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What Every Smart Company will soon have…

Salesforce.com IdeaExchangeThe tone on this blog has been rather negative lately, I admit, but I generally rant about the things that bother me not about those that don’t. :-)  

However, I really do have to give Salesforce.com credit for this one: IdeaExchange is one incredibly great idea (pun intended), and every smart company either will or soon should do the same.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this since they first released it but Mark Mangano’s post over at SalesforceWatch.com just reminded me to get off my duff and write about it.  By the way, another company now doing the same that Mark didn’t mention is Yahoo Suggestions.

Now if Salesforce.com will just listen to those submitted ideas… ;-)

Danger Will Robinson! Beware of TEAM Edition

I wrote yesterday about this same subject so I apologize for dwelling on it, but two things crossed my email inbox that made me feel like I needed to mention it again.

Yesterday I mentioned how small business owners considering Team Edition are being baited, and if "caught" will be forced to switch to Professional Edition because of the crippled aspect of Team Editon. And why that is so bad is that Professional is more than five (5) times as expensive. So it was ironic that I got an email from support today that shows a perfect example of this; let me explain.

I have two Salesforce.com accounts; one I used for selling advertising in a business that is now currently dormant but for which I plan to revive in the future, and another that I opened to do work for one of my clients. The former is a Professional Edition and the latter is a Team Edition.  Since I am no longer working with the client and the contacts are many of the same types I would use for my dormant business, I wanted to export the Team Edition accounts and contacts and then import them into Professional Edition[1]. When I asked about this via support, this is what support told me (note I removed the non-applicable boilerplate info about IdeaExchange):

Dear Mike,

Thank you for contacting Salesforce.com.

Unfortunately, the Data Export option is only available for Enterprise
Edition at no cost and Professional Edition with additional cost. 

This option is not available for Team Edition.

Best regards,
Elvire Pacaud
salesforce.com

So what are my options? Upgrade to a Professional account? That would require a year contract and cost at least $780 (for one user) plus $50 for the export fee, or $135 more than I paid for a full year of Team Edition! The irony is I wanted to transfer it from one Saleforce account to the other, but cannot. Salesforce.com is holding my data hostage, and they will hold yours hostage too!!!

The take away for small business owners considering Team Edition?  DO NOT EVER CONSIDER BECOMING A SALESFORCE CUSTOMER if you can’t afford Professional Edition. Don’t buy Team Edition; go ahead and buy Professional Edition or don’t buy Salesforce.com at all.

What was the second email?  A notification from Typepad that Peter Coffee had replied to my blog post from a day earlier. Here’s what Peter had to say:

Well, I’m glad to know that I’m personally trusted. That’s a good start.

As for Marc, I don’t know of any other current-era CEO who’s gone farther beyond mere Googlish "Don’t be evil" to build a corporate ethic of "Do good."

But ethics and track record aside, from a pure game theory point of view it would be a terrible strategy for salesforce.com to do anything that makes anyone question its desirability as a business partner. The company could only expect to get away with the tactic you envision exactly once — and we’re too young to be looking for a Last Big Score. We’re here to build a platform, and we plan to play a long game.

As I said previously, I have a great deal of respect for Peter. But honestly, I think he is seeing what he wants to see. He said Salesforce.com has a corporate ethic of "Do good"  Explain to me how their strategy with Team Edition trapping customers data with an entry price of 1/5th of their Professional Edition is "doing good?" I can give more examples, and plan to as I have the time to write about each of them fully.

What’s more, it’s not just about the big things Saleforce.com might do, it’s all the little things like this no data export for Team Edition customers. And just like the scorpion to the frog, if Saleforce.com’s  culture is to create lots of little "gotchas" in their own favor, one has to ask "What’s Saleforce.com’s true nature?" and more importantly "Can Salesforce.com be trusted?"

I guess it’s for you to decide.

  1. The client is perfectly okay with this. I was helping him with setting up partnerships for his software, and used the Saleforce.com Team Edition to track it. My usage of the data would be to selling advertising on a website to these same people.

Small Business Owners; Beware the $695 Offer!

If you are a small business owner that is considering the use of Saleforce.com, don’t get seduced by their $695 for five (5) users per year on Team Edition; it is simply a bait and switch tactic like a crack dealer to get you hooked and unable to quit!

Anytime you implement a system that is critical to your business such as accounting or customer relationship management you’ll put significant effort into making it work for your business. Once implemented your business processes will usually become so intertwined with the app it will be almost impossible to switch to something else! And that is what Saleforce.com is preying on.

Although you may have only budgeting $695 for a year of Salesforce.com you’ll have to ante up for more than five (5) times that if you later realize you need features not included with Team. That’s $3900/year for the Professional Edition with five (5) users, or worse it’s $9000/year for the Enterprise Edition. That’s a 561% increase from Team to Professional, and a 1295% increase from Team to Enterprise!

It only gets worse if you have more than five (5) people that need to access Salesforce.com. And note that they don’t have less expensive access for sales assistants, everyone with a login has to pay for a seat based on the full price for the Edition.

How bad is it? Let’s take a look at the features you DO NOT get if you are on Team Edition as per Saleforce.com’s own edition comparison (think you might need any of these?):

  • Salesforce Automation
    • Salesforce Console
    • Customizable Forecasting
    • Contract and Renewal Management
    • Integration with Third-Party Methodologies
    • Product Catalog
    • Revenue Schedule Management
    • Account and Opportunity Team Selling
    • Client Lifecycle Management
    • Advanced Call Scripting
    • Territory Management
    • Mass Quota Updates
    • Worklow and Approvals
  • Marketing Automation
    • Mass Email
    • Lead Management, Routing, and Assignment
    • Web Site Lead Capture
    • Web Site Lead Tracking
    • Campaign Management
    • List Management
    • Advanced Call Scripting
    • Worklow and Approvals
    • Salesforce for Google AdWords
  • Customer Service and Support
    • Document Management
    • Case Queues and Auto-Assignment
    • Advanced Case Escalation and Notiication
    • History Tracking
    • Suggested Solutions
    • Multilingual Solutions
    • Agent Console
    • Service Dashboards
    • Call Center Edition
    • Web and Email Case Capture
    • Self-Service Portal and Knowledge Base
    • Asset Management
    • Service Entitlements
  • Real-Time and Historical Analytics
    • Dashboards
    • Analytic Mash-Ups
    • Read-Only Report Access
  • Desktop and Mobile CRM
    • Offline Edition
    • Desktop Solution Administration
    • Apex Mobile
  • Data Model Customization
    • Custom Object Sharing Controls
    • Smart Field Defaulting
  • User Interface Customization
    • Global Translation Workbench
    • Rename Tabs and Labels
    • Multiple Custom Page Layouts
    • Record-Dependent Page Layouts
    • AJAX Toolkit
    • Standard Button Overrides
  • Enterprise Administration
    • Account-Based Sharing Controls
    • Record-Level Security
    • Field-Level Security
    • Multidepartmental Administration
    • Profile-Based Departmental Security
    • Delegated Administration
    • Opportunity, Lead, and Case-Sharing Controls
  • Business Process Controls
    • Lead and Case Routing
    • Multistep Approval Processes
    • Worklow Automation Rules and Tasks
    • Multiple Business Processes
  • On-Demand Database
    • Weekly Export Service
    • Real-Time Database Mirroring
    • Data Loader
    • Salesforce Sandbox
  • Integration Platform
    • Apex Web Services API 8.0
    • Single Sign-On—LDAP Integration
    • Salesforce Connector for SAP R/3

How about of you are on Professional? These are the things you don’t get on Professional Edition?:

  • Salesforce Automation
    • Account and Opportunity Team Selling
    • Client Lifecycle Management
    • Advanced Call Scripting
    • Territory Management
    • Mass Quota Updates
    • Worklow and Approvals
  • Marketing Automation
    • Advanced Call Scripting
    • Worklow and Approvals
  • Customer Service and Support
    • Service Entitlements
  • Real-Time and Historical Analytics
    • Read-Only Report Access
  • Desktop and Mobile CRM
    • Desktop Solution Administration
  • Data Model Customization
    • Custom Object Sharing Controls
    • Smart Field Defaulting
  • User Interface Customization
    • Multiple Custom Page Layouts
    • Record-Dependent Page Layouts
    • AJAX Toolkit
    • Standard Button Overrides
  • Enterprise Administration
    • Field-Level Security
    • Multidepartmental Administration
    • Profile-Based Departmental Security
    • Delegated Administration
    • Opportunity, Lead, and Case-Sharing Controls
  • Business Process Controls
    • Multistep Approval Processes
    • Worklow Automation Rules and Tasks
    • Multiple Business Processes
  • On-Demand Database
    • Real-Time Database Mirroring
    • Data Loader
    • Salesforce Sandbox

And here’s the list of things that even Professional Edition customer have to pay extra for:

  • Salesforce Automation
    • Product Catalog
    • Revenue Schedule Management
  • Marketing Automation
    • Web Site Lead Tracking
    • Campaign Management
    • List Management
  • Customer Service and Support
    • Asset Management
  • Desktop and Mobile CRM
    • Offline Edition
    • Apex Mobile
  • On-Demand Database
    • Weekly Export Service

But then here’s another "gotcha"; let’s assume your business is limping along on a Team Edition license because you can’t really afford to pay for Professional and then you hire an 11th person needing access to Saleforce.com, you are screwed! Time to ante up $8580 for a year allowing 11 people access to Saleforce.com!

Now many of you might be thinking that I’m offbase and that I’m begrudging Salesforce.com for trying to make its profit. But please realize most small businesses by definition are scraping to get by and every little expense can be a killer. Small businesses typically just cannot afford to pay for a Professional license let alone an Enterprise license. Yet many of the features small businesses need are simply not available in Team edition are import for small businesses.

Saleforce is trying to position itself as a leader. Leaders don’t implement strategies designed to trick their customers. Instead, leaders focus on meeting their customer’s needs at a price that is fair to their customers. Companies selling intangibles like that which Saleforce offers set their prices based on their market and then focus on meeting their customers needs, not on milking them more then they can typically afford.

What should Saleforce.com do differently?  Drop the 10 user limit on Team Edition and make sure that the features needed by small business are included in Team Edition. Things like SAP integration; well, they can leave that to the Entreprise edition. Then focus on getting as many users as possible, not just milk the users they have. They have a chance to be "it" for SaaS, but their policies are designed to give their competitions as much ammunition against them as possible.

Now don’t get my wrong, there are many companies where it is well worth $150/month to improve your sales team’s productivity, but for many others it’s just not cost effective. In either case, Salesforce.com should rely on selling their value and not trying to set traps; this is just indicative of the general disdain which Saleforce.com has for its customers.

They’ll Nickel & Dime you to Death

One of my biggest complaints with Salesforce.com is how they seem focused on ways to nickel and dime their customers. I was just reading one of their help files[1] and found the following example (emphasis mine.):

Salesforce.com recommends that all customers back-up their salesforce.com data. All customers are advised to perform a weekly export. An export should be generated prior to any data project performed by an organization via the import wizards or DataLoader imports, updates, or deletions).

A weekly export service is available to customers, and is outlined below.

The weekly export service allows organizations to export a complete set of their Salesforce data, including all attachments, for archival purposes. A system administrator can request a data export once every seven (7) days. The salesforce.com service will automatically extract the organization’s data into compressed .csv data files and send an email confirmation to the administrator requesting the export.

The email will contain a web address to a secure page, from which the administrator can download the series of compressed data files.

To request a data export, follow the steps listed below.

1. Click on:

Setup | Administration Setup | Data Management | Data Export.

2. Select the "Include attachments" check box (if desired).

3. Select any data that you would like to include by checking the box next to the name of the object. Selecting the "Include all data" box will include data from all tables.

4. Click the "Data Export" button.

A confirmation email will be sent when the export has completed, with a link to the export files, as mentioned above.

The weekly export service is available for all Enterprise Edition customers, and is included in your license fees.

The weekly export service is available to Professional Edition customers as an add-on service, for $50/month.

To purchase this feature, please contact your salesforce.com sales representative, call us at 1-800-NO SOFTWARE, or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Now isn’t it a little arrogant and self-serving to require customers to pay extra for data backup when the loss of their data will typically be because of Saleforce.com’s failure to protect the data, not their own?

Oh well, just another case of Salesforce.com nickeling and diming their customers…

  1. I would have linked to it, but the URL won’t work unless you are logged in to my account. Grrr.

Is SalesForce.com TRUSTWORTHY, Redux?

Peter Coffee, one of the two men (formerly) from the media I respect the most[1] just blogged about how code running on Apex "is safe" from prying eyes because you never install at a customers site. However, he then goes on to say:

The only third party that could possibly access the actual code — salesforce.com, for example — is the one with the greatest interest in helping to protect it, and thus protecting the reputation of the multi-tenant platform that supports it.

Well, as I blogged previous (but unfortunately have yet to have the time to follow up), I have serious concerns about Salesforce.com not always putting it’s interests ahead of its customers. Whereas a customer using a company’s code illegally might result in an opportunity lost cost, the overall cost to the company is rarely if ever business threatening[2]. On the other hand, if Saleforce.com decides that an AppExchange vendor is occupying a spot that Saleforce.com would like to occupy, Saleforce.com can put them out of business like that.

While I do trust Peter Coffee as I implied above, he doesn’t make the decisions at Salesforce.com, Marc Benioff does. And based on everything I’ve seen, I don’t trust the cabal led by Marc Benioff not to have situational ethics when a significant market benefit might potentially be gained.

But then, maybe that’s just me.

  1. The other person being Jon Udell
  2. If it is business threatening, then the business has much bigger problems that management should be more concerned about.

European Customers vs. US Subpoenas?

Between a Rock and a Hard Place?
Between a Rock and a Hard Place?
Sculpture by Nancy Doran

In a previous post I posed the question: Is SalesForce.com TRUSTWORTHY? Although I was a bit vague in that post, I had planned to follow up with numerous posts to make several points.

Even though I have yet to return to that theme, the other day "Rup" posed a question that should be of significant concern to current and prospective customers of Salesforce.com in Europe and beyond:

Hi,

Can we trust salesforce.com not to hand over confidential data to a US judge (since the data is hosted in the U.S.) upon request through a subpoena, without them warning the targeted client/user?

This is what has just happened with the SWIFT inter-bank messaging company which is Belgian, but handed over confidential customer data (banking transactions!) to the U.S. without warning these customers.

Handling of personal and confidential business data is viewed very differently in the U.S. and in Europe, and this problem is a concern for European customers of US-hosted on-demand services.

What do you think?

Rup

My first thoughts when I read this were simply:

"Wow! That thought takes us in a completely different direction than I had intended. But still, it’s a very valid concern nonetheless!"

Actually, I see it being a symptom of a problem much larger than trusting Saleforce.com, and a very difficult problem indeed! The Internet has exacerbated a situation that globalization began less than a century ago. National sovereignty was established along geographic lines for centuries, and the Internet is disrupting that precedence. Today we have companies and even people caught in the crossfire between multiple nations where each nation believes it has jurisdiction often resulting in conflicting edicts.

For example, consider that the France court ruled against Yahoo for allowing Nazi-related material on its auction site yet the USA considers such actions protected under free speech. And what about Google’s decision to censor itself in China to keep the Chinese government off it’s back, ignoring the U.S.’ fundament right of free speech? Or when Yahoo gave the Chinese government of four bloggers names and addresses leading to his arrests and jail time? Or when Microsoft deleted the writings of free-speech blogger Zhao Jing on the Chinese government’s request?

I think the reality is these multiple sovereign nations are putting companies between a rock and a hard place. If you are running a business in a foreign country and that country’s government says "Hand it over!" what do you do? Defy and risk going to jail on principle disrupting your life to protect someone you’ve never met, or worse? Unfortunately, I wish it were different but I think there are too few martyrs left in the world today, and especially not working in a compliance role for multinational corporations.

Though the USA is not a foreign country to Salesforce.com, the logistics of your example behave essentially the same. If a U.S. court requires Salesforce.com hand over customer information and requires those customers NOT be notified as per our USA Patriot Act (thank you very much, Mr. Bush and gentlemen of PNAC), do you think it is likely (or even realistic) to expect that Salesforce.com would notify customers out of some sense of moral obligation? Or would Salesforce.com just stay quiet and comply with U.S. law? I think we both know the answer to that one. And honestly, though I hate to say it publicly, I don’t think that I could blame them.

That said, I think I have a potential for Saleforce.com to mitigate this situation if they act in advance. However, me not being a lawyer I have no idea whether my suggestions would be feasible. And who knows, maybe they’ve already done it?

So if you take a look at http://trust.salesforce.com (rather an ironic domain name given the topic du jour, don’t you think?) you’ll see that The Salesforce.com server EMEA operates in Europe, Middle East, and Africa according to Kingsley Joseph. In order to avoid U.S. law, Saleforce.com could configure itself as multiple companies that do not incur jurisdiction in the other’s jurisdiction but that interoperate via agreements as if they were one. Further, these independent companies could be sewn together by a holding company in a business friendly jurisdiction such as Switzerland. Then when a U.S. court asks for a European customer’s information, Saleforce.com USA could rightly say it has no access at all to that information.

Assuming this strategy worked, it would make sense for Salesforce.com to create even more independent companies and spread their servers across the world on a more granular basis. Of course as I said, I have no idea if this would even be viable, especially given the fact Saleforce.com is already a public company on a U.S. stock exchange. But this is the only scenario I can envision that could protect the customer information of European companies from the potential assault of a Patriot Act-backed U.S. subpoena.

If the above is not possible, it appears there is a really huge opportunity for a Saleforce.com competitor to establish a foothold and gain market-share in Europe, and beyond. And if Saleforce.com and many other American company’s loose significant customer’s because of this, they can thank those politicians and pundits who played to the predjudices and fears of majority of the American people and deceived them regarding most of the ramifications of the Patriot ACT.

Anyone else got any other thoughts or theories? Even better, does someone from Salesforce.com’s legal department want to weigh in?

What other company charges you for a test environment?


SalesForce.com Feature Comparsion By Edition

Gotta love it! See This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ’s comments on The Official Salesforce Blog in response to their post People are talking about the Salesforce Sandbox (emphasis mine):

I think the sandbox is over hyped and over priced, in my personal opinion. We
use the sandbox right now because we have a major migration going on. So we’re
migrating a lot of customer data but did we "NEED" Sandbox to do this.

We could of done sample testing with the Dev environment however we would
miss those data anomalies that always shows up. So I agree with the fact you
would need this area for this type of migration, however I think the price of
that is ridiculous. What other company charges you for a test environment?

As for downloading and testing applications… let’s be real. Salesforce does a
great job where you can put an application in development mode so only admins or
those selected profiles can see the app. You don’t need a Sandbox for that!

Shorten project cycle time… agreed. Again, what other company charges for a
dev instance?

Bottom line… Unless you’re doing migrations/integrations leave sandbox to the
bigger kids.

Ouch!

Personally I think it is really bad form and just plain short sighted when a software company’s pricing policy places features out of reach of customers that can benefit merely as a means to get the more well-heeled customers to increase their spend. Much better to meet the needs of all customers and move the higher end customers up the price curve by include feature they require but no one else needs in the more expensive options/editions. 

In the case of the Sandbox, anyone and everyone doing customization could probably benefit from using their "Sandbox" feature, not just their "Universal" customers. Personally, I wouldn’t know for sure because I can’t justify the expense of a Universal account, although I think the Sandbox could be really beneficial for me.

Or, let me remind you of a question I asked just yesterday; Can you trust Saleforce.com to look for ways to actually meet your needs and not just look for ways to increase your spend?

UPDATE
I just read this: Salesforce.com’s Sandbox is $25 per license per month (PDF). And, because it’s not explicitly stated, I’ve got to assume that getting Sandbox requires that you pay for *all* users on an account given Saleforce.com’s other policies, and that Sandbox is only available for Enterprise edition customers, not for Team edition or Professional edition customers. Of course Universal edition customers get for free, but big whoop there! Just who do they think they are kidding, anyway?!?

Is SalesForce.com TRUSTWORTHY?


Link to Coronet Instructional Film 'Am I Trustworthy?' (1950)

Starting with this post I’m introducing a new theme, that of TRUST.

So the question I am posing today: Is Salesforce.com TRUSTWORTHY?

Now I don’t mean "Can you trust Salesforce.com to actually run their business well enough to stay online so you can use their system when you need it?" like when they launched this (IMO misnamed) website: http://trust.salesforce.com. (As with so many things Salesforce.com, its naming was disingenous. I would much rather have seen it named http://status.salesforce.com.)

In the past I have railed on Salesforce.com for their system being down, but let’s be real. I over-reacted; it was just a minor infraction. Problems like that pointed to either teething pains of SaaS or incompetent management and it seems it was the former. They’ve gotten their act together on the uptime issue although I’m sure they will continue to have hiccups in the future. I think uptime/downtime is more an issue of the industry learning about how to implement best practices in SaaS and then any and all of those issues will be history.

Instead what I am asking is can you trust Salesforce.com to:

  • Be a good business partner?
  • Act ethically and honorably?
  • Reasonably act in your best interests?
  • Reasonably consider your needs before theirs?
  • Look for way to increase the value they offer you?
  • Not just look for ways to increase your spending?

Ponder those thoughts, if you will, and within the next couple of days I’ll provide a URL to Saleforce.com’s website for your review to help you further ponder the questions I posit today.