Jinfo BlogSalesforce - dominant for how long?

Tuesday, 6th September 2011

By Tim Buckley Owen

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Cloud-based social enterprise specialist Salesforce.com’s recently announced alliance with veteran company information provider Dun & Bradstreet combines the “best company information” with the “best technology for great customer engagement”, the companies claim. Whether you buy the hype or not, Salesforce certainly seems to be dominant in a rapidly growing segment, if recent figures from Gartner are to be believed.

D&B is to become the first “premier provider” of information for Salesforce’s data.com service, adding over 200 million company profiles to the 30 million or more business leads provided by Jigsaw, the crowdsourced business contacts database acquired by Salesforce some 18 months ago (see Nancy Davis Kho’s LiveWire comment here). Since then, Salesforce has rejigged Jigsaw, adding even more strong social applications (LiveWire comment here).

Never one to be self-effacing about its achievements, Salesforce has also taken this opportunity to announce the Social Enterprise, incorporating a whole string of innovations to its Chatter social networking service for salespeople. There’s now real-time collaboration, the ability to bring in people from outside the organisation and to carry out approvals processes without leaving the network, and connection from Chatter to other public social networks such as Facebook (LiveWire background on Chatter here).

Any self-respecting social media provider would be wanting to keep people logged onto its network for as long as possible, and you have to take seriously Salesforce’s claim that the number of social networking users has surpassed those using email. But how big a deal are all these developments really?

According to Shore’s inveterate content blogger John Blossom the D&B tie-in, at least, is “pretty huge”. Describing it as an excellent content and technology partnership, he explains that Jigsaw gives the mid-management contacts muscle that D&B was missing, while D&B contributes broad and comprehensive corporate fundamental data.

More significantly still, though, Salesforce seems to be a mighty fish in a pool of minnows. Plenty of vendors have social customer relationship management offerings, says technology analyst Gartner – but most are not profitable.

Gartner forecasts that the worldwide social CRM market will reach over $1 billion in revenue by year-end 2012, up from approximately $625 million in 2010. But in order to succeed, vendors will need to demonstrate multiple use cases for sales, marketing and customer service processes.

Lack of consistency among buyers currently keeps the market fragmented, Gartner continues. The vendors that are going to survive and thrive in the medium term are those who offer tools that do more than just address one area, approach or use case.

With its continuing strategy of acquisition, alliance and consolidation, Salesforce has clearly followed Gartner’s advice thus far. From the information manager’s point of view, though, a strong competitor would be no bad thing.

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