Living the Dream – Salesforce, Google and SaaS

April 24, 2008 Appirio

Chris Barbin

We at Appirio have lots of experience at big technology companies (SAP, webMethods, Borland) and classic enterprise software startups. We run Appirio differently from what we saw at these companies. We not only run our business using software as a service technology, we base our entire business model on it.

Eating our own dogfood: In February 2007 we blogged about how we’re using an on-demand infrastructure to run our business. We got great coverage for eating our own dogfood as a way to increase our own profitability, but also to live the dream that we’re selling our customers.

Appirio doesn’t own a single server, and never will. We’re not fanatics about this — we’re just doing what’s right for the business (OK, and maybe that does make us fanatics!). It’s remarkable that when you get the chance to start from scratch it never occurs to you to buy servers and invest in on-premise software. You just don’t need to accept those constraints anymore. Some skeptics out there doubt a successful growing business can manage without its own servers, but we’re happy to prove them wrong.

In the past year, we’ve expanded our on-demand infrastructure. We went from a early startup to a company with processes for most things. That has required we leverage our Salesforce instance as a platform – providing every employee with a platform license (nearly 100 by the end of 08) – and ramping up our usage of Google Apps.

While we have outsourced where possible (payroll, health care administration), we have also built a host of fully integrated custom applications to run our business and manage such things as IT assets, vacation approvals, utilization tracking, HR and benefits, and even our stock option program. This has allowed us to:

  • Review thousands of resumes and track hundreds of candidates and interviews – Interviewers and recruiters located across the country seamlessly manage the process and track metrics like response time, time to hire, average interview score, most successful lead sources, etc. In our business, anything less than recruiting and on-boarding excellence spells doom for the company.
  • Initiate On-boarding processes with a single click of the”You’re Hired” button in our application. This automatically puts in place the configuration and workflow for key tasks to get someone integrated into payroll, HR, and all of the other items listed above. Its not uncommon for an employee to be completely past the administrative aspects of getting started by the afternoon of their first day.

  • Manage over 100 successful Salesforce and Google projects for enterprise customers. We manage product status, milestones, hours spent, utilization, skills matrix, etc. all through a single system that our own sales, service and support functions all have access to.
  • Rollout support processes (case management, knowledge base, workflow, etc.) for our own product offerings in a pragmatic way. We can support part time, full time, and outsourced support models with just simple configuration adjustments.
  • Use Google Sites to manage our entire intranet which includes sales, service and product assets, metholdology instructions and templates, sample deliverables and even add some personality to the business by having every employee create their own “People Page

We’ve also expanded our use of Google Apps for communications and collaboration, using Google Docs, the new Google Sites for our intranet, Google Groups for listservs, and even a trial of Grand Central for telephony. We even have an application on that calculates the standings in our company ping pong and foosball leagues (look for it on Appexchange soon!).

We’ve experienced a number of benefits from running our business using an on-demand infrastructure, including:

  • Cost: This is the easy one. We’ll write soon with a detailed comparison of the cost of this infrastructure versus what we would have spent for on-premise software. Saving the upfront license fees are only part of the equation—the real benefits come from the ongoing savings of not having to maintain the software and infrastructure.
  • Flexibility and agility: Our infrastructure allowed us to smoothly quadruple the size of our team last year. We’re able to hire the best and brightest, regardless of geographic location. They’re able to get up to speed quickly without installing, configuring, or learning new software interfaces. As a result, we see a faster ramp up — our employees are up-to-speed at least a week faster than we’ve experienced in a traditional technology environment.
  • Process effectiveness: Our on-demand infrastructure makes Appirio more effective in serving our customers. We turn new ideas into solutions quickly because nobody needs to submit a PO for HW/SW/Projects for small changes that return big benefits. We see a new solution’s benefits and short-comings earlier in the process and can adapt from there. And we can solve customer problems faster thanks to an on-demand knowledge base that people actually use.

Coming Next – Part II – Powering our business model

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