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The company's pool of implementation allies is growing. The Salesforce.com channel ecosystem, which consists of more than 3,900 consulting partners, is growing at a 42% clip, according to Piper, while the number of people certified as Salesforce.com consultants is growing at a 144% pace.
Piper cited the expanding scale and breadth of Salesforce.com implementations as driving the need for partners; projects increasingly involve multiple Salesforce.com products and platforms, he says. In addition, a small army of ISVs contribute to the constellation of software available to Salesforce.com customers. Piper says some 1,700 apps are available through the company's AppExchange.
Steve Horan, CIO of Nuance Communications, says customers need to think of Salesforce.com as an ecosystem of capabilities. Nuance, which focuses on voice and language solutions, plans to go live with Salesforce.com in October as part of a project to deploy a standard sales methodology across its lines of business. Third-party apps will be part of that implementation. The company also worked with Bluewolf to help sift through the options.
"There is a large volume of companies playing on the Force.com platform," Horan says. "Most of them are new and most are not very big. The partners are the ones who can tell you which ones work and which ones don't."
Horan said Nuance plans to use a third-party sales forecasting app and is looking at other apps that collect social interactions and provide help with sales compensation programs.
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Eric Berridge, Bluewolf cofounder, says the AppExchange provides assurance that the app will run cleanly on the Salesforce.com platform and offers a rating system that provides some insight into an apps success. Beyond that, though, it resembles the Wild West. "Some apps can appear to be very rich in functionality and can deliver on that promise," he says, "but there's not a whole lot behind them from a company perspective or an ongoing development perspective."
Berridge says customers have to take care to avoid locking themselves into an app that serves a short-term need but creates a long-term issue when it comes to the technology roadmap and vendor viability.