Salesforce.com's Benioff lays out future strategies

Benioff: Salesforce.com will focus on vertical markets, marketing software and an expanded partnership with SAP

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Salesforce.com's second-quarter earnings conference call featured the usual dose of chest-thumping by CEO Marc Benioff as the company posted US$957 million in revenue and raised its full fiscal year forecast to at least $4 billion.

But the call also revealed some telling details about the company's strategic direction and growth. Here's a look at the highlights.

Going vertical, Oracle style: Salesforce.com recently brought aboard former Oracle sales executive Keith Block, who left that company last year after instant messages in which he was critical of Oracle co-president Mark Hurd surfaced as part of a lawsuit with Hewlett-Packard.

While Block's departure was inevitable, he was considered a key to Oracle's growth and success. And he's currently filling an important hole in Salesforce.com's strategy, Benioff said on Thursday's call.

"One thing Salesforce.com has never fully optimized for is enterprise distribution and the ability to reach the largest customers in the world with highly customized solutions for their industries and their verticals," he said. "You saw how Keith executed that strategy extremely well at Oracle over the last 26 years, and we look forward to seeing him execute a very similar strategy enhanced for Salesforce."

As a bonus, Block has poached Oracle sales executive Tony Fernicola, who Benioff claimed is "perhaps the most successful sales executive from Oracle of all time."

Siding with SAP: Salesforce.com has long used Oracle's technology under the hood of its platform, despite the fact that Benioff and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison have butted heads publicly for years.

While it's not clear how much of their banter has been competitive theater versus rooted in true animosity, it was still shocking to see the companies' recent announcement of Salesforce.com's long-term commitment to Oracle products, as well as the subsequent warm-and-fuzzy conference call between Benioff and Ellison.

As part of the deal, Oracle will also integrate Salesforce.com's CRM (customer relationship management) with its own cloud-based HCM (human capital management) and financials software.

Now Benioff wants to do it again, in a sense.

"It's my hope and I believe that we will be able to develop and create a similar alliance with SAP," Benioff said on Thursday. "I believe it's in the interest of their customers and our customers that Salesforce works well with Oracle, works well with SAP, and even works well with Microsoft, because our customers have these existing investments that we want to leverage."

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