Denis Pombriant

About the Author Denis Pombriant


Sales

CPQ’s Other Life

Configure, Price, Quote systems have a name problem. When they debuted, their basic functions gave a name to the category that was self-explanatory, and it fit well. As with any good idea in technology, however, frequent use brought with it demand for more functionality that quickly outstripped the technology’s charter — a happy problem.

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Vendors

Revisiting Show Season

Show season changes the CRM market. One day you’re in the vanilla application software space, and a week later you understand the need to incorporate social media or analytics or machine learning, or you see a need for enhanced integration and development through platform services. It goes on. Today, in the wake of many companies’ trade shows, we’re again taking a look at the available suites.

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Customers

Oil Patch CRM

A recent story chilled me to the bone. The headline supplies all the reasons: “Saudi Arabia’s Grand Plan to Move Beyond Oil: Big Goals, Bigger Hurdles.” At first glance, this doesn’t ring any CRM bells, but maybe it should. Why would any business or business-state contemplate moving out of its sweet spot if it weren’t required to? What happens to the customers that have become dependent?

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Business

Counting Down to ASC 606

There will be little New Year’s Eve celebrating but perhaps a lot of morning-after hangovers for U.S. businesses that haven’t begun preparing for ASC 606, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new rules about revenue recognition. They are set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The news is much the same for Europe, though there the rule’s name is “IFRS 15.” The change is hard to do.

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Vendors

Salesforce’s IoT Strategy

Salesforce is a large and well-disciplined development company. It’s pretty good at marketing too. It continues to innovate in all product areas, from core platform to applications, and the one criticism I’d make is that it’s information overload at times. Lately Salesforce has made a big deal of adding its AI product, Einstein, to every application area to provide insights and stack rank options.

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Vendors

Salesforce Gets Granular

If you need an example of digital disruption, you can’t do better than the retail banking industry. A byzantine collection of rules and regulations plus the overhang of many legacy systems have conspired to prevent banks from becoming more involved with their customers. Even innovations like the ATM, which entered the scene several decades ago, only serve to distance banks from their customers.

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Vendors

OpenWorld 2017

I spent last week at Oracle’s OpenWorld 2017 in San Francisco. When I wasn’t drinking from an information fire hose, it was alternately fascinating and exhausting. There were major announcements in database, blockchain, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and other stuff I’m associated with only tangentially. For instance, my eyes glaze over when they start talking about bare metal servers.

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Vendors

Show Season

Autumn officially kicked off about a week ago — not with some celestial convergence but with show season, with companies like HubSpot and SugarCRM holding conclaves of their faithful. This is traditionally the beginning of attempts at closing the calendar year on a high note, as CRM vendors work to garner customer dollars based on the promises of new technologies unveiled at conferences.

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Vendors

Digital Hub Returns

Digital Hub is not a new idea. It’s been percolating for a few years, and its roots can be traced to Dublin, Ireland, where in a cluster of eight buildings, there exists what might be the original hub. In Dublin, it’s made up of 97 companies employing 725 people, and it was given a jumpstart by the government in 2003. Elsewhere, we might be more attuned to the idea of a tech incubator.

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Sales

Einstein Tries Sales Forecasting

When Salesforce unveiled sales forecasting with its artificial intelligence tool, Einstein, my immediate reaction was that it should have tried something easier — like solving global warming. Really, a sales forecast that bears some resemblance to reality has been a grail quest for all of us for many years, and Salesforce is not the first software company to throw its hat in the ring.

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Vendors

Finally Oracle

Oracle showed some very good numbers in its latest earnings report. As it begins its second year of aggressive cloud promotion, the company overall is showing significant year-over-year improvements, thanks to its turn to cloud infrastructure, applications and platforms. Yet when read right, the numbers announce the end of the beginning of the end as much as they announce the end of the beginning.

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Strategy

The Vision Thing

Salesforce earlier this year introduced its Einstein Vision capability, an idea with a lot of promise but not a great deal of precedent. Who had applications that could see, and how would this be used? For decades, we’ve been content with scanning documents and analyzing them with OCR tools, or we’ve used bar codes and QR codes — but it all came down to recognizing simple symbols.

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Vendors

Oracle’s Numbers

Oracle will announce its Q1 revenue and profit numbers after market close on Wednesday. There’s more than a little excitement about what might be revealed, specifically if the company can continue its rise, thanks to its cloud products. The anticipated answer is yes, but there’s potential for a surprise. The company so far has been posting great numbers for its cloud products.

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Sales

6 Reasons You Need CPQ

Many businesses still don’t use configure, price, quote software in their routine sales processes. Maybe they don’t need it, but for businesses that still cling to spreadsheet-based approaches to track things like price lists and product catalogs, chances are good that they’re dealing with more overhead than they need to. Worse, they’re wasting time and therefore money.

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Vendors

Ten Billion

Salesforce announced the partial attainment of one of its long-range goals in its Q2 earnings announcement last week: It eclipsed its goal of a $10 billion run rate. This will be followed by similar announcements over the next year — first $10 billion year, etc. — and why not? The company should celebrate. Second quarter revenue hit $2.56 billion, a 26 percent increase year over year.

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Trends

CRM Health Check

As an industry, CRM continues to grow and shower benefits on its users. It’s hard to imagine that some businesses still don’t use some form of CRM, but recent data suggests there are still businesses buying their first CRM solutions or changing vendors. It’s a compilation of data from all over, with some credible inputs from a number of sources, so it’s worth taking a look.

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Strategy

Yes, and…

The further we go in the CRM adventure, the less our efforts seem to be about technology. That’s because we’re reaching a theoretical limit, or asymptote, on what technology can do in the vendor-customer relationship. Think of an asymptote as the ceiling that a graph never reaches. Increasingly, we’re encountering situations where the best technology can do is assist humans.

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Enterprise Apps

Spanning Front and Back Offices

CPQ — that is, configure, price, quote — is one of the most transitional apps, because it spans front and back offices, and because its very existence has changed these functions. Another app in this category is sales compensation management. Both of their stories are about front-office processes needing back-office data. Once the data is made available, the process evolves to be far more useful.

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Deals

Sage Buys Intacct

Sage’s Tuesday announcement of its agreement to buy Intacct prompts a multilayered look at the evolution of the cloud ERP space. Both companies are partners with Salesforce and have products based on the Salesforce platform. Each is a member of the AppExchange, and both are situated in the broad cloud ERP space, which has been receiving a lot of attention lately as the market seems to be moving en masse, albeit glacially, to the cloud.

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Strategy

Elon Musk: Luddite?

It’s hard to believe that the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX could have such reactionary views about AI. Elon Musk last weekend had some very un-Musk-like things to say about AI when he addressed the U.S. National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization, and I don’t think people fully appreciate that,” Musk said.

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Strategy

A New Service Model

People concerned about automation killing jobs might look at Helpshift’s strategy and similar automation approaches. By enabling businesses to build help or support into mobile apps, these new models are re-inventing support to get the job done. Sure, they provide automated support in lieu of conventional agents, but they do so at a level where it often can be uneconomic to position live agents.

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Vendors

Trailhead Matrix

Salesforce had a strong showing at its TrailheaDX developer conference, roughly quadrupling last year’s attendance and flooding its developers with new technology. Over the last few years, the company has built out a multidimensional matrix of product offerings that include CRM components like SFA and customer service, but it has been careful to introduce back-end technology products as well.

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Trends

Naming the Ephemeral

So much is happening as we approach the end of Q2 — our industry’s busiest quarter, at least by some measures. I’m flying around seeing things but not always able to comment from a middle seat on a red-eye. So this piece is an attempt to catch up and set some markers for the traditionally slower summer. I’ve been searching for a word to describe a new category I see: Service as a Service.

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Trends

Where FinancialForce Fits

FinancialForce held its first big time user conference in Las Vegas last week, headlined by new CEO Tod Nielsen. The company seems to be telling us that it is adjusting course in an effort to create a new category aligned with enterprise resource planning, but very much for this century. The key concept is services, which must be explained.

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Vendors

Salesforce Parallelism

For several years now, Salesforce has built distinct product lines that all work off the same platform and can integrate in interesting ways. There are product lines for the enterprise, small and mid-sized businesses, business-to-business firms and business-to-consumer operations — and probably some others that I haven’t considered. The rationale for all of these new products is simple.

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Trends

The [xxx] Economy

While sitting in the audience at Zuora’s recent Subscribed event, I couldn’t help contemplate the meaning and progress of what was once a set of words that didn’t roll off the tongue. I am talking about the “subscription economy” — and it’s really something. The data coming in from a variety of sources shows how rapidly subscriptions have become a big part of our lives, and why not?

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Vendors

The Subscription Economy’s Maturation

A lot happens in a decade. Bill Gates once said that we overestimate what we can do in two years and underestimate what we can do in 10. 2017 is a particularly good time to stop paddling and look back at what’s been going on in the last decade. While we will all have our favorite memories, there’s one in CRM that stands out more than others for me. After all, 2007 was the year of the iPhone.

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Analytics

Building a Sales Team by the Numbers

I don’t know why more subscription vendors don’t do this. Subscription companies collect mountains of data from their customers, and analyzing the aggregations can deliver profound insights virtually for free. Yet too often subscribers are reluctant to let their data be stripped of identifying characteristics and used for research. Too bad, because there’s gold in that big data.

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Vendors

Helpshift Integrates With Salesforce

Mobile technology has delivered a lot of useful functionality that enables vendors and their customers to be on the same page more frequently. However, the screen size has an inherent drawback: It shows a very narrow slice of a reality — typically one idea at a time. The problem is especially acute in the key areas of sales and service. A mobile “help” app should deliver help the customer values.

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