Salesforce exec.: 'Cloud first' should come before 'mobile first'

Salesforce started talking about “mobile first” last summer with the release of new development tools. It wasn’t the first to do so – many companies are acknowledging the need to make their services and apps easy to use on mobile devices.

But the company says there are nuances to the “mobile first” strategy.

I sat down this week with Kendall Collins, vice president of marketing and product experience for Collins was in Seattle visiting Salesforce’s northwest office.

kendall_collins_0.jpgSource: Salesforce
Kendall Collins, vice president of marketing and product experience for

He’s settling into a new role at the company. He most recently ran design and user experience for mobile and search. Two months ago, he was asked to add marketing to his workload, so he now works on both design and marketing.

It’s clear Collins has been thinking a lot about the mobile user experience. He cited research that shows that people spend 19 “micro moments” a day on their phones, around eight longer sessions on tablets, and four desktop sessions that last a little more than a half hour.

“Being mobile first means thinking about the context of the knowledge worker across those moments,” he said. “It’s how you weave that together in an integrated way where it makes sense. It’s not just, hey, design for that first. That’s not adequate.”

For instance, on a phone, a user might want to pin an item to a list so that it’s easier to manipulate later from a laptop or tablet. But when that person accesses the service later on desktop, the pin function doesn’t need to be front and center. Apps can’t simply be “mobile first”; the experience must fit the device, he said.

He was critical of some other companies that seem to have jumped on the "mobile first" bandwagon without much thought. “Some people are saying mobile first but they don’t always understand what that means. I see examples that are frankly kind of odd and embarrassing,” he said.

He took the opportunity to make a dig at Oracle, saying he watched an Oracle video on YouTube detailing that company’s mobile strategy that showed a person standing in line at a coffee shop while using a tablet. That’s an unlikely scenario, Collins said. "Do I touch the screen with my nose" while juggling a wallet and coffee, he wondered. (I looked but couldn’t find a video that fit that description, but there are hundreds of Oracle videos on YouTube.)

“I think there’s a range from marketing speak on one end to incoherent strategies and architectures on the other,” he said.

Because Salesforce was built initially as a cloud service, the company has advantages over those that are still struggling with legacy software, he said. From an architecture perspective, “you have to be cloud first in order to be mobile first,” he said.

“The challenge is every one of our customers customizes the service. So when they make a customization at headquarters or they decide to enter sales information on a new opportunity and have a new competitor they want to add to the list, they expect when they add that it’s available on the phone, tablet, and PC. By not being cloud first, you lose that agility,” Collins said.

Collins shared some interesting observations about Salesforce customers. The bulk of customers are accessing Salesforce services from mobile devices, primarily iOS and Android but with a decent chunk still on BlackBerry, he said. While some people have upgraded to the iPhone 5, he’s still seeing a “ton” of users on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s.

While tablets are important, “the phone is way more important than the tablet,” he said.

What he’s not seeing much use of is Windows Phone or even Windows 8 PCs. That could be due to the slow rate that enterprises tend to adopt new versions of Windows.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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