My Beefs With Salesforce

256px-Salesforce_Logo_2009You have to hand it to Marc Benioff (Compared to Ron Burgundy here) and Salesforce. The company broke the client-server paradigm for CRMs and freed organizations from the enterprise hell that Oracle, Siebel and others had locked them into. In fact, Salesforce validated the cloud paradigm – something we take for granted now but, when I began selling cloud apps 14 years ago, was mostly a wild idea.

Additionally, Salesforce offered an app store (the AppExchange) long before Apple and Google, treating emerging software providers as partners not evil interlopers. It’s user’s conference – Dreamforce – is a three day party with live bands and DJs and allows folks to attend some of the event without charge (Notes from a visit I made to Dreamforce in 2011 here.).

What’s not to like?

There are some things that bother me about the Salesforce CRM, which I have used since 2004 and that I will enumerate here.

Cost

The enterprise version of Salesforce CRM prices out at $125 per user per month. This adds up and for larger organizations begins to feel like old school software. There are rumors that Salesforces pushes for multi-year contracts with payment up front. So, 100 users on a 3 year contract would result in a one time software fee of $450,000. Wow! Smells like an old school enterprise software deal.

Search

Search in Salesforce is clunky and has not changed much in the 10 years I’ve used the product. Complicated searches require you to set up a report with Boolean filters: ood luck trying to find that guy named Bob a Chevron in Houston you had a short conversation with last week. (You cannot search for Chevron contacts in Houston with Bob as a first name.)

Email

Salesforce’s native email client hasn’t been upgraded over the years; it felt plain and clunky when I first started using the product and feels even more so now. And, the software’s integration with Outlook is weak. As much as I dislike Microsoft productivity products, they are the tools that most offices still use, so making this connection seamless would make life easier for a lot of users.

Reporting

Salesforce has done some upgrades to its reporting tools over the years but they are still difficult to use. The dashboard application requires that you setup underlying reports and link them to the dashboard items. Klugey! (How about having a standard set of items that you can pick from?) Sales processes and reporting are not that complicated – Salesforce could easily generate a suite of preformatted reports for users to choose from. And, without hiring a Salesforce developer, a user cannot generate reports that track historical data on a snapshot basis (“Here is how things looked at end of each month, year to date?”)

Data Structure

The lead/contact structure got baked into the product at its launch and now the entire platform rests on that paradigm. This differentiation is somewhat arbitrary and, while it can be worked around, is messy.

Some of these issues are a result of what I call the donut problem with software and blogged about a couple of years ago.)

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