Salesforce.com's Best Shopping Bets
Corporate decision-makers are increasingly unhappy with legacy BI products and looking at on-demand alternatives. Acquiring a BI/analytics company would not only enhance Salesforce.com's functionality, but also give it another mechanism to expand its DaaS capabilities by converting aggregated performance metadata into industry benchmarks and best practices, strengthening the "stickiness" of Salesforce.com's solutions.
Salesforce.com is on a buying binge as it attempts to build on its extraordinary sales momentum and broaden its market penetration within existing customer organizations and among new organizations.
Since the end of last year, Salesforce.com has acquired five companies starting with Heroku and Etacts in December, Dimdim in January, Manymoon in February, and Radian6 at the end of March.
The Heroku acquisition fortified its Force.com Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities. Dimdim added Web conferencing, and Marymoon provided additional project management capabilities to Salesforce.com's CRM and its Chatter social networking platform. In addition, Radian6 gives Salesforce.com Chatter users a powerful management dashboard to monitor and measure the productivity of their social networking activities and initiatives.
Few companies have been as successful as Salesforce.com in assimilating their acquisitions into their ongoing operations and product portfolios. Prior to the surge that began in December, the company made 10 acquisitions, starting in 2006 with Sendia, which has been instrumental in extending Salesforce.com's mobile capabilities. Kieden was one of the first companies to build a third-party app on Salesforce.com's programming language (before it became Force.com) to link Salesforce CRM with Google AdWords.
Kenlet's CrispyNews became the basis of Salesforce IdeaExchange, which has been relaunched as Salesforce Ideas. Koral became a key component of Salesforce Content. Instranet is a critical part of Salesforce Knowledge. GroupSwim became a cornerstone of Chatter.
Informavores has become a vital part of Visual Process Manager. Jigsaw Data is driving Salesforce.com's Data as a Service (DaaS) strategy. Sitemasher has strengthened Salesforce.com's SiteForce. And Activa Live Chat has added chat capabilities to Chatter and Salesforce.com's CRM.
So, where will Salesforce.com turn next to enhance its current capabilities and extend its reach in the market?
The popular pick is marketing automation, which is an obvious extension to its primary salesforce automation functionality. IBM has already made a move in this area with its acquisition of Unica.
I expect Salesforce.com to continue to make numerous point purchases of relatively small players that are innovating in various corners of the collaboration world. However, I would also recommend the company pursue more strategic acquisitions in the following areas to strengthen its position in the market:
BI/Analytics: Despite initial pessimistic forecasts from the market research firms that business intelligence (BI) and analytics would be among the last segments of the software world to move to the cloud and shift to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, corporate decision-makers -- both business and IT executives -- are increasingly unhappy with legacy BI products and looking at on-demand alternatives.
Acquiring a BI/analytics company would not only enhance Salesforce.com's functionality, but also give it another mechanism to expand its DaaS capabilities by converting aggregated performance metadata into industry benchmarks and best practices, which would strengthen the "stickiness" of Salesforce.com's solutions.
E-Commerce Billing/Provisioning: Salesforce.com funded Zuora to foster the development of a more powerful provisioning platform to keep pace with the increasing demands of the on-demand services world.
Salesforce.com's internal billing processes and those of its AppExchange partners are continually being tested by escalating demand for their services. Adding a more powerful and automated billing and provisioning engine to Force.com and marketing it to the broader commercial marketplace could produce enormous new revenue opportunities.
E-Procurement: Salesforce.com has built its reputation by helping users increase sales and improve their service capabilities. Helping organizations better manage their spending is a logical next step, especially in light of its investment in FinancialForce.com and recent alliance with Intuit.
Salesforce.com can become an important e-procurement player in a manner that also gives customers access to a community of "certified" cloud vendors and offers a repository of industry best practice procurement statistics (DaaS) that would be very attractive to corporate decision-makers.
These are just some of the strategic directions that might be in Salesforce.com's acquisition plans. Let me know if you have additional ideas.
(Disclosure: Salesforce.com and IBM have been THINKstrategies clients.)