I spent yesterday at Salesforce’s Cloudforce event in London which was a great day out with most innovative company (as decided by Forbes magazine). What was clear was the energy and enthusiasm that they have created in the ecosystem that sits around their platform. What they now coin “the social enterprise” is a really savvy business model and that sets out a clear vision, a benefits case and a tangible route to achieving it and all with Salesforce as the keystone in the ecosystem. All you have to do is pony up with some cash and probably change the culture of your organisation, so not much effort required there then!
What they have been very successful at to achieve their position of success is to create a number of architected and consciously designed networks that overlap and leverage.
The first one is their modular but interlocking cloud based service which allows you to take on modules that cover pretty much most of your business requirements from monitoring what people are saying about you, to a CRM, to making your HR processes user centric and motivational, and internal social media style chat (although as someone pointed out from a European perspective the Chat product looks like our US cousins just congratulating themselves! so there are a few cultural overlays to consider). But what is truly powerful is the obvious thought that has gone into making information and data flow throughout the whole ecosystem which is what really unlocks business value for users.
The second network is that of the 3rd party suppliers who have products that now sit on the various elements of the Salesforce platform and will deliver automation to just about any business process. Yes there’s competition between them which is healthy but the amount of innovation that the platform has unlocked it impressive.
What Salesforce demonstrates is the power of the ‘keystone model’ which is one that you can see in other successful organisations and also in nature a lot. It’s a model that you have to consciously adopt as it requires your organisational culture and individual and team behaviours to align with it and it requires constant adjustment to hold it in equilibrium in a dynamic way.
There are risks to such a business model, largely from a dominant or key part of the ecosystem being a weak link. This was demonstrated at Cloudforce yesterday, when the wifi had a few hiccups and the 3G network seemed to be almost drowning under the pressures of an exhibition centre full of devices competing for bandwidth. Had the event been a sales conference just before year end then I’m sure that blood would have been spilt with people trying to access their cloud based CRM!
If you want to read more around the keystone business model then a great book is “The Keystone Advantage” which is worth a read.