Today, Salesforce.com announced that they will be getting into the ECM business by acquiring Koral, one of our neighbors here in Maidenhead. Some of the guys there are our friends and we wish them luck in this new turn in the ECM market. They scored a real coup showing up at Demo last year and it obviously got the attention of Salesforce. The system has not been around long, but they have added some interesting Web 2.0 twists. It is focused on document management and was born out of the efforts of BuildOnLine, a specialist online content management provider for the construction industry that has recently merged to create CTSpace.
This is a significant shift for both Salesforce.com and for the ECM market. As we all know, although most of the Fortune 1000 have ECM, penetration into those accounts can generally figured in single digit percentages and practically non-existent in smaller organizations. Increasingly, ECM will be delivered either as a software or physical appliance or as software as a service in a utility like form. Smaller enterprises or organizations that have generic content management requirements will find this service useful. This will allow Salesforce to leverage its brand and start with the sales organizations. It also give Salesforce a means to expand its business beyond the sales and marketing organization. It also further validates the Software as a Service model for simple utility functions.
Although everyone is looking for simplicity, not everyone will be looking for a utility-like approach to ECM. It is up to the ECM vendors to simplify the installation and set up process to make it as easy as flipping a switch, but keeping the content inside. Organizations that are not comfortable putting their documents outside the firewall, such as financial services and government organizations are more likely to look for an internal system. Also, as the BuildOnLine guys found out, once you move to the area of specialist content applications, the sale gets much harder and configuring systems becomes even worse. Records management, engineering applications and specialist publishing applications fall into this category. It will be entirely up to each organization which makes sense for them.
Software as a Service is a model that Salesforce.com didn't invent, but has become its biggest proponent and greatest success story. This acquisition will raise the profile of SaaS as a model for ECM. Salesforce will not be alone in delivering content management services as others are developing their solutions with systems like Documentum and Alfresco. Likewise, Microsoft is taking Sharepoint on-line with the Office Live offering. Other companies are now looking at providing an SaaS model for web content management and collaborative content management as well. No doubt we will be seeing feature by feature comparisons between these various solutions soon. Depending on the breadth of functionality, integration with internal systems and scope outside of sales and marketing content, we will see how Salesforce does.