Salesforce.com adds big customers as IPO nears

By Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service |  Software

Salesforce.com Inc. unleashed this week a high-profile executive poaching, a pair of significant customer wins, and details of its product road map for the next year, as it positioned for a public offering likely to be one of the IT industry's splashiest since the dot-com meltdown.

After several years of building its "software as a service" CRM (customer relationship management) system and attracting a user base now totaling 130,000, Salesforce.com filed for an IPO (initial public offering) in December. The company, which never met a marketing hook it didn't love, drew headlines last week for its announcement in a regulatory filing that it expects to trade under an attention-grabbing ticker: CRM.

The company built on that publicity this week at its annual customer event in New York, timed to coincide with a glitzy Tibet House benefit concert which Salesforce.com helped sponsor. The company packed the day with a spate of announcements, including new development tools for use with IBM Corp.'s WebSphere software and plans for a deeper integration with technologies from Sybase Inc. Salesforce.com capped its event with news that Sun Microsystems Inc. services head Patricia Sueltz has left Sun and is joining Salesforce.com as its president of marketing, technology, and systems.

It also unveiled two new customers with deployments of more than 2,000 seats -- big wins for a company whose average deal size is 15 licenses.

Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. said it hopes to scrap its mishmash of CRM systems and standardize on Salesforce.com. Meanwhile, human resources outsourcing firm ADP Inc., in Roseland, New Jersey, said it will roll Salesforce.com out to 2,000 employees over the next three months, and will consider increasing its deployment to cover all 5,000 employees in its worldwide sales force.

"The number-one reason why we went with Salesforce.com is its business model," said John LaMancuso, ADP's senior vice president of sales. Like ADP, Salesforce.com maintains that companies are best off outsourcing functions that are not core to their business. "Their business model is us, and we are them," LaMancusco said.

Salesforce.com's scalability was also a factor in its favor, he said. ADP spent eight months evaluating its CRM options and, after meeting with "every CRM vendor out there," the company is convinced Salesforce.com best meets ADP's needs, he said. ADP was previously running custom-built, legacy sales software.

SunTrust Banks had been running nine different CRM systems across its various divisions, including software from SAP AG, Onyx Software Corp., Pivotal Corp., PeopleSoft Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc., according to Ernie Megazzini, the company's senior vice president of enterprise information services. It intends to phase out those systems and migrate most of its sales staff to Salesforce.com.

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