Not for nothing is known as The Daddy of cloud based CRM and Salesforce Automation platforms…Salesforce is THE product that started the trend of putting customer, organisational and sales data into the cloud and allowing easy access to that data, from anywhere at any time.

Founded in 1999, salesforce has been around for 15 years and has been largely responsible for allowing businesses of ALL sizes to embrace the Culture of Customer Relationship Management.

This shift away from a corporates only business tool has been empowered by removing the massive investments, financially and time, in on-premise hardware, software and gangs of expensive CRM consultants and technicians that were the prerequisite for a CRM roll-out, pre-salesforce.

Salesforce’s famous “No software” tagline means that once a browser connection is made to, the business design of the application can begin, with no lengthy infrastructure ramp up to consume funds or project enthusiasm, before the REAL job of satisfying business requirements can begin.

10 years ago a business colleague said that “if he was setting up a new business, he’d like to set up a salesforce practice and as I was already up to my neck in corporate CRM, why didn’t I?” I didn’t then, but have done now, so what’s changed to change my mind? Well, a number of key things actually.

The internet, as an operating environment has moved to a point where it’s entirely a routine thing and pretty much everyone uses it every day and guess what? IT WORKS!! The cloud has moved from being just a white fluffy thing seen in the sky on sunny days, to the widely understood concept of a “big disk drive and computers, somewhere” which drives Facebook and Amazon and all the other big internet services and allows us to do just about anything through a browser and on any device that supports a browser.

And this trust in the cloud, built almost subconsciously through the continuing and continual use, proliferation and pretty much 100% availability of Google, internet banking, internet insurance and energy buying, YouTube, iTunes and all the other everyday apps and products that people like us use all the time, coupled with the investment in Internet infrastructure that has enabled even a humble domestic broadband connection to run at speeds that would have made a corporate IT Director ecstatic 10-15 years ago has meant that cloud based platforms, such as salesforce, have become a viable alternative to premise based software systems, running at least at a level equal to a well tuned in-house network.

So having started the trend, where does salesforce sit amongst the current raft of cloud based sales CRM and Sales Force Automation products?

Firstly salesforce is not the cheapest product to use, in fact it sits pretty happily at the top of the pricing tree for cloud based products. Everything has a price and a value and the pricing of salesforce reflects its value of stability, performance, flexibility, design and engineering that has gone into building a class leading product and for that price, you get a rock solid application capable of running small, medium, large and corporate businesses. In fact businesses such as Dell Computers literally run their company on a platform.

Out of the box (out of the cloud!!) like most CRM systems, salesforce comes preconfigured with the basic and expected building blocks/objects of CRM and SFA and also allows customisation and configuration, ranging from renaming data fields, adding custom fields and removing unwanted fields and creating custom layouts and tabs and creating validation rules including powerful cross and inter-related form fields. Unlike other CRM platforms, salesforce then goes a couple of steps further and offers a complete development platform including the Apex programming language and a SQL like database abstraction layer that allows completely non-CRM or Sales Force Automation apps to be built.

Based on the platform, salesforce allows an infinite number of customisation and bespoke possibilities which sit alongside and can be related to standard Salesforce objects. Such as details of the products you’ve custom made for a customer, the full details and supporting infrastructure for your rock festival, or your weekly order of provisions to supply your micro brewery. Essentially, you can literally build anything using the platform, which can still refer to and use the basic CRM data in salesforce and if you don’t want to build something for your special requirements, the salesforce app exchange is an ever expanding repository of applications and programs that work with salesforce, there are 2398 currently and 44% of them are completely free to use.

Part of the beauty and depth of maturity of Salesforce is in its corporate background, meaning it’s been designed from word go with large numbers and different types and levels of users in mind and the security model is comprehensive to say the least, with the ability to open and close chunks and micro chunks of functionality and data access, catering for general user type security profiles and the addition of specific privileges and access via personal or small group permission sets

For the developer, Salesforce has development tools and a professional development environment that a Java or Microsoft .net programmer would recognise, including debug and error log functionality, allowing code to be professionally developed and tested, in fact salesforce will only allow you to let your code go into production, after you’ve built completely automated test routines and test data production to allow fully automated and repeatable testing, that delivers a result of at least 75% successful code coverage. This is a professional development environment, capable of being used by people who maybe are not professional developers by training, with a fraction of the training that might be expected in other languages and environments.

Salesforce also offers extensive web integration tools, including the very simple to use web to form stuff, where a web form can be created in seconds and can direct the collected data straight into salesforce. Visual force allows more complex HTML and Web applications to be built and integrated into website and salesforce platforms.

And for everyone who hankers to be an über cool mobile app developer, Salesforce1 is the new mobile app platform, which allows salesforce and custom applications, including custom fields and custom tabs built on the desktop browser edition of salesforce, to also run on popular handheld operating systems, suddenly anybody can become an app developer!!

Is salesforce still The Daddy? Salesforce has now grown to become a whole ecosystem of linked products and capabilities, salesforce has reached the critical mass of becoming an almost de facto product, with integrations to a raft of other services and applications, which means that the salesforce community and salesforce ecosystem, is rapidly growing to becoming a salesforce universe.

May the force be with you…

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