There are those partnerships where the companies swap logos and do joint press releases and that’s about it, and then there are partnerships where true integration happens.
This latter type of partnership is starting to emerge between Salesforce.com and Google, and that’s a very good thing for the CRM industry.
XML Integration Baby Steps
It’s clear that Google and Salesforce.com are moving quickly in the direction of integration at the XML (extensible markup language) level. This is a baby step in the direction of integration, yet a noteworthy one as the integration of Google messaging and scheduling apps can be quickly achieved once this is completed.
Ionut Alex Chitu, a blogger on the Google Operating System blog, writes that the Google Apps Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) now includes an icon for Salesforce.com, in addition to links to other posts from Google developer blogs showing how Salesforce.com developers can include links to Gmail and Google Docs into their applications.
A CSS is a style sheet language that is used for defining Web pages for presentation in HTML, XHTML, and can also be applied to XML as well. In short, the inclusion of salesforce.com in Google Apps CSS classes shows the companies, at a software engineering level, are working toward integration with one another.
What This Means
Google no doubt is thinking about how to use its Google Apps CSS as the short on-ramp to integrate with many other SaaS-based applications as well, yet it is interesting that blogger developers picked up on this specific inclusion. CSS Style Sheets are relatively easy to produce and can be tailored quickly to the changing requirements of users. Putting the initial flexibility into the Google Apps CSS will no doubt please many of the Salesforce.com users looking for even a slight improvement in integration options with Google.
This is ideal, as one of the comments points out, for small and medium businesses (SMB) using Google as not only their search engine but part of their knowledge foundation. Salesforce.com has been criticized in the past for at times appearing to ignore the needs of the SMBs in their installed base. CSS style sheets, even as a baby step towards integration, are welcome signs to these users.
I don’t think this signals that Google is acquiring Salesforce.com, in fact I sure hope it doesn’t mean that. Salesforce.com has done a fine job of being an industry disrupter and needs to continue in that role. Instead, I hope it signals that the partnership announced in June is being managed by the software engineering, product management, marketing and senior managers together to deliver more value to their large shared base of users globally.
The development of a Salesforce.com set of apps optimized for Google’s APIs for messaging, scheduling, search, unstructured content analysis and taxonomy creation would be a major disrupter to the CRM SaaS sector. There are so many directions the partnership could take, yet this approach to tighter integration at the app level seems inevitable at this point.
From Baby Steps to Running
Staying with the allegorical reference to a baby just taking its first steps, you’ll know this partnership has serious legs when business process functionality potentially including Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) support gets included.
When ample evidence begins to emerge of integration across multiple points in the customer-facing processes Salesforce.com has supported, then there’s going to most likely be a shared suite of apps to emerge.
Salesforce.com users would no doubt like to also see the following as well:
- Role-Based Taxonomy Creation From Google Content. Imagine being able to use the roles defined in Salesforce.com today to selectively prioritize and organize content from Google? Now that would be quite powerful and incredibly useful for market analysis, competitive analysis, sales force automation, and even lead generation.
- AdWords Leads Get Better. A lot is being written by bloggers right now about the AdWords business model and the results shown so far in 2008. I’m not going there; instead all I can say is that so many SMBs base the majority of their marketing budgets on AdWords and also use Salesforce.com that the ability to more finely tune this as part of an online marketing strategy, the better. SMBs rely so much on AdWords for leads that it seems very clear that Salesforce.com and Google have much more planned here in response to unmet needs in their shared user base.
- On-Demand Call Center Apps Within Reach Through Shared APIs. When one considers the evolving richness of both Salesforce.com and Google APIs, it’s clear that it would be within the reach of both working together to create a hosted call center app that would combine the process expertise of Salesforce.com and the scalability of Google’s platform. In conjunction with this the ability to populate prospect records using role-based taxonomies would be quite powerful in creating marketing campaigns.
The Bottom Line
Taking baby steps toward integration foreshadows the potential of Salesforce.com and Google working together over the long-term. This doesn’t signal Google getting ready to acquire Salesforce.com; it does show, however, how a good partnership is supposed to work.
Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He has worked with enterprise clients on defining solutions to their channel management, order management and service lifecycle management strategies. He also teaches graduate-level international business and marketing courses at Webster-Loyola Marymount University and University of California, Irvine. He is the author of 15 books on technology and two books on analyst relations. His book, Getting Results From Your Analyst Relations Strategies, can be downloaded for free.