10 takeaways from Salesforce.com’s FY2012 SKO, Part II

6. SaaS billing is heating up and Zuora is flying high

On Thursday evening I attended a party hosted by Zuora, a leading SaaS billing company run by former SFDC colleagues of mine. I had a chance to catch up with my friends Tien Tzuo (CEO), Jeff Yoshimura (Head of Marketing & BD) and Richard Terry-Lloyd (VP Sales) at the event. Tien was formerly CMO at SFDC and started Zuora after feeling the pain of building a subscription billing engine at SFDC. He commented to me that his business has quadrupled in the last year and that Zuora has signed up a lot of large enterprise businesses, signaling that the Subscription Economy is not just for start-ups and SaaS companies, but for large companies too. As the economy improves and more companies move to subscription-based models, I expect to see continued strong growth in the SaaS billing space.

7. SFDC’s footprint inside companies is growing, from the VP Sales to the CXO

In speaking with one of the CIO program leaders, he commented that one of the best parts of his job was working with “forward thinking” CIOs who understood not only the TCO and ROI benefits of enterprise SaaS over traditional on-premise software, but also valued the alignment of the Force.com platform’s benefits with their corporate strategy. This resonated with me personally because just last week I sat down with an IT leader from a 1500+ person company to talk about his SaaS strategy and he explained to me that “SaaS works well in an enterprise like mine, spread across dozens of countries, because my customers – the company employees – expect business solutions that are Internet optimized, have limited end-user hardware and software requirements and an intuitive user interface – just like their personal accounts on Facebook, Gmail and online banking.”

Five years ago we were hard-pressed to find a CIO who embraced SaaS, much less found enterprise software solutions to be so strategic to the business because they aligned with the IT group’s goals! SFDC is accelerating this CXO push too by hiring leaders like Tim Stanley, whom I met a SKO. Tim is the former CIO of Harrah’s Entertainment, among other things, and as SVP Cloud Strategy & CXO Advisors brings instant credibility to any SFDC Account Exec going into a mid-market or enterprise CIO’s office to talk about what Force.com can do for their business, to educate and share best practices, etc.

8. Heroku + Force.com = Enterprise SaaS platform strength

With SFDC’s recent purchase of Heroku in December, I expected to hear more at SKO about the synergies with Force.com and how the acquisition might help sales in their accounts. As it turns out, Heroku is as much an ecosystem-building tool as it is a sales-enabling one.

Years ago, Microsoft’s broad dissemination of Windows APIs and the .NET framework, and associated IDEs like Visual Studio, lead to millions of developers in the enterprise giving priority to new Microsoft corporate products. More recently, VMWare's acquisition of SpringSource for their developer community was a key move in building out that ecosystem. In this case, Heroku is SFDC’s first step towards doing the same, but in the enterprise SaaS space.

9. Dare I say it: Mobile might be ready for the enterprise

10 years after the promise, mobile might actually be feature complete (enough) as a business tool to be valuable. At the height of the Dot-com Bubble in 2000, RIM introduced their first generation RIM “pager” that accepted a twitter-like 140 characters of email at a time. Five years later, when Chuck Dietrich and I started the SFDC wireless group, mobile still wasn't close to enterprise-ready. Even though SFDC bought a mobile development company called Sendia in 2006 to extend service access across devices, the sales teams' first use of Sendia was to successfully check the “Mobile enabled” checkbox on enterprise sales RFPs.

But at SFDC's FY2012 SKO dozens of Account Execs and Sales Engineers asked me about SSO and IAM solutions for iPads, smart phones and mobility in general, because SFDC customers are demanding it! The beauty of SaaS is the part about -as-a-Service, which is why companies now expect solution support for anywhere, anytime, anyway access. The enterprise has finally turned the promised mobile corner, and look for more Okta mobile IAM solutions coming soon!

10. SFDC still throws the best party around

To claim otherwise would be dishonest. The partner pavilion on Wednesday evening was a great event. SFDC rented out a large hall in the Venetian conference complex for invited partners to present their solutions at standard trade show booths, with a “partner tailgate” theme, and made it very easy for us to have valuable interactions with their sales teams. A large percentage of the 2600 SFDC folks at SKO came through the hanger to chat with partners and to learn more about how we can help them in their deals. The hall was loaded with good food stops as you’d expect, complete with seemingly “Vegas only” décor like truly monster Monster Trucks (to snack on their “tailgates”), kick a nerf football through the uprights to win prizes, and so on. A good time was had by all..

Thanks again to SFDC for hosting such a great event and letting partners like Okta participate. It was very valuable for us, hopefully for the SFDC sales teams too, and we look forward to participating again next year!