Salesforce.com is giving power back to the users
A leading supplier of business software has plans to bring on-demand operating systems to a broader audience
When a company vows to turn an industry on its head, it might not seem surprising for it to announce plans to host an event called 'Summer 05' during the Australian winter. That is what Salesforce.com, one of the market leaders in supplying solutions to customers over the internet, has done.
Tzuo Tien, the company's senior vice-president for products, said the world of software creation was now in its third stage which was radically different from the first two.
'A long time ago, it was all customised software. Then came client/server. Now with Web-based offerings such as Amazon, Google, eBay and ourselves, we are giving power back to the users,' he said.
The original model was created by IBM. It sold the hardware, software and the services necessary to make everything work. This method was expensive but you got custom-made software.
The Unix world ushered in shrink-wrapped software that was cheaper and more standardised, but still expensive and often hard to tweak to suit a particular business.
Now we have on-demand software. Nobody needed to be taught how to use Amazon or Google, Mr Tzuo said. Mr Tzuo and his company are not just targeting a few big players such as Oracle, Siebel or SAP. They are going after the entire software industry.
'You never hear people say, 'I love using SAP or Oracle'. You don't need a manual to use Amazon or Google. We thought we could do the same thing with enterprise software,' he said.
Paul Pettigrew, the regional director for SMS, a consulting business in Australia, said it was easier for his company to interact with customers using Salesforce.com
'The anywhere, any time accessibility has facilitated a shift of key account managers from the confines of an office to being with our clients,' he said.
Salesforce.com is preparing a more ambitious product called Multiforce.
Mr Tzuo described it as 'the world's first on-demand operating system'.
This initiative will allow customers to launch custom applications for employees in different departments, such as human resources, finance or information technology. These applications will be accessible through a single click and data can be shared. It is supposed to make it even easier to make the software work the way your company does.
Mr Tzuo said it was time to turn the 80/20 rule on its head.
'In the past, we all knew that 20 per cent of your customers made up 80 per cent of your revenue,' he said. That was why large book shops or video rental companies provided mainly the most popular titles.
Amazon.com has shown that the Web can change that. Amazon makes 50 per cent of its revenue from people searching for something more obscure. In the past it would have been prohibitively expensive to provide a search for an unusual book or video. With the internet, that has all changed.
Not everyone agrees with the Salesforce.com model. A Gartner report said it might be more expensive over time for larger companies to deploy this kind of solution.
Mr Tzuo said the ease of use and the ability to customise were factors that many people found useful.
'Everywhere you go today there is bandwidth. Internet access is everywhere. Our solution does not tie you down to a place,' he said.
'We have many customers coming back. It is easy for them to turn us off if they want to, but they don't.'