Salesforce is eyeing a bigger slice of business with communications service providers (CSPs) after launching a new framework aimed at helping companies shift their critical systems into the cloud.
The cloud-computing pioneer already sells its CRM (customer relationship management) software to CSPs but sees bigger opportunities in the business-to-consumer (B2C) market if it can remove some of the obstacles in its path.
According to Andy Baer, Salesforce.com Inc. 's senior vice president of global communications and media, CSP customers including Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Italy's Fastweb SpA (Milan: FWB) and Sky Italia have been struggling to integrate different cloud apps and use these alongside their legacy systems.
By addressing the pain points, Salesforce clearly hopes to provide a spur to its own CSP business as well as those of partners and affiliates.
A prime example is the recently announced partnership between OSS/BSS player Matrixx Software Inc. and Vlocity Inc. , a cloud software company that uses the Salesforce platform and counts Salesforce as one of its key investors.
Announced in January, that partnership unites Matrixx's real-time engine and digital commerce functionality with Vlocity's omnichannel and CRM capabilities and has been "well received by the industry," according to Baer.
"The whole initiative already takes advantage of this communications framework and is 100% compliant with it," he says.
Light Reading had originally reported that Salesforce might be looking to play a bigger role in the communications space with a B2C offering following a conversation with Jennifer Kyriakakis, Matrixx's vice president of marketing, in March. As noted at the time, the tie-up between Matrixx and Vlocity has even raised the possibility of Salesforce investing in or acquiring the former as a means of building up its B2C capabilities. (See Matrixx Lines Up New Customers, Funding.)
"I won't speculate," says Baer when asked if Salesforce is considering takeover moves in this area. "What we're doing is partnering with as many of the companies already mentioned and others that may become interested to create a model the industry can rely on."
Developed in accordance with TM Forum guidelines, the Salesforce framework includes a data model specification based on the cloud and is designed to support interoperability between cloud functions from different providers. It also aims to help operators integrate their legacy systems with the cloud.
Baer claims the UK's Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), a subsidiary of Liberty Global, has already benefited in this way from working with Salesforce. "Previously, more than 80% of customers started shopping online but less than 20% completed it online and there was no way to connect online and offline experiences," he says.
Sitting on top of Virgin Media's existing systems, the Salesforce platform ensures that customer service agents can see details of a prospective customer's previous online activity, says Baer, and has led to improved commercial rates for the operator. "Liberty Global is now looking at extending this to the rest of the Group," he says.
Besides Vlocity, the new Salesforce framework appear to have attracted support from a range of software vendors, including Apttus, bit2win, ClickSoftware , CloudSense, Comptel Corp. (Nasdaq, Helsinki: CTL1V) and Sigma Systems .
It also has the backing of systems integrator Accenture , a major player in the OSS and BSS market, although Baer insists the framework is open to other OSS and BSS players. "We're comfortable integrating with any of the legacy providers and we do that with customers already," he says. "At Telefónica in Latin America our solution sends orders downstream to Amdocs, while at Virgin Media the downstream system is a Netcracker product."
Six CSPs have participated in reviewing the framework, including Liberty Global, Fastweb, Sky Italia and Australia's Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), and Baer is confident that others will quickly want to become involved following today's announcement.
Salesforce has continued to report impressive rates of sales growth, with revenues growing by 32% last year, to $5.37 billion.
Even so, its net loss widened to $262.7 million in 2015, from $232.2 million in 2014.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading