Is Salesforce Sneaking into the Enterprise via SAP Integration?

Loraine Lawson
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Salesforce is taking its game to the enterprise's back door by way of integrating with SAP. Analysts reacted with varying degrees of skepticism, with Forrester Research's China Martens labeling it as an possible attempt to "use Chatter and/or its social enterprise message as the Trojan Horse to get into enterprises it's previously not been able to get into with its CRM or with Force.com," report IDG News.


The pitch is simple enough: Salesforce wants enterprises to use Force.com, along with its social tool Chatter, as a platform for launching the so-called social enterprise. Salesforce knows for that idea to work at most companies, there has to be integration on the backend with SAP, so the company recently announced it's offering new consulting and integration services to help you do just that. The Salesforce blog post put it this way:

Our customers want to build a social enterprise. They want to transform the way they collaborate, communicate and share information with both customers and employees. But a large "reality check" confronts their vision every dayan SAP back office infrastructure, which houses their most critical data but limits data accessibility. This is why we're excited to announce a new program to unlock their valuable SAP back office environments, creating a path forward to the social enterprise for thousands of companies without spending more on complex software or hardware infrastructure. The program combines consulting and integration services that enable SAP customers to build apps that integrate seamlessly with their SAP data and processes using Force.com, our cloud platform for building social, mobile and real-time apps.

Salesforce promises that this new program will allow companies to tap the benefits of social networking, such as "new and innovative best practices, employee collaboration and productivity" but with "fewer resources and half the cost of traditional on-premise platforms." The blog post says SAP users just need to take two steps to start reaping the benefits:

  1. Sign up for the free half-day evaluation, which will focus on how you can extract and share back office SAP data. http://www.force.com/sap
  2. Sit back and let Salesforce.com simplify the integration, by "providing quick access to all the resources customers need, from strategies and best practices to access to experienced integration partners such as IBM, Informatica and SKYVVA."


But as the IDG article notes, business consultant and blogger Kelly Craft scoffed at the idea that Salesforce's free, half-day evaluation would provide you with anything beyond a "bare bones template' project plan." She actually titled her blog post "Vendors Giving Me the Vapors," and calls out the program as "not much more than an effort to drum up integration business for integration partners."


Craft suggested Salesforce stop focusing on sales and marketing and focus instead on a "Professional Services delivery strategy to move beyond the novelty of enterprise social' and set about training their own teams in iterating and improving the processes that organizations are already using. ... I've yet to see a design spanning the platform and solution apps that demonstrates the impact pervasive communications have on companies, which knowledge can then be applied in providing optimal, relatable value for external and internal audiences both."


You certainly can't accuse Craft of trying to spare their feelings by mincing words.


Although Martens believes this could be an attempt to reach new enterprises, I have to think it'll also appeal to Salesforce.com users who want to convince IT to unlock more backend data. In fact, I recently read a piece along those lines by SnapLogic's Gaurav Dhillon, "5 Ways Apps Make Salesforce More Valuable," and topping the list was connecting financial systems like SAP to Salesforce.


It'll be interesting to see how IT reacts. This sort of backend connectivity may offer us a more accurate measure of just how much enterprise IT is willing to buy into the concept of cloud and SaaS.

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