In case you missed them, a catch up on this Autumn’s CRM stories

by Richard Boardman on December 3, 2013

For those that want a quick recap or may have missed them orginally, here’s my take on the main CRM stories this autumn:

An uneasy peace

Perhaps the main headline in our round up of the summer’s news was the sudden and unexpected outbreak of peace between Oracle and Salesforce.com. The big question was would it last?

Five months on, some cracks seem to be showing. In September, Salesforce.com announced a partnership with Workday. That this happened on the day of Oracle’s Q1 earnings announcement and two days before OpenWorld, was presumably not a coincidence. The partnership included a commitment to use Workday’s software internally, which seemed rather at odds with a similar commitment to use Oracle’s Fusion HCM software back in June.

Oracle for its part has shown little sign of backing down from the acquisition arms race which has been such a feature of their relations in the last few years. In October it announced the purchase of Compendium, a cloud-based content marketing platform, and Big Machines, a similarly cloud-based provider of configure, price and quote software.

Neither did Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, make his anticipated appearance at Salesforce’s Dreamforce event. Had he done so, he probably wouldn’t have been too amused by the announcement of the HP Superpod (a dedicated instance of the Salesforce cloud running on HP’s Converged Infrastructure) given Salesforce’s June commitment to Oracle’s Exadata hardware.

How long détente will last is anyone’s guess, but relations certainly appear rather less matey than they did back in the summer.

Dreamforce 2013

Salesforce’s Dreamforce event is notable in many respects: it’s sheer size – a claimed 120,000 attendees, high profile guest list – Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin, Sheryl Sandberg, Marrisa Meyer, Meg Whitman, Sean Penn, Green Day etc., and that it tends to set the agenda for the whole industry as competitors react to, or mimic, its announcements.

This year the customer was at the centre of things with Salesforce backing away from its social enterprise positioning which Marc Benioff admitted had failed to find traction. Whether the ‘internet of customers’ concept fares any better, given that the importance of customers hardly seems like revolutionary thinking, remains to be seen.

Perhaps the two big takeaways were the HP Superpod, mentioned above, which seems to offer the tantalising possibility that Salesforce might become more relaxed about deployment options in the future (given its potential vulnerability to vendors who offer both cloud and on-premise), and its announcement of the Salesforce1 platform, which will offer better out of the box smartphone and tablet applications as well as making it easier to develop custom mobile apps.

Salesforce.com’s Q3

If Salesforce.com wasn’t busy enough with Dreamforce, or hogging enough of the IT headlines for that matter, its Q3 earnings announcement also coincided with the event. Revenue for the quarter was $1.08 billion up 36% year on year, with a $124 million net loss, down from $220 last year.

Oracle’s Q1 and SAP’s Q3

By comparison, Oracle’s Q1 figures, announced in September, showed sales up a slightly less torrid 2.1% to $8.38 billion but with net income up 8% to a rather more reassuring $2.19 billion.

SAP’s Q3 results showed revenues up 2% to 4.05 billion Euros, and operating profit up 5% to 1.3 billion. Worryingly for SAP, while cloud revenues doubled year on year, traditional software licence revenues were down for the second straight quarter.

NetSuite gets feisty

NetSuite announced better that expected Q3 results with revenues up 34% year on year to $106.9, and used the update to take a few pot shots at SAP including this eye-catching quote:

“This week has been a tale of two companies as NetSuite’s Q3 revenue set a new record, while SAP effectively exited the business of providing software for mid-sized companies as they scale back their Business By Design product, which they once hyped as a NetSuite killer,” said Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite. “These two divergent results show that as mission-critical software moves to the Cloud, it is far safer for customers to turn to committed leaders like NetSuite rather than bet on the PowerPoint presentations of last-generation providers like SAP, Microsoft and Sage.”

The company also announced the acquisition of TribeHR, a human capital management software company. Terms weren’t disclosed, but the move will extend its offering beyond its current ERP/CRM roots.

Microsoft’s Orion arrives

Microsoft released a major upgrade of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Originally code named Orion, the new release will be for both its on-premise and online versions, and will be known under the names Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and Microsoft Dynamics Online 13 respectively. The new version features a radical change in user experience, new tablet and smartphone applications, and improved integration with Outlook, Yammer, Lync, and Skype.

Microsoft also released further details of its new licensing structure and associated costs, which will now be built around three tiers: Professional, Basic, and Essential. While users can mix and match license types, it looks as if many will be facing a hefty price rise.

New versions from SugarCRM and Zoho

Two potential beneficiaries of Microsoft’s price rises were also in the news. SugarCRM announced the release of SugarCRM 7.0 which will also include a revamped user interface as well Chatter-like collaborative activity streams. In a financial update the company said that it had added 670 customers in its last quarter and that revenues were up 80% year on year. While no concrete figures were given, the company noted it was profitable in the quarter. There was no mention of an initial public offering as many had expected in 2013.

Zoho, which has traditionally focussed on the lower end of the market, announced new enterprise capabilities which will include the ability to create custom modules, enhanced territory management, social media hooks, improved integration with Zoho Campaigns as well as new service functionality.

Rimini Street announces its IPO

A looming court battle with Oracle hasn’t deterred third party service provider Rimini Street from announcing that it’s planning to conduct an initial public offering for its stock. Nor, it seems, has the legal wrangling been putting off customers as the company reported a 40% year on year increase in revenue in its third quarter.

Sage’s divestiture bears fruit

Finally, it looks as if Sage’s simplification of its CRM portfolio may have breathed new life into Sage CRM with the announcement of the availability of Sage CRM R1 2013 which features an enhanced mobile offering, a social CRM suite, and new collaboration functionality through integration with Yammer.

Swiftpage, the new owners of SalesLogix, a CRM application that Sage divested earlier in the year, also announced a new generation of mobile capabilities, including an innovative mobile-only subscription option.

Anyway, that concludes my take on the news for autumn 2013. If I’ve missed or misunderstood anything significant please feel free to comment!

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