Will Salesforce.com’s Benioff deliver more than vaporware this morning?

This post was written by Doug Camplejohn, CEO and founder of Fliptop

I wish Salesforce.com were more like Apple.

When Apple announces a new product, like the iPhone5, they announce pricing and availability.  Everyone knows how much it will cost and when they can get it, usually just weeks away.

Salesforce.com, like many other enterprise companies, does the opposite.  They pre-announce features that are often months or years away, or never ship at all.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is due to give his big Dreamforce 12 keynote this morning. The question is, will he just be showing us more vaporware this year, or will he finally start delivering on the Social Enterprise promise?

Salesforce.com has been touting the “Social Enterprise” officially since Benioff’s August 2011 keynote at Dreamforce.  Yet, 13 months later, many of the demonstrations he gave remain just that – things that customers can’t implement.

In 2011 the company showed off Social Contacts – the ability to natively add social data to Leads and Contacts in Salesforce.com in order to tie together external social conversations with internal contact records.  Although Salesforce eventually delivered something called Social Contacts, it basically just integrates the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn search bars into Salesforce — a mere shadow of what was promised.

Even the new Social Apps Showcase on AppExchange demonstrates that Salesforce.com is painting everything with the term “social,” much like people did with the term “multimedia” years ago. Could someone explain to me how apps like DocuSign (electronic signatures), Concur (expense management), or Inforce (ERP integration) are social?

Although Salesforce.com has recently acquired a number of great enterprise social media companies, including Buddy Media and Radian6, the products remain as piece-parts instead of the cohesive solution that Salesforce.com demoed last year.  Perhaps the company’s under-the-radar acquisition of BlueTail will help, but in the meantime, third-party apps are stepping in to deliver on what Benioff promised a year ago and bridge the social divide.

Now I’m not naive. I’ve been in Silicon Valley long enough to know this is standard practice for a lot of companies. But painting vision as product announcements slows down third-party product innovation and confuses customers.

I, like many others I know, would like it to stop. I would suggest to Mr. Benioff that if something isn’t going to ship within a quarter, then don’t present it as a product, but rather as what it is – a “Knowledge Navigator” vision of where you see things going.

So, what will it be this morning? More vaporware, or will Benioff deliver on the company’s Social Enterprise vision? I hope the latter. It’s a great vision whose time has come.

[Top image credit: Dreamforce website]


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