The IT landscape for Salesforce.com customers is quickly growing complex. With over 400 applications on the AppExchange today – with projections of 1,000 by late 2007 – and the upcoming Winter ’07 release and the Apex programming language, sound IT management and governance practices are essential. In the past, a single application such as SFA or Service & Support was manageable for a line-of-business leader or an aspiring IT professional. They could gather requirements, build a business case, sell internally and then implement. With the increasingly complex platform now offered by Salesforce.com, where customers have access to applications, extensions, API’s, partners and the platform itself, determining the tradeoffs among building, buying, and partnering requires a thoughtful and collaborative approach among the business, IT, and the Salesforce.com community.
Some Appirio customers have recently completed extensive application and server rationalization exercises as part of the launch of an on-demand strategy. Inventory analysis is a great first step towards on-demand portfolio management, and uncovers a number of obvious opportunities to migrate on-premise applications to the on-demand model. Many traditional project and portfolio management principles apply, but in the on-demand world there are four key strategies for CIO’s to apply:
- Centralize the Approval Process. All new IT project requests should flow through a single, cross-functional, company-wide approval process with common selection criteria. In the past, on-demand software vendors have thrived by working around traditional IT, which creates redundant projects, additional costs, and inefficient use of resources. Under this decentralized model, many departments (often including IT) are finding, promoting, and implementing siloed on-demand applications that solve a specific problem for that particular department, but perpetuate vendor bloat, cost creep and integration headaches. Further, many existing Salesforce.com customers and their IT departments may not be aware of the capabilities and benefits of the AppExchange platform. To take advantage of the benefits of a true on-demand platform, CIOs must have the business, IT, Salesforce.com teams in sync. The CIO should be aware of all projects currently in queue, and knowledgeable of the end-to-end platform capabilities. This linkage is essential to driving adoption, integrating the user experience, ensuring corporate buy-in, and keeping costs down.
- Apply Early Adopter Factors. Let’s face it, we are in “early adopter” territory: standardizing an on-demand platform for a company with thousands of users, hundreds of legacy applications, complex business models and an “on-premise” mentality.. Along with the benefits of the on-demand model, there are inherent risks, with few end-to-end enterprise class success stories today. The development methodologies and assets are far from mature, and for every ten integration challenges, there are twenty solutions presented. Based on the evolving nature of on-demand platforms and applications, CIOs are well advised to estimate timelines somewhat longer than rollouts of a single application, and to anticipate increased costs associated with training, development, integration and data cleansing and migration.
- Keep Up with the Upgrade Roadmap and Partner Ecosystem. Remember that when you use on-demand vendors, your software is automatically upgraded with each new release. New partners and applications appear on the AppExchange every day. In short order, enterprise customers can expect features that they were planning on building to show up in new releases, and will notice applications that they were expecting to buy to show up on the AppExchange or other marketplaces. CIOs making the platform decision should demand early visibility not only into traditional product roadmaps, but also ISV and SI applications. Specifically, power users and CIOs should find out which applications are actually being used – particularly in large deployments of more than 1,000 seats – and how they are scaling in terms of volume, security, integration, and usability. This information, and the ability to talk directly with other companies making similar investments, will have a direct impact on a CIO’s make, buy, or partner decisions.
- Salesforce.com is Not Just for Sales. Education, awareness, and sponsorship are critical. While it seems obvious to those of us who ”get” on-demand vendors like Salesforce.com, most executives, functional leaders, and even salespeople, do not understand the future direction and capabilities of the AppExchange platform. The notion of building an application development platform using an on-demand model is new for most people, and it takes awhile to fully appreciate the profoundness of this change for typical IT operations. To really drive platform adoption across the enterprise, the executive team needs to consistently educate and drive awareness thru sponsorship and active, visible pilots that demonstrate value to end users and the business.
The principles of IT management and governance still apply in the on-demand model, but with some unique challenges. Despite tradeoffs and risks, the benefits will often outweigh the costs, even for large, complex enterprises. Soon, more CIOs will make the leap from on-premise to on-demand, and pave the way for even wider adoption.