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Salesforce.com, which blazed the trail in hosted CRM, is also proving to be a test bed for how channel partners will fit into this brave, new software-as-a-service (SaaS) world.
Though the San Francisco-based company has not been viewed as extremely partner friendly--partners get a one-time, 10 percent fee on business they refer--it hopes that its AppExchange software development platform and showcase will nurture a vibrant partner ecosystem. What’s more, the company's newly announced membership in the Eclipse Foundation, along with an Eclipse tool kit for AppExchange, shows its desire to recruit and retain development partners, industry observers said.
"What we're all wondering here is, how do partners make money in a SaaS environment? And it's a huge question," said John Orrock, president of Okere, a New York-based Salesforce.com partner. "Traditional consulting firms sell more people, more hours. The longer they're in [an engagement] the better they like it. Benioff has changed that dynamic, but that doesn’t mean you can't make money," Orrock said, referring to Salesforce.com CEO and founder Marc Benioff.
Blue Wolf, a New York-based ISV and integrator, also has cast its lot with Salesforce.com. Its most popular product is its Enterprise Sales Force Integration, which links hosted Salesforce.com with Oracle, SAP and PeopleSoft applications, said Eric Berridge, Blue Wolf co-founder and principal. AppExchange provides partners a showcase for applications, he said.
Okere and other partners say Salesforce's new "Sandbox" will help them run proof-of-concept applications in a realistic environment without the risk of actual deployment. Okere's business is in integrating Salesforce.com into legacy environments, migrating or converting data, and implementing applications cost-effectively. That often takes a critical combination of vertical expertise and repeatability.
Okere uses its know-how in financial services and comes up with a delivery model that lets it start prototype applications on Salesforce.com's network. "We can start off with small projects. Some run from $20,000, some millions of dollars,” Orrock said. “There is money out there to be made, and we work well with Salesforce.com because we complement them. We make them look good in financial services."
Salesforce.com, for its part, maintains that partnerships are much more than reselling product and services. Company executives position AppExchange as an eBay for software applications that may or may not involve CRM per se.
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