Free Case Study Book Shows Why Salesforce Shines at SaaS Integration

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When it comes to SaaS integration, Salesforce is proving once again why it's king of the hill.


Last week, IT Business Edge's Mike Vizard shared that Salesforce published an e-book on "Connecting the Cloud: 75 Customer Integration Success Stories with the Force.com Platform." I checked it out - because it's free - and thought it was such a great resource for Salesforce customers, in addition to revealing a lot about how clever Salesforce is when it comes to integration - so I thought I'd point it out again here.

Salesforce calls it a book, but really what you'll find is more of a catalog, showcasing how 75 companies handled various integration challenges using the Force.com platform. Among the applications being integrated: SAP, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Oracle, Twitter, middleware and, of course, legacy apps.


Integration makes up more than half of all real-time cloud traffic, according to the e-book. I did not know that, but it's not surprising, and it explains-again-how critical integration is to SaaS. Chandar Pattabhiram, the vice president of Channel and Product Marketing for Cast Iron, calls integration the "loyalty app for SaaS," and, as I've written before, nobody in the cloud is as smart about that as Salesforce.


Why do I say that? Salesforce makes it super easy for third-parties to provide integration (TechTarget offered a good explanation on how Salesforce integration works a year ago, and it still stands), which translates into brilliant pieces of business:


  1. Third parties find it easy to provide integration with Salesforce, and it's become a marketplace where they end up vying for a piece of that customer pie.
  2. Meanwhile, Salesforce never has to handle integration, a lesson it's taken other SaaS companies some time to learn.


The table of contents for this e-book proves this approach is working for customers and Salesforce. The case studies are divided into asynchronous integration, which includes all the data layer case studies, and synchronous integration, which is further subdivided into studies related to the presentation layer (mashups) and the logic layer (real-time).


The case studies themselves look more like an ad, so you can literally scan through them to find something close to your situation. Each one outlines the challenges the business faced, the solution and the results-all in short, bulleted lists. The second page of the case study is composed of screen shots showing the main apps involved.


I don't mean to sound too effusive-please don't think I'm an advocate for Salesforce, because I'm not. I do know that IT Business Edge, for whom I obviously write - uses it - but I'm self-employed and really have no need for any CRM system.


But I am a fan of their clever integration story, which I'd like to see more SaaS vendors duplicate. Plus, this is really an impressive piece of customer-friendly work. If you don't want to scan all those case studies, you can simply go to the "Integrated with Index," and the case studies are organized by the application the company wanted to integrate. So, for example, if you really want to know how to solve that mainframe integration piece, you can instantly see the relevant case studies. The only thing that would've made it perfect is if they'd hyperlinked that index.


As I've said before, everybody wants to be SalesForce.com's dance partner-and that's good for their customers and, really, anybody who's interested in moving to the cloud.


I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't point out that there are those who say this integration goes only one way. CRM competitor Zoho says it was invited and planned to participate in Salesforce AppExchange-now Force.com. Zoho even completed the integration work, but then things took an ugly turn, as Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu tells it:


"He (Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com) changed tack and repeatedly tried to get us to discontinue Zoho CRM, in return we would get to play on AppExchange. I was furious because both Benioff and his team clearly knew we had a CRM offering going into this engagement, and if they had set this as a pre-condition for us to integrate into AppExchange, we would never have put in the resources we did. Since then, Salesforce has repeatedly tried to block customers from migrating to Zoho CRM, by telling them (falsely) that they cannot take their data out of Salesforce until their contract duration is over."


Recently, Vembu criticized Salesforce for failing to connect to the one app he says is the most natural fit for CRM-e-mail. That's why Zoho's strategy is to bet on Google's platform, CMS Wire reports. If he's right, and Google manages to finally wedge its way into businesses, then that could be an interesting market battle. But, as it stands now, even Google integrates with Salesforce.com.