Could Integration (Finally) Become an Issue for Salesforce?


Yesterday, I wrote there are three options when it comes to integrating the cloud:

  1. Buy a connector direct from an integration vendor.
  2. Go with a SaaS provider that packages integration with its solution.
  3. iPaas-integration Platform-as-a-Service. This is where you use a platform to design your own integrations. Workday this week began offering its own integration tool as an iPaaS, which is how the issue came up.


For many SaaS vendors, integration is an issue, at least in terms of attracting customers. The logic here is simple: Handle the integration and you've made it that much easier for potential customers to say "yes" to your offering.


There is one company, however, that hasn't really ever worried about it, at least as far as I can tell: Salesforce.com.


Early on, it became clear that Salesforce wouldn't have to: Partners and vendors rushed in to provide integration solutions for integrating their own offerings with Salesforce. Look up any cloud integration solution and Salesforce integration usually tops the list-and sometimes, it's the only actual solution they support. In fact, I don't recall one press release touting Salesforce's efforts to integrate with anything-until this week, when we saw the joint announcement about integrating Salesforce's CRM with QuickBooks Online.


I'm not saying it didn't happen, mind you, but it certainly wasn't the status quo. On the other hand, the number of press releases from various vendors touting their efforts to integrate with Salesforce were legion. And, frankly, there were days I wish I could have cast them out of my email.


So, lucky Salesforce-everyone wanted to integrate with it. I guess when you're the lead dog, everybody else follows you wherever you want to go.


But there are some signs-besides the QuickBook announcement-that integration could become a bigger issue for Salesforce.


IT Business Edge blogger Ann All looked at this issue yesterday when she wrote about Salesforce's plans to acquire Radian6, which sells social-media-monitoring software. Integrating CRM and social media is notoriously tricky, All points out. She links to a CIO.com article that elaborates on the issue. Radian6 seems a bit ahead of the game because it can already be integrated with Salesforce and Oracle's CRM. (Interesting, that situation, given that Salesforce relies on Oracle's database, but I digress ...)


Okay, that's one example, but it is social media stuff-I mean, really, everyone is struggling with that and it looks like Salesforce, by buying Radian6, is at least headed in the right direction.


Now, what really piqued my interest in whether integration could become a bigger issue for Salesforce was a recent post by ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett. He actually talked with Salesforce.com about re-engineering to an in-memory database two years ago, so he has a bit more inside information than your typical commentator. He's troubled by a number of decisions by the SaaS company, but here's the part that caught my eye:

... for me, Salesforce is applying layers of new technology without thinking about the core integration. In other words it (social analytics) is nice' but provides one more pain point for CIO/business to manage.

He also points out that behind all of Salesforce's recent moves and acquisitions, there lurks this fact: "... it is a 10 year old technology that is only growing up very slowly and which is creaking."


When a vendor ignores integration, it eventually becomes a problem-not just for the company, but for the vendor's customers as well. Thus far, others have handled the heavy lifting of integration for Salesforce. Could those days be numbered?