Last month, we were delighted by the turn out for Forcewest, the group we have established for Salesforce.com professionals in the South West. There was a huge amount of interest in the platform and our next event is planned for 2 February 2012. We will be publicising details of this next event very soon, but in the meantime, here is the presentation we gave on the evening, all be it in a digested format:- ‘The 10 most important things we have learned about Salesforce.com.’
1 They are big and they are growing fast
Established in 1999 by CEO Marc Benioff with an investment of $2m, this company now has a turnover of $1.4bn. Named by Forbes magazine as the world’s most innovative company with the most innovative leader, they are the leaders of cloud based CRM, set to soon outperform Oracle and SAP.
Their unique business model allows their software to be tailored to every business requirement imaginable in the form of custom built apps, with 170,000 apps available written by other companies and running on Salesforce.com technology.
With 100,000 customers and approximately 1 million users logging in everyday, this company is as relevant to the major players (DELL, Coca Cola, Burberry, Groupon etc) as it is to the start-up.
2 We are going to hear a lot more about the ‘Social Enterprise’
The way in which we use the internet is changing. A quarter of all time spent online is spent on social networking sites such as Facebook. We use mobile devices now to go online, rather than relying on desktop and as a result we are seeing development concentrated on mobile applications. Businesses who dismiss the ‘Social Enterprise’ as something which is not relevant to them are making a big mistake. It’s businesses using social media technology to better serve their customers who are way ahead of the competition. Take a look at the City Link case study
3 Salesforce.com is a lot more than a CRM system
Salesforce.com is most widely known as a CRM system, but in many ways, this is the just the tip of the iceberg. Sales Cloud and Service Cloud are the two cross-business enterprise products which focus on customer management. They are examples of applications created using Force.com, Salesforce.com’s development platform open to third parties.
Other examples of successful applications developed on this platform are Data Cloud and Remedy Force. In the case of these two examples, so successful that Salesforce.com acquired the authors.
Custom applications can them be made available via the AppExchange ecosystem, these can be tools and utilities to enhance and enrich Salesforce applications, e.g. LinkedIn or Constant Contact. Or, they can be stand-alone applications, anything from for ERP applications to small business financial planning and management.
Chatter is the feature which runs throughout the system, It is a technology with the potential to unite separate applications and allow all parts of an organisation to collaborate together sharing information and tracking progress. Chatter aims to flatten the hierarchy of teams and organizations and we believe Chatter will change the way we do business, so let’s look at Chatter a bit more.......
4 Chatter - Putting the ‘Social’ into the ‘Enterprise’
What is Chatter? If you look on the salesforce.com website, you will find Chatter described as ‘A collaborative application for the enterprise to connect and share information with people at work in real-time’.
What does that actually mean? It means that the way we do business is changing for good.
How does it work? In short it will work in a different way for every company that uses it - the possibilities are endless. In order to tackle a subject this big, one of the best places to start would be with the top 10 examples of how to use Chatter, found on the website.
Why is different to other offerings on the market? Other third party vendors have developed similar technology (Microsoft for example) but what is really exciting about Salesforce.com’s Chatter offering is that, it is available without upgrade or install by virtue of the cloud. And importantly it is free.
5 Getting started developing on the Force.com platform is straightforward and free
The Force.com developer edition is free – anyone can get started today. Free developer instances are available directly from the Developerforce website. There are no limits to how long you can keep your developer sandbox for and you can own multiple developer environments concurrently. There is also no need to create a development environment, as all code can be written through using an internet browser.
Do you need resources to get started? They are free too. There are many step-by-step exercise workbooks to enable developers to become familiar with using the platform in general and any specific areas of functionality they are interested in.
Even if you intend to create a system by an entirely separate method, the theory and basic interface of a system can be demonstrated quickly using Salesforce.com. which makes for a highly effective prototyping tool. There is no need to request resources or build an environment, just request a new developer environment, and start building custom pages and classes.
One final point - you can easily collaborate with your client - Because the force.com platform is web based technology, your client can have access to try your app at any time during the development cycle.
6 Governor limits are the single most important factor of any custom development
Governor limits control the number of Salesforce.com shared resources you may use during any single action or process. For example, they govern the number of database queries you can use, how many web services requests you can make, or how often jobs can be scheduled to run. The principles are based on fair usage – within the multi-tenancy architecture model, basically you have to share, and there are only so many resources to go round.
It took us a while, but we have learned to love governor limits. They encourage more resourceful and efficient coding. If you exceed limits during your application development, it’s time to review the code and find a more effective way of allocating the resource available.
7 Licensing arrangements for Salesforce.com custom developments are a little complex
Pricing for the standard Salesforce.com CRM user licences is straightforward, and based on the number of user accounts you want to buy. For custom development however, you need to prepare to have an open mind ... There are many factors to take into consideration and prices will vary according to different levels of exposure to the features on the platform. The base rate itself can vary and that will take some negotiation directly with Salesforce.com. If you have external users, this introduces even more complexity.
The answer lies in a flexible approach. Pick up the phone and speak to Salesforce.com directly, or even better, negotiate with your AE face to face. There is the potential for two systems sitting side to side on the same cloud infrastructure, using the same resources, to have two different price tags. And you don’t want to be the one paying the most
It is as well to be prepared for this from the start. Negotiation takes some time, so needs to be built into your project plan.
8 Salesforce.com conferences are awesome
Their conferences are on a massive scale. This year, we attended Dreamforce 2011 in San Francisco. Dreamforce is the biggest annual Salesforce.com conference, and the event this year was officially the largest conference in the Enterprise Software Industry. Over 45,000 people registered to attend the event, with tens of thousands more watching the conference keynotes through live streaming. The entertainment was provided by Metallica and Will.I.am...!
If that wasn’t enough, the thing that really makes Dreamforce unique is the opportunity it provides for hands-on learning. Developers can meet the Salesforce.com solutions teams and partners and see them demonstrate thousands of integrated solutions and app exhchange products, in a workshop environment.
The whole event was an incredible way to generate enthusiasm and positivity. At Desynit, we got a real sense of the scale of cloud computing and the social enterprise, and the way in which we could apply this technology in the real world.
9 When technology moves this quickly, you’ve got to keep an open mind
With three releases a year (Spring, Summer and Winter) Salesforce.com set themselves an ambitious schedule to introduce new features. Consider that companies like Oracle only make a major release once every three to four years. Salesforce adopt the agile methodology and have teams of no more than 10 working on specific features. These teams are for the most part developer led which no doubt contributes to the amount of features which make it in to a release.
With development moving on at this pace, sometimes there can be a few gaps. There was a time when we might have thought waiting the extra year or so to have a release which was more, shall we say, “fully formed” was preferable but the advantages of embracing and adopting technologies that are at the very forefront of our industry at such an exciting time means that a few gnashings of teeth and biting of fingernails is a small price to pay. That’s where the Salesforce.com developer community comes in and needs to help each other out to plug the gaps.
10 The need for a Salesforce.com community
Salesforce.com is a growing fast and the pace of development is breathtaking. With a platform on this scale, developing this rapidly, knowledge no one person can stay on top of all the areas in which this technology can be applied (and if you think you can, come and see us and we will give you a job...)
Sometimes the resources available don’t cover it. Of course, Salesforce.com provide documentation and simple examples of features, but it can be limited. It’s worth pointing out that Salesforce.com achieve all this with only around 5000 employees. If you are working on a customised more complex system, you might need to go online to the Blogosphere and online user forums to get the answer. The community collaborates very well here, but only up to a point.
The Social Enterprise has shown us that the key is to get people talking to people - That’s where this user group fits in. There’s no real substitute for a real world meet up, in order to share knowledge, and news in person. That’s the founding principle of Forcewest.com: a community of Salesforce.com professionals in our area to share our experiences on this rapidly developing technology. If you didn;t make it in November, be sure to be at our next meet up on 2nd Feb 2012.