Salesforce.com, one of the most disruptive technology companies of the past few years, has single-handedly shaken up the software industry with its innovative business model and resounding success. Salesforce provides customer relationship management (CRM) and other application software solutions in the form of software as a service leased over the Internet, as opposed to software bought and installed on machines locally. The company was founded in 1999 by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, and has since grown to over 3,900 employees, 82,400 corporate customers, and 2.1 million subscribers. It earned $1.3 billion in revenue in 2009, making it one of the top 50 software companies in the world. Salesforce attributes its success to the many benefits of its on-demand model of software distribution.
The on-demand model eliminates the need for large up-front hardware and software investments in systems and lengthy implementations on corporate computers. Subscriptions start as low as $9 per user per month for the pared-down Group version for small sales and marketing teams, with monthly subscriptions for more advanced versions for large enterprises starting around $65 per user.
For example, the Minneapolis-based Haagen-Dazs Shoppe owned by Nestle USA calculated it would have had to spend $65,000 for a custom-designed database to help management stay in contact with the company’s retail franchises. The company only had to pay $20,000 to establish service with Salesforce, plus a monthly charge of $125 per month for 20 users to use wireless handhelds or the Web to remotely monitor all the Haagen-Dazs franchises across the United States.
Salesforce.com implementations take three months at the longest, and usually less than a month. There is no hardware for subscribers to purchase, scale, and maintain. There are no operating systems, database servers, or application servers to install, no...