Salesforce Acquiring Exact Target? Good Move (With A Question)

Ever since Salesforce launched a fully-working and functional version of Service Cloud (about three-four years ago) following the tiring attempts to build it itself for five or six years (which they later gave up to acquire Instranet – learning along the way that acquisitions work better than building-up) we have been waiting for something like this to happen.

The attempts to build a never-before-seen model of Social Marketing via acquisitions of Radian6 and Buddy Media proved successful not for marketing, but ultimately found their way to a Social Advertising model that does differentiate them from other vendors.  Alas, that also proved they needed more than social acquisitions to build the Marketing Cloud, and that gave way to this acquisition.

As good friend, uber-influencer, and the most righteous person I know in CRM said earlier today (that would be Mr. Paul Greenberg, in case you were wondering), I can now declare them Marketing Cloud – and throw away the social (OK, maybe I extended that a tad).  This is a good move.

From the many rumors the past few years through now, Exact Target is probably the best of the acquisitions they could’ve made. Their commitment to working in a true platform in the open cloud (which Oracle is beginning to find out Eloqua cannot quite do so well, and Marketo “needs work” as anyone who ever used it would know) to the proven integration with Pardot (recently acquired and already working well together) as well as the proven working relationship in place with Salesforce makes it an “easy” acquisition.

Well, easy as acquisitions go.

There are still 12-18 months ahead of proposing a transition, then fixing it as they go along and finally making something happen – but that is expected.  The intent to let Exact Target operate as a free stand-alone entity while working the integration story is good news, and hopefully Salesforce learned how to do it better following the Radian6 attempt.

I am confident that this makes them more competitive in the CRM Suite world at a critical time (older CRM suites are becoming — well, too old and need replacement) and also more complete in the new world of cloud for CRM (no, not the one they’ve been touting — the open cloud via platform one).  Alas, this last point is what raises one question from me.

Salesforce has been re-architecting their product for a while now. The goal is to make all apps more dependent and / or easier to access via Force.com in an attempt to embrace a better three-tier cloud model (right now PaaS, SaaS, and even IaaS is all working as one layer).  There are many reasons for this (I support the move wholeheartedly by the way) but one of the main is to make Force.com a better platform.  The “issue” with this is that requires re-architecting the applications as well as the platform.  Applications that work in one way today (not the customer-facing portion, obviously – that would remain the same as the new SaaS-only layer) will need to work slightly different in the future.

This is already underway and based on conversations i had is still 2-3 years away.  Many people at Salesforce are very happy with this as the next generation of Salesforce taking place (all enterprise software products always need re-architecting after 10-15 years, Salesforce is there now).

The question that hangs in the air then is how will this acquisition delay (if at all) that move? Will having to make Exact Target and associated entities (Pardot and CoTweet) work in the open-cloud delay the move to the platform?

I admit, this is not a common question – I may be the only one asking this to be honest.  But this is what may become a problem – not only for this acquisition, but also for potential future acquisitions (before the new architecture is deployed, obviously).  I am focused on the new architecture when I am bullish about Salesforce, not the current product line.  I see limited value in the current product line, as with all other vendors, but see an amazing opportunity for them to get to that next level – and want to make sure there are no distractions to get there.

Are you seeing the same? Is Salesforce on track to become a key player in the open-cloud world?