Salesforce acquisitions signal ongoing broad-based platform strategy

In 2017, Salesforce plans to wield its collaborative culture and tools to integrate its 2016 acquisitions. How will its platform strategy fare?

As Salesforce continues to expand beyond its sales and marketing roots, there are ample questions about how it will move into the next era, and beyond its initial CRM beginnings.

After a spate of Salesforce acquisitions over the past year, the company has extended well beyond CRM into e-commerce and customer experience, artificial intelligence and new collaboration tools. The question going forward is how effectively the company will integrate its billion-dollar acquisitions into the Customer Success Platform and whether its efforts will make Salesforce wide-ranging enough to truly extend beyond sales and marketing into the more wide-ranging domain of customer experience.

The key to the successful integration of these various acquisitions is the company's unique collaborative corporate culture, said company executives at this month's Salesforce Analyst Summit. They believe that this culture enables Salesforce to address the age-old integration challenges that have plagued the software industry for decades.

At the Summit, Salesforce executives acknowledged that the company's rapid growth has created new challenges in achieving the mission of delivering user-friendly technologies that boost revenue, improve efficiency and solidify customer relationships.

As a result of its acquisitions and internal initiatives, Salesforce has taken aim at some of the biggest market opportunities and associated challenges, including artificial intelligence (AI) with Salesforce Einstein, analytics with Wave Analytics Cloud, digital marketing with the acquisition of ExactTarget, e-commerce via the Demandware acquisition and the internet of things.

Tackling acquisition integration

As a consequence of all these moves, Salesforce is facing three key integration challenges -- application integration, data integration and organizational integration.

At the application level, the company started with a single software-as-a-service architecture that underlies its Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and industry cloud offerings. However, the Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud services have been built by ExactTarget and Demandware, respectively, and Salesforce execs aren't planning to rearchitect them anytime soon.

After a spate of Salesforce acquisitions over the past year, the company has extended well beyond CRM.

Instead, the company is encouraging the various software development teams to adopt a common DevOps methodology, build a common set of APIs and create a common application framework that will permit them to deliver a more unified federation of applications. This is in stark contrast to the independent business unit structure and competitive mindset that permeates the previous generation of software vendors, and it creates an assortment of application integration issues because of their disjointed development processes.

At the data integration level, Salesforce is focused on expanding the common metadata layer architecture that supports the original Salesforce applications so the architecture can incorporate the ExactTarget and Demandware applications into the corporate product portfolio. This common data layer will make it possible for Salesforce customers to achieve the benefits of acquiring multiple cloud offerings, as well as enabling them to take advantage of Einstein AI and Wave Analytics capabilities.

Salesforce also eats its own dog food by using its collaborative platforms, Community Cloud and Chatter, to communicate and coordinate efforts. Salesforce also recently purchased Quip, further reinforcing the notion that it is trying to become a collaboration platform, not just a CRM platform.

Online applications and open communication is enabling new employees joining Salesforce as a part of acquisitions, along with new hires, to onboard quickly and become a productive part of the company. Employees even use Salesforce's rapidly growing Trailhead training program to keep up with the latest application features and to gain new skills. Salesforce is also using Trailhead to train its partner ecosystem, as well as using its other Community Cloud tools to identify new application opportunities, coordinate joint development efforts and encourage multivendor integration.

These are just a few of the ways in which Salesforce is re-engineering software development and integration processes to keep pace with the rapidly evolving needs of its customers, employees and partners so it can achieve its aggressive growth objectives.

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