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Salesforce, MS Deal Could Put Mobile CRM on Steroids

Salesforce, MS Deal Could Put Mobile CRM on Steroids

CRM is still very much a siloed experience on mobile, with some apps or platforms specializing in marketing, while others specialize in sales, and a growing number home in on service. The twain rarely meet, though, at least not on the small screen. A union between Salesforce.com and Microsoft -- the poster child for business productivity -- finally could bridge that gap.

By Erika Morphy
05/30/14 3:05 PM PT

Now "anyone can run their business from their phone," Salesforce.com recently promised when it announced its Salesforce1 Mobile App. Many company announcements tend to overpromise, and Salesforce has a tendency to be particularly exuberant, so I took it with the customary grain of salt.

My skepticism vanished on Thursday, when Salesforce and Microsoft announced a global strategic partnership to connect Salesforce.com's CRM apps and platforms with Microsoft Office and Windows.

Users will be able to use OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online as integrated storage options for Salesforce, for example. They will be able to use Salesforce and Outlook together with a new Salesforce App for Outlook. Another feature of the partnership will be the ability to connect Salesforce data to Excel and Power BI for Office 365 to visualize information and find new insights.

In short, users will be able to access, share, edit and collaborate on Office content within Salesforce -- and on Salesforce1 using Office Mobile, Office for iPad and Office 365.

The companies have promised to release Salesforce1 for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1.

Mobile Still a Silo

These plans for integration, along with the role mobile apparently will play, suggest that what seemed like little more than a tantalizing marketing ploy -- running your business from your phone -- is somewhat closer to fruition than we may have thought.

Devotees of these technologies might argue that integration is already here. "Look at the wealth of mobile apps aimed at business productivity!" I can imagine them saying. "Look at the robust functionality that Salesforce apps offer -- even those provided by startups!"

Point taken -- but mobile, especially mobile CRM, has not gone the last mile and provided enough integration among the various pieces to provide a true holistic view of an entire business.

CRM is still very much a siloed experience on mobile, with some apps or platforms specializing in marketing, while others -- many others -- specialize in sales, and a growing number home in on service. The twain rarely meet, though, at least not on the small screen.

A union between Salesforce.com, which has started focusing on mobile initiatives in the last few years, and Microsoft -- the poster child for business productivity -- finally could bridge that gap.

Market Realities

This mobile ideal probably was not the driving force behind Salesforce.com's and Microsoft's partnership, speculated Charles King, principal with Pund-IT.

"If I had to guess, the immediate factor was the departure of Steve Ballmer, and the long-brewing reason was the recognition by both companies that neither one will be able to crowbar the other out of their respective markets," he told CRM Buyer, "and both stood to gain more by working with each other."

It was, at bottom, "a recognition of market realities," King said.

Even with Salesforce.com and Microsoft making nice, though, it is hard to imagine a business truly being able to complete all the computing tasks it needs on a mobile device -- and only a mobile device -- in the near future. Who would want to?

"Personally, I wouldn't want to deal with a 100-column spreadsheet on my phone," said King.

Nevertheless, he would like the option of being able to access that spreadsheet, refer to it during a business meeting, and drill down into specific items, if necessary.

Mobile devices are evolving and will meet software providers such as Salesforce.com and Microsoft more than halfway in reaching that goal, King maintained.

"Whether or not we ever get to the point where we literally could run an entire business from a smartphone remains to be seen," he said, "but if we do get there, it will be because of partnerships like Salesforce.com's and Microsoft's -- a cross-pollination between different vendors, different platforms, and different devices all coming together."


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


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