November 20, 2012

Since 1999, Salesforce.com’s foundational approach has been to unlock customer relationship management (CRM) by migrating traditional server-side applications to the cloud, which offers enhanced accessibility, mobility, and agility for developers and users alike. In this manner, users access their sales pipeline data anywhere, anytime through an internet-enabled device or computer.

Since the launch of the “Sales Cloud” in the early 2000s, Salesforce has expanded its cloud offering to include additional platforms, including Service Cloud (for managing inbound customer service inquiries), AppExchange, Chatter, Sites.com, and Force.com. Awarded Forbes’ Most Innovative Company Award in 2012, Salesforce is not content to be known and used as only a CRM tool. The firm is using an aggressive acquisition strategy to bolster its portfolio of SaaS offerings as it expands into domains like human resources (work.com), finance (financialforce), and social marketing (Radian6).

Force.com, Salesforce’s application development platform is its most consequential offering because it underpins every other business capability that Salesforce supports through cloud computing. Force.com allows third party developers, like REI Systems, to create applications that are hosted on Salesforce.com’s infrastructure that may or may not directly tie into the Sales or Service clouds. These applications typically are built using Apex (a programming language similar to Java) and Visualforce (an XML-like syntax for building user interfaces). Many of the more than 220,000 Force.com applications are now stand-alone products that can be downloaded and installed via AppExchange. For some of these apps, the basic CRM functionality that Salesforce pioneered is bypassed entirely.

The Force.com platform represents a sizable shift in how new applications will be developed and will alter how businesses view the Salesforce offerings. Many public and private organizations have already turned to Force.com for their application needs. Applications aimed at managing user-level data represent a perfect use case for Salesforce.com – such as foreign consulates tracking visa applications, fitness centers managing their members, institutions of higher education tracking recruiting and enrollment, and state and local agencies using Salesforce.com to update their grants management systems. The list goes on.

Salesforce.com, via the Force.com platform, has affected the internet application development in a meaningful way. Force.com is faster to use because much of the code is prepackaged in component libraries. It is secure and integrates easily into other technologies. Moreover, the Force.com platform is built to be mobile-enabled, a vital feature of all enterprise applications.

While organizations are only now becoming familiar with the potency of the Force.com platform, program managers and product developers should now think twice about Salesforce before looking the other way. Speed, cost, and flexibility compel them to.

REI Systems is a leading Salesforce consulting partner and developer of Salesforce.com applications in the Washington, DC area. We offer a range of Salesforce implementation services including Apex/Visualforce development and custom Force.com application development.