The yearly Dreamforce conference kicked off today in full swing, well it hasn't even kicked off as the official start is only tomorrow. But we had a chance to attend the partner keynote - which was so full, attendees had to wait outside before it could get started.
Platform, platform and platform
It seems to be the message these days - see our takeaways from SAP TechEd and Amazon AWS reinvent - and of course now Salesforce has the same message. To be fair - Salesforce has had force.com since a while - but the new messaging and positioning of the company around Salesforce1 the platform gets more and more important (again). If you have missed it - here is the latest pitch video on youtube - leaked before the Tuesday keynote:
The ecosystem matters
And consequentially in the partner keynote this morning at dreamforce in San Francisco - apart from more a vertical focus, the ecosystem mattered. So it was time for the partner and plattform treams to show the successes of ISVs who have build on the force.com platform. And it was a well delivered and smooth pitch - build on force.com and be successul. Not only with the platform - but also with supporting programs - e.g. the launch of the AppExchange Accelerate program - that provides help to startups and even more mature ISVs to be successful in every stage of their growth.
But the best reference turned out to be recently gone public CRM vendor Veeva - which has built its life science focused CRM suite on the force.com platform. To a certain point Veeva is for Salesforce what NetFlix is for AWS - a competitor building on the platform.
Nothing gives a platform vendor more credibility than competitors building on your platform - it means that you have made a strong enough commitment to the platform to attract ISVs and dissuade competitive concerns.
But then... Financialforce acquires...
So right after we learnt how well Salesforce has been growing the ecosystems - over 1000 partners, over 2 million downloads in 2013 - we learn that one of the major ecosystems players - FinancialForce.com - has acquired force.com vendors Vana Workforce and (the assets of) Less Software. Certainly a good move by FinancialForce.com - pursuing a complete ERP strategy - but what does it mean for the force.com platform or ecosystem?
Here are a few perceptions Salesforce does not want to happen around force.com
Force.com is a vehicle to be acquired by larger vendors or Salesforce itself. - This would imply no lasting stay on the platform
Or Force.com is a vehicle to get easier funding fromt he VC community. - This maybe risky as funding may not be as abundant and not available.
Or Force.com is a great platform to go public - see Veevo. - This maybe risky as one cannot predict the IPO market.
Salesforce remains a key application vendor by itself, who also has an investment in many players like in this case interestingly in FinancialForce. So Salesforce can play many roles in the ecosystem - but needs to remain above the distrust line.
On the flipside this could be just a blimp on the radar screen - as long as Salesforce manages to show growth in numbers of vendors and partners building on force.com. The next 12 months will tell.
Salesforce has done a very good job promoting its platform and making it attractive to ISVs. Other vendors in the business should take note.
But then the ecosystems is still relative small - so acquisitions like the ones from FinancialForce.com today will be watched with a weary eye for players inside and outside the ecosystem.