Salesforce Will Lead CRM Innovation in The 2020s

April 21, 2021  |  Mark Hillary

I remember studying Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at university. Back then the idea of CRM was really in its infancy and during the 1990s companies such as SAP, Siebel, and Oracle dominated the market.

As I started working within IT and becoming more senior in the companies I worked for, I noticed that CRM was always evangelized by those who stood to earn from the implementations, but the users rarely enjoyed using it. In fact, many of the users I met thought that it offered them no value at all and was a drain on their time.

This was when the software would be individually installed on each PC so it often meant that each user needed another PC and that was another headache for the IT support team to manage. Often these systems gathered dust as the users built their own CRM inside Microsoft Excel.

Companies were spending a lot of money on CRM licenses that were not used and yet they also had to spend more supporting the systems. It was a mess.

It really took the launch of Salesforce in 1999 to change this. The founder, Marc Benioff, supported a cloud model from the start. He called it software-as-a-service and Saas become a recognized delivery model for software. He was probably the first to start talking about a platform-as-a-service. Benioff pioneered the idea that users could pay for software as they use it, rather than needing to buy licenses upfront.

From the early days, what was different about Salesforce was that you didn’t need a lot of local infrastructures to run it – everything could just be managed remotely – and it was designed to actually be useful.

Spin forward to today and companies like Siebel are no longer around, bought by Oracle 15 years ago. All the CRM majors now operate using cloud-based platforms demonstrating that Salesforce was right all those years ago. Salesforce is now the global CRM giant with revenues exceeding that of SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft’s CRM platform all together.

Now Salesforce not only leads the market in terms of revenue, but their reputation for innovation and great solutions exceeds the competition. In the past year, they have designed the Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, which allows companies to monitor their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in real-time – essential for companies that are striving hard to improve their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) measures.

Salesforce is also leading the market in embracing flexible working options for its employees. They have worked with smaller cities that are trying to attract new residents and have announced that the 9-5 shift in the office is dead. From now on, the post-pandemic Salesforce does not insist on employees visiting their San Francisco office from Monday to Friday, they are judged by what they deliver, not by how much time they spend in the office.

All modern CRM systems help users to get leads, close deals, improve their productivity, and make better decisions, but Salesforce is constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation and redefining what it means to supply platforms to other companies. With such a strong product and market dominance, it would require a very niche type of business to choose an alternative.

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