When I attended my first Dreamforce in 2005, I already knew I wanted to build a systems integration business around Salesforce. Once everyone saw the potential, I was sure Salesforce implementations would skyrocket and companies would be looking for help with progressively more ambitious plans for the cloud software.
When I return this year on behalf of Rimini Street, it will be to talk with all my friends in the Salesforce community about filling an unmet need in the market for Salesforce services that is different than the one I saw in 2005 but just as significant.
Earlier this year, Rimini Street announced a partnership with Salesforce to offer enhanced support services for companies using Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. While Salesforce cloud software is different in many ways from the ERP systems Rimini Street has supported with award winning support services for many years, it is no less critical for the businesses who have made it central to their sales and marketing operations. The services Rimini Street offers to keep those clouds optimized and working on behalf of an enterprise are complementary to the services customers can get from Salesforce itself and its system integration partners.
Like cloud software, our services are also subscription based – ongoing support you can call on at any time. Over the past ~15 years, a lot of Salesforce solutions have been implemented. While companies still need implementation support, they have an even greater need for a partner to help them navigate the overwhelmingly vast array of Salesforce features and services and put relevant capabilities to work effectively. At an even more basic level, they need help getting the most out of what they have already bought and implemented.
To me, the need for support like this is an example of how the market for Salesforce solutions has matured.
In 2006, I founded Clear Task, a Salesforce Platinum Consulting Partner. Back then, systems integrators were just starting to take an interest in the potential of cloud software in general and the Salesforce platform in particular. This was before a lot of significant milestones, like the establishment of the AppExchange, but the idea of an extensible cloud platform was baked in from the beginning.
What wowed people in the early days doesn’t sound so revolutionary today, but it was like showing cavemen fire.
I first saw the potential on March 22, 2005, which happened to be my birthday – but that’s not why the date sticks in my mind. I took the day off from work to attend a tiny, free Software as a Service tradeshow in San Jose where a guy named Marc Benioff was keynoting. He was amazing, as always. Adam Gross, who was building the developer program, showed how easily you could add a field to any form and incorporate it into a report – all without coding.
It wasn’t until I was driving home from the event that it hit me: to do a simple thing like that, with the enterprise software I was used to, would have taken months.
The technology was brilliant in its simplicity, but I could see companies would want and need help implementing it effectively. Simplifying the application development model helps, but you still need eyes and ears and minds and hands on keyboards. You must figure out what makes sense to do with your Salesforce instance – and then make it happen. Salesforce knew that, and was actively seeking partners.
Clear Task flourished and in 2013 was acquired by a larger integrator, Perficient. I stayed on for a number of years before deciding to go looking for a new opportunity.
Today, there is no shortage of systems integrators who will work with you on your Salesforce projects, but another gap has opened up in the market. The gap reveals itself when the integrators move on to their next project but your staff still needs help managing, integrating, securing, and extending the software. The marketing department needs a field, or a layout, or a report, or an integration added – just one small tweak that would make them so much more productive – but your people either don’t know how to do it or don’t have time. Or, worse, the extension or integration you already had in place stops working, and no one can figure out why.
That’s where the kind of ongoing support Rimini Street provides becomes essential. You can’t be calling the integrators back to help for every glitch or routine enhancement. Their rates are too high, and all their motivation aligns with turning everything into a big project. A subscription service that provides skilled support services, on demand, makes much more sense in the context of cloud software.
To make sure the quality of support is excellent, we assign each client a Primary Support Engineer (PSE), a professional with a decade or more of relevant experience, to be your primary contact. Your PSE, in turn, can call on other engineering resources as necessary to provide you with the help you need. If you have a crisis in the middle of the night, we guarantee you a response within 15 minutes for any critical issue, based on staffing from around the globe. If the issue is not resolved immediately, your PSE will take charge of seeing it through to a solution.
Does it sound crazy that we’re talking about engineering support for your IT department in the context of Software as a Service, which is supposed to be so simple and easy? Again, the simplification is real – it’s not like your IT staff is responsible for maintaining the hardware and operating system behind your Salesforce applications – but there is still skill and knowledge required to optimize the software for your business.
An important distinction is that our role is to assist your internal IT personnel and Salesforce administrators, not replace them. You probably still want to have your own people who can add a user or make routine changes to a form, but your PSE will be there to back them up when they are overloaded or encounter something they don’t know how to do.
Since I have a lot of friends at Salesforce, it makes me happy that we are creating this service offering in partnership with them, rather than as competitors. As was true in 2005, Salesforce is happy to work with anyone who can make its customers more successful. That’s my plan, exactly.
If you are going to Dreamforce, let’s meet up at booth #247.