course, and he was able to do so from a position of strength since Oracle’s most recent quarterly numbers were good.  He has essentially said that SaaS didn’t fit Oracle’s strategy (they’re adding value for big customers and SaaS is for smaller businesses) and that moreover it didn’t seem a very profitable business.  Dignan observes quite rightly that Larry owns a big piece of NetSuite, the SaaS vendor that’s working towards a near term IPO.  If Larry doesn’t think SaaS is a good business, why does he own a piece of it?

Dignan goes on to suggest that Larry is crazy like a fox and knows full well that SaaS can be a good business.  His long-term plan is simply to buy NetSuite if he needs a SaaS offering, and to stay with his core business and not face the pain of SaaS cannibalization otherwise.  Meanwhile, he has covered his bet, and if SAP stumbles, he can rub their noses in it.

It’s actually a pretty good plan, but Dignan isn’t thinking big enough.  When you’re Larry Ellison striving for world domination, NetSuite is a pretty minor statement.  If SaaS is working out and needs to imminently join Oracle’s arsenal, Larry should just buy Salesforce.com.  That’s the SaaS put-away shot, it makes a heck of a statement, and it further cements Oracle’s hegemony over CRM (they already bought Siebel).  NetSuite can come along for the ride too, but the Oracle shark has to find acquisition prey relentlessly, and it muts be of a certain scale to satisfy their appetites. 

What’s that you say?  Marc Benioff won’t go for it?  That’s what Duffield said at PeopleSoft.  When Don Larry comes calling, you better kiss the ring and take the silver, lest you get the lead instead.

I like the idea of major acquisition as a way for a really big ISV to get into SaaS.  If nothing else, it gives them significant recurring revenue before the cannibalization gets underway.  It also provides a bit of a protected game preserve because you’ve got a different product.  If you prefer Salesforce, go SaaS.  If you prefer Siebel, go On-premises.  It’s also classic Oracle vs SAP:  SAP must build it themselves, Oracle just buys it and gets a free move in the bargain.

Posted in saas, strategy | Leave a Comment »

Final Picks from the TechCrunch 40

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 20, 2007

Session 5: Productivity & Web Apps

Xobni: A personal e-mail assistant, also “Inbox” spelled backwards.  BTW, ever thought what “Evian” the expensive mineral water spells backwards?  Getting back to Xobni, it is way cool.  Dan Farber has a great review of all the stuff it’ll do for Outlook uses.  His laconic remark that he wonders what Microsoft Research has been doing all these years echoes my own sentiments posted earlier (and Google isn’t a whole lot better, BTW).  Microsoft doesn’t innovate.  In fact, people are joking that they want to go backward from Vista to XP.  If they were doing things like Xobni across their empire, people would be psyched.

Orgoo (1/2 Pick):  Gives you a unified dashboard for all of your email, instant messenger, and chat applications.  I love the concept, but it doesn’t go far enough.  I heard about integrated voice mail and email ages ago, and I still don’t have it.  With a raft of social networks and other things to subscribe to, someone needs to create a dashboard that aggregates it all and tells you where to start when you walk in. 

Session 6: Revenue Models & Analytics

ClickableManage ad campaigns across multiple networks.  We’re going to need a lot more tools like this one.  Imagine one that spans the gamut of Web 2.0 Personality Spaces and does a lot more than just managing ad campaigns.  It’s a big job, but a big company focused on really hitting their Web 2.0 strategy on all cylinders needs help managing the scope of such a campaign.

Session 7: Rich Media & Mashups

XRT3D:  Stands for “Extreme Reality 3D”.  Basically a Webcam watches you and your motions can be used for games and such.  This is cool, but it has been done before.  My friend Barry Spencer built a company around this concept.  Everyone loved the demoes as they do XRT3D, but Barry never could get it to monetize successfully.  Perhaps XRT3D will be better.  I know people I talk to love the Wii because getting some body english into it is just plain fun.

Posted in saas | 1 Comment »

SAP A1S, Now Business ByDesign, is Out! What Next?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 20, 2007

I gave my prognostication about what it all means before the release in my post SAP A1S Brings Competition to SaaS for the First Time.  As Zoli says over on his blog, the Enterprise Software World Changed Today.  Here’s a roundup of what I’m seeing out there with a few more of my own remarks.

  • Chris Cabrera, CEO of Incentive Compensation SaaS vendor Xactly had a great “welcome to the party” post.  He correctly focuses on the notions that customers have been in the driver’s seat when it comes to defining SaaS, and that SAP can’t change that, while at the same time acknowledging they provide “Big Bang Validation” to the SaaS marketplace.  Jeff Nolan writes over on GigaOm that Enterprise Software’s Future Lies With ISV’s.  With due respect to Jeff, I put Cabrera’s post first because he is right: the future of Enterprise Software Lies With Customers, not the ISV’s.  Even SAP can’t change that.  It is customers that are driving SAP to change themselves, and they will endure considerable pain to do so.
  • Phil Wainewright says SAP gets SaaS.  They didn’t just try to repurpose their existing offering, they built a product ground up for SaaS.  It looks to me from Phil’s post that SAP is still waffling on multitenancy, but that they’re at least directionally correct about it.  They are striving to create a “try before you buy experience”.  This is hugely important for SaaS, and a total departure from the old SAP products.  There is deep SOA as a means of interconnecting modules and bringing in the outside world.  SAP has begun the process of creating a community around Business ByDesign, which is another impressive step forward and a must-have for SaaS vendors.  There are, of course, some challenges too.  There is an apparent lack of customizability, something that few SaaS vendors get right, and that even Salesforce is having a tough time with.  Wainewright mentions a shortage of suitable partners.  Welcome to SaaS, which can be downright partner toxic if vendors don’t take care to create value-added roles for their partners.  He also feels that the SAP execs are not coming clean on whether this product has the potential to cannibalize and whether SAP will stand behind it in times of trouble.  This is a problem nearly impossible for conventional ISV’s to come to grips with.  Cabrera mentions it in his post as well.  For the conventional vendor, SaaS is sometimes in the heading of “be careful what you wish for.”  I would mention in SAP’s defense that as a European company, they have shown a willingness to ignore Wall Street and stick to their guns when they think they’re right.  It isn’t always the happiest thing for the share price on a given day, but when they’re vindicated, all is forgiven.  SaaS has great potential to be that sort of thing.
  • I’ve already mentioned Zoli’s post, but for his part, Zoli mentions the issue I brought up, which is that Salesforce and NetSuite will feel some competitive pain around this offering.  In an earlier post, Zoli predicts that after a series of stumbles and market evolution, SAP will become the dominant mid-market SaaS player.  That’s a bold prediction.  It will be interesting to see whether the schizophrenia of combining the Dr Jeckyl of SaaS with the Mr Hyde of their core business can be overcome well enough for the organization to execute at the level that is needed for such a prediction to come true.  Way too early to say.
  • Nick Carr over on Rough Type flatly says he doesn’t believe Zoli’s prediction.  His post suggests SAP has unleashed a cannibal.  The company most threatened by the new product will be SAP itself.  Their problem may be the success of SaaS itself, particularly if, as James Governor suggests, it replaces the core product with 1/10 the revenue.  I’ve said it many times:  SaaS is an extremely disruptive business model.  Conventional ISV’s can’t switch over on a whim.  Making the change is much like amputating a limb in civil war days because it was preferable to dealing with the infection that might otherwise result from a gunshot wound.
  • And speaking of James Governor’s post on ByDesign, he tells us such things as ByDesign was specifically designed not to require customization, and that SAP expects to add 10K customers a year to it by 2010.  He seems mostly to feel that SAP really missed the boat on their quasi-AJAX UI, which is evidently nowhere near cool.  It’s also a continuation of SAP’s “not invented here” philosophy in that they built it entirely themselves.  Perhaps things would’ve turned out better had they borrowed Flex in the same way Workday did.
  • Grant Gross of Computerworld writes that SAP will invest over $400M in marketing to tell customers about ByDesign.  SaaS vendors should be sending Henning Kagerman a personal note of thanks.  Marc Benioff has been the patron saint of building the SaaS religion, and he now has more help.  If there was ever a doubt that SaaS would keep expanding its base of converts, that should be laid to rest right here and now.
  • Meanwhile, Ben Worthen of the WSJ charges that this is just a too-timid toe in the water of SaaS.  He has zeroed in on the lack of true multitenancy, and the fact the everyone isn’t constantly updated to the latest version.  That’s a pretty big omission.  I can live without multitenancy per se–it largely serves to reduce the ISV’s costs and could be built later, but not keeping customers up to date will reflect negatively on their experience.  Forrester is quoted as saying it won’t matter until a few years down the road when the customer has to do a Big Bang upgrade, but I disagree.  Point revs and patches are the bigger issue.  Tech Support professionals I’ve talked to say that as many as 70% of bugs reported are already fixed in the latest version of the software.  That means a vendor that keeps everyone up to date eliminates 70% of their unhappy Tech Support calls.  Waffling on this article of the SaaS religion is one of those things that makes you wonder whether SAP will carry through on the rest if they meet much pushback from traditional mindset customers.

So there you have it.  A survey after the first day.  Clearly there are a lot of challenges for SAP.  Just as clearly, it is a watershed event in Enterprise Software History.  Time will tell how it all works out!

Posted in saas | 4 Comments »

A Merger of SaaS and Open Source

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 20, 2007

Ben Kepes has some fascinating ideas about how to merge SaaS and Open Source.  I’ll admit, I posed the question to him in response to another post he’d made, but his answers are well worth thinking about.

One of the things Ben asks is why there can’t be a SaaS Open Source company?  In other words, why not open up the source of the SaaS offering?  Given that a tremendous amount of what SaaS provides is Service not software, that’s an intriguing proposition.  Perhaps they could afford to give up some source and open it for others to play with. 

Some questions would have to be worked out:

–  How do we keep SaaS competitors from springing up with the open source code?  My answer would be to keep some essential part of it closed, but to open up the interesting parts to work on.  For example, if we had Salesforce to do over again, Force the platform would be closed.  It’s the razor.  The Salesforce CRM application would be open.  It’s the blade.  This would make it dramatically easier for anyone to add new functionality to the core application.

–  SaaS wants everyone to run the same version.  Open Source allows tons of versions to co-exist.  This one is a trade off.  If you want the benefits of Open Source, new versions have to be able to coexist and customers have to be able to choose which version they want to be on and when to upgrade.  I would envision each version as being multitenant, however.

There are probably a lot of other questions, but I think Ben’s brought up a new business model that may just make a lot of sense to someone.

Posted in saas | 11 Comments »

We Are Using Tools That Simply Were Not Made For The Job

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 20, 2007

So says Albert Wenger on the Union Square blog.  Albert has written an excellent variation on my 70% of the software you write is wasted and Multicore Crisis themes.  Key areas he brings up as “wasted” work that should be handled by the tools include:

– Database tuning

– Hosting

– User Management

– The relational database model doesn’t scale nor make it easy to build apps

– Web servers aren’t set up to make horizontal scaling of apps easy, you have to add “load balancers, reverse proxies, caches and all sorts of other paraphernalia just to make stuff work together”

He points out that most new tools like Ruby are more focused on adding features rapidly and do little to help, or worse interfere with scaling.

The list goes on, and Wenger is right.  Most of the tools we’re using have their roots in the 70’s, when C was invented, 1972 to be precise.  How many of the Web Wunderkind were even around at that point?  C++ appeared in 1983, and Java in 1995.  I read recently the ASCII emoticon is 25 years old.  Mashable talks like its ancient and nearly obsolete, but its on a par with our tools.  Why are we surprised they don’t do the job so well any more? 

Posted in saas | 1 Comment »

Flex/Flash Solve A Lot of Problems: They May Be Disintermediating the Browser

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 20, 2007

Joel Spolsky gave out a big yada yada post over at his blog that wound up saying the browser incompatibility has got to stop.  He draws parallels with how portability won the day in programming languages.  A lot of what he says is right, some of it is just plain wrong:

The winners are going to do what worked at Bell Labs in 1978: build a programming language, like C, that’s portable and efficient. It should compile down to “native” code (native code being JavaScript and DOMs) with different backends for different target platforms, where the compiler writers obsess about performance so you don’t have to.

It’s a fond rememberance, but C definitely made the programmer, not the compiler writer obsess on performance.  C was and is a portable assembly language.  So many of its features include pre- and post- operators, wild pointer arithmetic, and macros are drawn straight from the instruction set of the PDP-11 it was created for.  Writing a C compiler is pretty darned easy, and the list of optimizations you can do on C is relatively short because the language is already basically an assembly language.  But we digress.

Spolsky wants to rely on some sort of compiler to generate Javascript/DOM “native code” that every browser will get right. 

My response, posted to somewhat the wrong place in Sam Ruby’s blog, was to suggest that things like Flex are solving this problem for those that want to build RIA’s.  Imagine my surprise when I went on down the blog reader and found Ryan Stewart saying essentially the same thing!  And there were others, such as Tim Anderson.

There is that old saying: once is bad luck, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy activity.  Woot!

This made me think back to my 7 Tactics for Building a Guerrilla Platform and see that Adobe (and Microsoft with Silverlight wants a piece too) has used a few of those tactics.  Heck, they’ve used every single tactic:

Tactic #1:  Launch a great application that contains a thinly concealed platform.  Flash was the great application for animation.  Flex is a platform built around Flash.

Tactic #2:  Give away a distributed open protocol.  Flash qualifies here again.

Tactic #3:  Be the middleman and establish a bridge protocol that resolves the differences in other platforms.  Hey, that’s what we’re talking about here, resolving browser incompatibilities!

Tactic #4:  Talk down your platform:  “Don’t mind us, we just want to help web designers make cool stuff on the web.  We like all the other web stuff too.  Tra-la-la-la-la.”

Tactic #5:  Minimize the friction to get in a little bit at a time and maximize lock-in.  Check!  The more content you produce, the more inertia you have to keep you with the platform.  Meanwhile, Adobe tells us they have 99.99999% or whatever it is penetration and nothing else comes close.

Tactic #6:  Quid pro quo.  Give away something valuable to make platform participants unwitting participators in your plans for platform domination.  The Flash player is free.  You do want to see all that cool Flash content, right?

Tactic #7:  Give away a Widget on another platform to subconsciously convert people to supporting your platform.  That Flash in my browser is an awful lot like a Widget, isn’t it?Isn’t it cool to see all 7 tactics at work simultaneously?  Those Adobe guys sure are smart, huh? 

I love it when a plan for world domination comes together…

Posted in platforms, ria, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

And Now For Something Completely Different: Visual Programming Cracks the Multicore Barrier

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 19, 2007

I’ve been admiring LabView, a visual programming language created by a company called National Instruments.  To be precise, the language is actually called “G”.  These guys didn’t set out to solve the multicore problem, in fact LabView was introduced way back in 1986 before anyone was worried about multicore.  It’s used in data acquisition, instrument control, and industrial automation tasks. 

Jim Kring called my attention to LabView in a couple of different ways.  First, I came across his great book, LabView for Everyone, in a Borders Books.  It’s a wonderful introduction to the potential for this language, but you won’t find the book in the programming section–it’s over by the Engineering books.  Second, Jim and I have corresponded about the Multicore Crisis for a little while and he recently posted on his great blog about how LabView is one potential answer to the problem.

Why is LabView able to scale more easily than conventional curly braced languages?  The answer is simple, and perhaps surprising: because the language says very little about the sequence of execution.  It is what’s called a Dataflow Language.  You’re almost certainly familiar with the world’s most common dataflow language already: spreadsheets.  Like spreadsheets, LabView has a very simple way of specifying sequence of execution.  An object in LabView executes whenever all of its inputs are ready.  This corresponds to a spreadsheet where a formula may be recalculated as soon as any other cells it depends on have been recalculated.  So, in theory, every single cell in the spreadsheet that creates an input for a certain cell may be computed in parallel.  Likewise with the objects in LabView.  Conventional languages, by contrast, consist of lists of steps that must be evaluated strictly in order.

Here is the other amazing thing about these two.  People may complain about how hard it is to learn parallel languages like Erlang, but who complains about learning spreadsheets?  They’re easy.  LabView is so easy that National Instruments has managed to build an almost $700M a year business around it.  Their EBITDA income was a little over $100M on that, and they are growing at about 20% a year.  Now Sun won’t break out Java’s revenues, but this company is nearly 10% of Sun’s size.  I have to figure that if Java were close to $700M they’d want to talk about it.  How’s that for the biggest language company you’ve never heard of?

When we compare LabView to something like Erlang, it shows up pretty well.  Recursion is a fundamental construct in many parallel languages like Erlang, but it isn’t necessarily a fundamental construct for many human minds.  Yet the idea of delegation, which is one form of parallelism, and of an assembly line, another form of parallelism often called pipelining, is very natural for people, and is inherent in dataflow languages such as spreadsheets and LabView.

There are other languages like this floating around too.  Yahoo’s Pipes is one designed for doing mashups that’s very cool.  The ease of use seems to carry over into this domain too as I read various examples:

The list goes on, but there seems to be a lot of potential unleashed when you quit thinking about things as a linear list to be solved strictly in order and break loose a bit more parallelism.  Like I said, it’s something completely different to think about.

Posted in multicore, platforms, ria, software development, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

The Ugly Truth About the Force Platform: Salesforce’s is no better than SAP’s or Oracle’s

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 19, 2007

Phil Wainewright’s Digging Beneath Salesforce.com’s Platform Hype is all about how there didn’t seem to be much beef involved in the long series of keynotes about Force, the new name for the Salesforce platform.  Phil concludes that this had to be done because Salesforce needs to convince the Thought Leaders out there that it is more than just a CRM company.  I take away a different conclusion about the lack of substance.

As LucidEra’s CEO Ken Rudin says:

Trying to move from on-premise to on-demand is not just an exercise in relocation of software. On-demand is much more than that. It’s about making a solution that is easy to set up and easy to use.

The italics are mine.  For “easy to set up”, let’s substitue “easy to customize”.  Rudin waxes eloquent about how hard conventional software like Business Objects and SAP is to customize and how this difficulty is not a function of which data center the software is located in.  If you take a product that’s hard to customize and host it, you do not have SaaS, you have SoSaaS (Same Old Software As A Service).  That ain’t all bad, and it is better than conventional software for a variety of reasons, but it isn’t what we really wanted which is to radically improve the platform concept by making it a lot easier.

My problem with Salesforce is I am having a terrific amount of trouble seeing Force as any easier a customization mechanism than what the SAP’s and Oracle’s have to offer today.  Come to that, it’s hard to see it as an easier platform for creating new applications either.  Don’t take my word for it, have a look at the AppEx Language Reference.  That book gives the following description of the advantage offered by using AppEx versus conventional languages:

These client-side programs, typically written in Java, JavaScript, or .NET, grant organizations more flexibility in their customizations. However, because the controlling logic for these client-side programs is not located on Apex platform servers, the clients are restricted by:

• The performance costs of making multiple round-trips to the salesforce.com site to accomplish common business transactions

• The lack of transactional control across API requests

It goes on to say:

Using syntax that looks like Java and acts like database stored procedures, Apex Code allows developers to add business logic to most system events, including button clicks, related record updates, and custom s-control displays.

So, we get a bit better performance and we can make multiple API requests within a single transaction. All this is done using a language that looks like Java.  Folks, I have to tell you, that isn’t revolutionary and the esteemed On-premise Big Boys will tell you their platforms do the same.

VisualForce offers very little new as well.  First of all, it isn’t a visual tool, it’s a tool for creating visual changes.  It uses a tagging language not unlike ASP or JSP to make those changes.  It is cool that you can open a little source window below your app when working on it, and it’s great that the look and feel of Salesforce can finally be customized, but once again, this has all been available for the other players for a long time.

Force confirms what a lot of folks in Silicon Valley have been saying for a long time: the tremendous success of Salesforce.com is part their own stupendous efforts, and part that their domain is tailor-made for SaaS.  It is tailor-made because it requires little customization.  SFDC got to 900,000 seats without much of a platform, and they’ll get much further as well.  Their platform is assured a certain amount of success for those who wish to use it as a way to build more components to tie to Salesforce or as a way to extract sales leads from the vibrant Salesforce ecosystem.

Delivering an order of magnitude simplification for customization is extremely difficult to do.  Lots of innovation is required.  Most SaaS vendors opt for just not letting their users perform much customization.  It’s surprising how often this works.  It gives customers a reason to accept “no” and keep their project simpler.  This gets them value that much sooner and often the customizations are never missed.

Whether the Force platform becomes a major strategic driver by being the foundation for many applications that have nothing to do with Salesforce will be a function of how well the hype works and how quickly they are able to add functionality to give that platform the advantages it lacks today.  What they won’t have going for them is the natural domain:  platforms are all about customization and just hosting them isn’t enough to make them compelling.  That’s not a bad thing at all.  Owning a platform that works around CRM and adjacent spaces is still extremely valuable.  It just doesn’t catapult Salesforce into the position of radical expansion beyond CRM.

Posted in platforms, saas, software development | 3 Comments »

 
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