Salesforce.com's Complexity Brings CIOs, Partners Together

As Salesforce.com's SaaS offerings become more sophisticated, configuration and deployment gets more complex. In response, enterprises are increasingly turning to partners for implementation help.

By John Moore
Wed, November 14, 2012

CIO — When Republic Services sought to retool the systems supporting its national account team, the environmental services company selected Salesforce.com as part of the overhaul—and soon after making that decision, Republic Services hired Bluewolf, a New York-based consulting firm and Salesforce.com partner, for some deployment help.

Bill Halnon, CIO of Republic Services, says his company wanted to work with an experienced hand in the Salesforce.com space. "After selecting the tool, we looked at how we [were] going to implement this," Halnon says. "Even though it is a cloud application, it required some customization and configuration to fit our needs. Just like we would go out and look for an SAP partner, we took the same route with Salesforce.com."

Republic Services tapped Bluewolf for a range of services, from requirements definitions all the way through implementation and testing, according to Halnon. The company also uses Bluewolf Beyond, a service that Halnon says helps Republic Services maintain its Salesforce.com solution while it works to build up the expertise to support the SaaS app in-house.

"BlueWolf understands the package inside and out, which we did not," Halnon says. "We didn't have any experience in it."

Republic Services exemplifies an ongoing pattern in the Salesforce.com market: the massive involvement of consulting and implementation partners. While some Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings are do-it-yourself (DIY) jobs requiring little assistance, the self-service model doesn't necessarily hold true for more sophisticated cloud offerings such as Salesforce.com.

Complexity of Salesforce.com Creates Climate for Partnering

Several factors make a Salesforce.com project more of an undertaking. For one, Salesforce.com offers numerous configuration options, and some rollouts may call for custom software development. Those software tweaks apply to a broadening array of software products—Salesforce.com now encompasses not only sales force automation and customer relationship management (CRM) but also customer service, social media monitoring, collaboration and human resources performance management. Then there's the issue of integrating Salesforce.com into an organization's other enterprise applications.

The choices and complexities of a Salesforce.com deployment compel many enterprises to call in a specialist. "In our enterprise accounts, the bulk of the implementations are done by partners," says Ross Piper, senior vice president for enterprise strategy and alliances at Salesforce.com.

Related: Salesforce.com Rolls Out VAR Program for Force.Com

The company's pool of implementation allies is growing. The Salesforce.com channel ecosystem, which consists of more than 3,900 consulting partners, is growing at a 42 percent clip, according to Piper, while the number of people certified as Salesforce.com consultants is growing at a 144 percent pace.

Piper cited the expanding scale and breadth of Salesforce.com implementations as driving the need for partners; projects increasingly involve multiple Salesforce.com products and platforms, he says. In addition, a small army of ISVs contribute to the constellation of software available to Salesforce.com customers. Piper says some 1,700 apps are available through the company's AppExchange.

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