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Inside the Salesforce platform: The Salesforce clouds

Introduction

Although Salesforce has long been known as an application for sales management and enablement, the company has extended well beyond its initial leanings.

Salesforce began as the upstart in cloud-based CRM and, over the course of just a few years, established itself as the go-to provider of software as a service-based CRM. Then it expanded its reach into marketing and customer service. More recently, Salesforce has enhanced its core areas and explored analytics, mobile application development, healthcare and the Internet of Things (IoT).

As it extends into new territory, Salesforce is building on its flagship CRM platform. Industry observers have noted that the company gained dominance in the CRM market by becoming a platform provider -- that is, a vendor with a technology foundation that can plug into various applications. The 800-pound gorilla didn't maintain dominance by remaining a CRM-only provider.

The resulting Salesforce platform, officially known as the Customer Success Platform, has spawned six production-ready clouds -- and one in beta -- for various operations within enterprises. The Salesforce clouds journey began with the development of the Lightning platform, App Builder and Components, which it announced at Dreamforce 2014. A year later, at the 2015 Dreamforce show, Salesforce began to give shape to Lightning's capabilities by demonstrating how companies can build apps on top of Salesforce.

Cynics may argue that Salesforce has to extend its reach beyond its CRM leanings to ensure that it remains competitive with other behemoths in the industry, including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, which can lay claim to dominance in ERP, analytics and other non-CRM-based applications. But it's also true that Salesforce has extended its reach by creating various application program interfaces (APIs), or connections, to the Salesforce foundation. With these connections, companies and partners can build new features or full-fledged applications on top of the Salesforce platform to enable various business operations.

For example, in December 2015, Salesforce paid $360 million for SteelBrick, a former configure, price, quote -- or CPQ -- provider and partner. Following the acquisition, it used its Lightning development platform to build an application in two months that sits on top of Sales Cloud and enables customers and partners to generate price quotes quickly and automatically -- without having to toggle between applications to do so. This is Salesforce's grand vision: to make the CRM platform the ground floor on which customers, partners, developers and others can build new capabilities.

In this guide, we explore the Salesforce clouds, from Sales Cloud to Marketing and Service Cloud to newer entrants, such as IoT Cloud, Analytics Cloud and Health Cloud. Although Salesforce's strategy remains focused on sales and marketing, its move to become a platform provider could vastly expand its reach. Time will tell whether that expansion will dilute its offerings, or strengthen them. Learn more about the Salesforce clouds with the news and tips in this guide.

1Reaching Salesforce customers-

Inside Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud

Sales, marketing and service are core areas for the Salesforce platform. The Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud are designed to help sales representatives and marketers cultivate prospects and existing customers with a variety of technologies. In Sales Cloud, salesforce automation tools help sales reps plan and automate tasks to nurture prospects. Marketing Cloud features a variety of tools to identify relevant audiences and tailor communication to their preferences. Service Cloud has myriad tools to help customer service agents understand and efficiently tackle customer concerns. These clouds also are well integrated with one another. In this section of the guide, we explore features and challenges for each of these Salesforce clouds.

News

Why Sales Cloud could mend data silos

Sales Cloud is helping companies join together former data silos. Continue Reading

News

Garbage in, garbage out undermines sales efforts

If you want sales reps to embrace CRM systems, data quality should be your priority. Continue Reading

Tip

Gaining control of a Sales Cloud implementation

Taking an incremental approach to your Sales Cloud implementation may help with user adoption. Continue Reading

Feature

Boosting sales is all about data governance

If you want to increase sales, get your data house in order. Continue Reading

News

A plan for personalized marketing

Marketing Cloud executive Eric Stahl talks about the platform's evolution, and why it's poised for greater personalization. Continue Reading

News

Knowledge management becoming core to customer service

Knowledge bases are helping customer service become more personal, real time and essential. Continue Reading

News

The challenge of reaching customers wherever they are

Reaching customers in whichever channel they want to communicate is a key facet of modern customer service -- but it isn't easy to achieve. Continue Reading

2Newer Salesforce clouds-

Inside Salesforce Analytics, Community Health and IoT Clouds

This section covers some of the new technologies in the Salesforce platform. Released to great fanfare in 2014, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud is designed to help Salesforce users analyze data "at the point of action" -- that is, enabling users to visualize and analyze data without having to toggle among applications. The Community Cloud aims to enable collaboration among a company's employees, suppliers and partners. The Health Cloud entered the market with a good deal of buzz, hype and circumspection, given that Salesforce is not a healthcare provider. And finally, Salesforce IoT Cloud is still in beta, but it's garnering customers -- including Microsoft -- that are eager to explore its limits.

News

The Salesforce Analytics Cloud needs good data for good analysis

Salesforce Analytics Cloud users find that they have to engage in good data hygiene practices to get results from Wave. Continue Reading

News

Will Analytics Cloud cross the chasm in BI tool discontent?

Many customers are struggling with their business intelligence tools. Can Salesforce Wave make the difference? Continue Reading

News

Why IoT data still poses challenges

Getting data from an IoT application isn't the problem -- getting actionable data at the right moment can be. Continue Reading

News

Can Health Cloud break through the market?

Salesforce is entering the healthcare market with Health Cloud. Does it really understand how to handle patient data? Continue Reading

News

Is Community Cloud the answer to app fatigue?

Historically, collaboration tools and community platforms have been yet another app to open -- more work than help to get work done. Will that change? Continue Reading

News

IoT Cloud not trying to displace Amazon

Recently, Salesforce tried to explain where IoT Cloud fits into the market. It's not an infrastructure player, say executives. Continue Reading

3Lightning strikes-

Salesforce application development

Since the release in 2014 of the application development platform Lightning, Salesforce has been on the fast track to becoming a full-fledged platform. Salesforce has been working to make its platform faster and more intuitive for users and, most recently, to bring the Lightning user interface to all its clouds. Further, Lightning is now an important toolkit in the company's arsenal for developing applications on top of Salesforce. With APIs, companies are building capabilities on top of the application to enable new processes and features. Some companies have incorporated location, for example, to enhance processes and workflows. Others have built applications on top of Salesforce to enable new activities, such as automating the quote-to-cash process.

News

App Cloud focusing on data security, compliance

Emphasizing security and compliance have become ever-more important as Salesforce opens up its development platform to customers and partners. Continue Reading

Feature

Lightning continues to gather interest

The Lightning development platform is moving toward greater standardization, uniformity and ease of use throughout the Salesforce platform. Users have taken notice. Continue Reading

News

Lightning Experience debuts

Salesforce pushes forward with Lightning Experience, to bring automation, ease of use and standardization to Salesforce development. Continue Reading

Tip

Salesforce features abundance of development environments

Salesforce is making an effort to standardize on Lightning, but there are still several other tools in the company's platform development arsenal. Continue Reading

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