Founded in 1999 by former Oracle employee Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com has become the SaaS Customer Relationship Management software leader. Salesforce.com is both known for its impressive on-demand CRM solution as well as its flamboyant CEO who seems to be regarded either as a visionary or a blowhard, or probably a combination of both, depending upon whom you are speaking with. The company's use of guerilla marketing campaigns, aggressive marketing spend and frequent gift giving to industry media and analysts have earned the company an interesting and mixed reputation - from being referred to as the next Oracle or SAP to being referred to as the SaaS industry bad boy.
After securing a strong beach head in the customer relationship management software market, the company is moving the bulk of its resources and messaging into a new direction, away from CRM business applications, and toward tools and platform applications. The company was one of the first to use the phrase "platform as a service" (PAAS) in order to define the next cloud sector it seeks to serve. Whether Salesforce.com can use PAAS to raise itself to successfully take on platform software companies such as Microsoft remains to be seen.
The Salesforce.com CRM on-demand application is a strong business software system, but has many holes when compared to several other CRM players. Salesforce down plays the limited feature sets or functionality offerings with commercial off the shelf business applications and instead attempts to change the value proposition to include third party ecosystems or directories of integrated products. The company has an impressive software ecosystem, called AppExchange, and a proprietary programming and development environment called Force.com. The breadth of AppExchange has been impressive, however, the software integration between many AppExchange products and Salesforce.com is limited or even superficial, giving the appearance that the third party solutions are simply using AppExchange as just an additional online sales outlet. Force.com is a respectable cloud-based development environment, however, getting the software development community to part with open and industry standard development tools such as Java/J2EE or .NET and adopt a proprietary development environment that is not portable and doesn't work outside of the salesforce.com cloud is of questionable motive and a difficult task to scale.
Salesforce.com groups its products into different editions with various limitations and price points. The Salesforce.com Team edition is a workgroup edition priced at about USD $995.00 per year for five users. The Professional Edition is a scaled down edition (from the Enterprise version) and is priced at about USD $65.00 per user per month. The Enterprise Edition appears to be the most utilized and is priced at about USD $125.00 per user per month. Finally, the Unlimited Edition is priced at about USD $195.00 per user per month. One of these last two CRM editions are normally required if an AppExchange solution is used.
While Salesforce.com's growth has exceeded the expectations of most, there have been some serious challenges, user frustrations and bumps in the road along the way. A series of frequent system interruptions and downtime plagued the software's system uptime assurance and lost confidence with many users, however, the SaaS company has made strides in offering more redundant data centers and improving upon service uptime. Salesforce.com was hacked resulting in the breach of thousands of customers' personal information. However, again, the SaaS provider appears to have taken steps to curtail this type of event from occurring again.
While Salesforce.com faces many SaaS CRM software competitors, the company's primary competitors include SugarCRM, NetSuite, Oracle On Demand, RightNow Technologies and SAP's Business ByDesign. Salesforce.com's advantages include its incredible marketing push, brand recognition, product ease of use, online documentation, third party product ecosystem and suite of software customization and integration tools.
Salesforce.com disadvantages include what are often the highest CRM subscription costs in the industry, very high total cost of ownership (TCO), mixed customer support reviews and a lack of key feature sets and functionality that requires many users to invest more for third party product add-ons, AppExchange solutions or pay for customization tools (and programmer or consultant fees) to accomplish what several other SaaS CRM systems deliver with their core offerings.