Marc Andreessen famously said “Software is Eating the World” and I couldn’t agree more!
Only last month taxi drivers across London came to the scary realisation that their world is changing due to the dominance of Uber (a software company). If taxi drivers aren’t safe from the software revolution, no one is!
I believe many industries are at a critical turning point and therefore must rapidly evolve or face inevitable extinction. Unfortunately this is easier said than done, especially for enterprise businesses which are historically slow moving but now need to compete with highly agile software companies born out of Silicon Valley.
So how can IT help enterprise businesses succeed in this new world? I believe a key part of the answer is placing a strategic bet on Platform as a Service (PaaS) and embedding agile software development into company culture (regardless of the industry).
This is why I have spent the past nine months positioning Force.com as an enterprise application platform for a large enterprise.
On the surface, Force.com (owned by Salesforce.com) may seem like an odd choice, why not Microsoft or Google?
In my opinion there are six key areas that answer this question. Reviewed individually, each area could easily be challenged, however when understood as a whole I believe Salesforce.com have the most compelling, end-to-end PaaS story for the enterprise.
1. API-Centric Architecture
Salesforce.com was a pioneer in API-Centric Architecture, meaning every Force.com feature and capability has a corresponding API, reducing “lock in” and enabling massive flexibility for developers. API-Centric design is the cornerstone of what is widely accepted as the next iteration of business development, where having a well-developed API is poised to be the way in which business relationships are established and maintained in a online, 24/7 digital economy (apievangelist.com). This is especially true in a world where everything is connected (people, devices, apps, data, etc).
2. Rapid Application Development
Force.com is a true enterprise Platform as a Service (PaaS), which means your developers can focus on creating amazing applications, instead of worrying about the infrastructure, operating system or middleware. Any application built on the Force.com PaaS is elastically scalable, secure and compliant, thanks to their industry leading multi-tenant architecture, which handles approximately two billion transactions per day (trust.salesforce.com). Force.com is the current (JAN-2014) Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for PaaS.
3. Declarative Development
Force.com is a declarative development platform, meaning anyone can create complex applications using clicks, not code. This enables the business (not IT) to directly contribute to the creation of applications. It’s estimated that 80% of a Force.com application can be created using declarative development (the other 20% coming from code). Don’t worry if you’re a true software developer, Force.com has you covered with powerful capabilities such as APEX (JAVA-like language), Visualforce, Mobile SDK and Heroku (which enables endless development opportunities).
4. Social Integration
It’s clear that the future of collaboration is social. The “working out loud” revolution has already changed the consumer world and it’s widely expected that business is next. Force.com is social at its core, leveraging a capability known as Chatter to drive collaboration and provide context to data.
5. End Point Agnostic (Mobile Optimised)
Thanks to the Aura framework, all Force.com applications are end point agnostic, with no additional coding required. For example, if you open a Force.com application in the browser on a PC, you’ll get served a user interface optimised for mouse and keyboard. However if you open the same application on a tablet or smartphone, the experience will instantly optimise for mobile. Essentially, develop once, use everywhere! Built using Aura, the Salesforce1 Mobile App delivers a native experience to iOS and Android. This, alongside the powerful Mobile SDK and Wear Developer Pack, guarantees you can build the best customer experience, regardless of the end point.
6. Aggressive Expansion
The AppExchange is a rapidly expanding marketplace (2000+ apps) where anyone can submit or install applications built on the Force.com PaaS (many for free). This covers everything from specific functionality (e.g. eSignatures, etc.) to full applications (e.g. ERP solutions, etc). Salesforce.com are the market leaders in Sales, Service and Marketing, they are also industry pioneers with their multi-tenant, API-Centric Architecture. This, alongside their aggressive growth and acquisitions (Radian6, ExactTarget, Heroku, EdgeSpring, etc), proves that they are not resting on their laurels.
Over the next few weeks I’ll dive into some of the details of Force.com, specifically the architecture and key design considerations when positioning as an enterprise application platform.