Salesforce and Microsoft Forge Ahead as Friends

May 30, 2014 John Gorup

By John Gorup and Nick Hamm


11 months after stirring up the tech world with an announced partnership, Marc Benioff announced that he and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will be teaming up to bring more value to their joint customers over the next year. The two CEOs announced via a press release and joint conference call their intention to integrate Salesforce and Microsoft Office 365 as well as make the Salesforce1 mobile application available for Windows and Windows Mobile.

But the details of what the partnership entails are much less interesting than the “why”. We all know Benioff as a master marketer, always ready and willing to take full advantage of any situation he can to have the spotlight turned his way. With the renewed PR momentum Microsoft has been receiving since Nadella took over the helm from Ballmer, there is no doubt that Benioff saw an opportunity to hitch a ride on this wave of positive Microsoft sentiment. It’s a win-win for Salesforce – they are seen as helping to prop up and support an industry giant trying to regain its balance, and the joint customers of both companies see some value from enhanced integrations between Microsoft’s Office products and the Salesforce CRM (a common combo, especially in the hot enterprise market segment).

The truly surprising (and perhaps very telling) aspect of this is that the announcement in many ways undermines Microsoft’s own CRM, Dynamics. One of the major selling points Microsoft uses to compete against Salesforce is the tight integration between the CRM and MS Office, so it’s surprising to see this same type of integration announced as a part of a new Salesforce partnership. However, I also know that there is customer demand for integration between Salesforce and O365, so it was likely something Salesforce was pushing for anyway. A sort of “you help us integrate O365 into our application and we’ll build our mobile application on your platform” tit for tat.

Nevertheless, we’re almost a year out from the Oracle partnership announcement without any substantial new technology to show for it yet – will the same play out with the Microsoft partnership? Time will tell, but I believe the announcements here were genuine and too specific to not deliver at least something on. And both companies win here, although as usual, Benioff and Salesforce seem to come out with the best end of the bargain. Maybe most importantly – this may be the big push that Microsoft needed to gain back a lot of the industry cred it lost under Ballmer’s direction. And they have Benioff’s mastery of marketing and situational awareness to thank for it.

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