For those of you who haven’t heard, Force.com is making Salesforce.com sticky. Sure the Salesforce.com CRM app is easy to use and can be accessed anywhere you have a browser and access to the internet (which is not many places on the road in the UK). But the churn levels were pretty high. Easy to start using it, but equally easy to stop. Why? Poor implementation. As I have discussed before. But Salesforce.com has found the magic sauce that makes it sticky.
Force.com is a very powerful end user development environment allowing someone with no knowledge of databases, HTML or coding to build a scalable, web-based form-filling application. This could be completely standalone, or extending the current Salesforce.com CRM objects (Account, Contact, Opportunity, Case etc).
So why sticky?
The moment you start extending the CRM using Force.com or even developing completely standalone apps then you are hooked. You are a client for life. Take those spreadsheets that get emailed around and very quickly and easily turn them into an application using Force.com app. Voila – you have a multi-user, secure, scalable, web-based backed-up application.
But companies are going further and rewriting whole applications such as Asset Management, Staff Expenses, or Bug Tracking . Why? Several reasons. The existing applications are out of date and too expensive or impossible to modify, are creaking and becoming unstable, or are unsupported by the vendor.
Nimbus – 100% Force.com
At Nimbus we have gone one stage further. The goal is every application the company needs to operate is on the Force.com platform. So we have implemented Salesforce.com and have used Force.com to develop all HR (Payroll, Personnel, Expense, Training, Vacation & Sickness), Asset Management (Hosting infrastructure, Servers, PC, Laptops, PDA & and Mobiles), Business Excellence (Change Projects, Audits), R&D (Development projects, Enhancement Requests, Issues & Bug Tracking) Every application and spreadsheet has been ruthlessly analyzed from a process perspective and replaced by Force.com. The last area is to be replaced was Sage Accounting with FinancialForce.com
The benefits are a single integrated system. Most CIOs in our Fortune1000 clients would kills to have a single integrated application set to run their business. The ability to up drive data integrity is huge and it eliminates messy, error prone and expensive integrations between disparate applications.
Fine. But so what?
The really interesting part is that all of the above at Nimbus has been achieved by a very small team lead by the Head of Business Excellence who has no technical programming skills. She is a skilled business analyst with a great understanding of the operation of Nimbus. She has taken a process-focused view of the business, using Nimbus own product suite – Nimbus Control – before developing any of the extensions to Salesforce.com or creating new modules using Force.com. But she has achieved everything Nimbus needs without resorting to the Apex, the proprietary Force.com programming language.
Nimbus is by no means an isolated example. There are thousands of companies following the same path in every industry from SMEs up to major multi-nationals like Dell, Cisco and Japan Post.
CIO’s dream or nightmare?
This has some huge implications for the CIO.
– Companies are now moving back to custom development rather than relying on using packaged apps – driven or dragged by the business users
– A methodology for custom development is not well understood inside companies – certainly not the end user organisation
– The tools for custom development , like Nimbus Control, are not in place and their value is not understood
– It is the end user doing the development, not internal IT
– These apps are taking corporate data outside the company firewall, completely under the radar and without the knowledge of the CIO and internal IT.
Help for CIOs. just finished a book which I’ve co-authored with Alok Misra
called Thinking of… Force.com your as key to the Cloud Kingdom? Ask the Smart Questions which has collated all the questions an organisation (ISV or IT Dept) should be answering before embarking on developing a solution on Force.com.
The Foreword is by salesforce.com co-founder, Parker Harris:
The “Smart Questions” structure will help you to make well-informed choices. Nothing is left unexamined. Misra and Gotts explore the issues from both business and technical perspectives, but focus on the one intent that matters most: commercial success on Force.com
BTW the book has a Facebook page