Providing Transparency

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A year ago, the hosted customer relationship management software provider wanted to expand its services. First, it had to bring its own technology infrastructure up to speed.

Providing Transparency

After the first outage, customers such as ASCAP's Johnson complained that Salesforce.com inadequately communicated what was going wrong. That soon changed, however, and the company updated customers through direct communications and its customer support channels regarding fixes that were underway.

"We have … architected both a 30- and 120-day plan for changes in the service to significantly improve availability," Parker Harris, the company's co-founder and executive vice president, reported to customers at the height of the problem period. "These activities largely include upgrades to software components and installing additional hardware … This week alone, we have increased our database processing capacity by 50%. While this additional capacity is unnecessary for normal operations of the service, we believe it will help under extreme conditions like losing a data instance under peak load."

In late February, Salesforce.com established Trust.Salesforce.com, a Web site providing up-to-date and historical system performance information across all key system components. "We put this out there with the objective to give our entire community—press, analysts, but most importantly, our customers and our partners—perfect transparency into our system performance, our availability, the number of transactions we're delivering [often 60 million-plus transactions a day] as well as our scheduled maintenance," Collins says.

"The idea for Trust.Salesforce.com came from a couple of different sources, one of which was an enterprise customer who said, 'We have faith in you as a reliable provider of I.T. services, but we run a big I.T. shop and we have to be accountable to our stakeholders for availability for performance,'" Francis explains. "They wanted to see that level of transparency from us."

The site tracks real-time database and service performance in terms of both API transactions and page views in the U.S., as well as in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia and Japan. Green nodes mean all is OK; yellow indicates performance issues; red means a service disruption. It also provides users with a heads-up if there's a systems maintenance scheduled, which might cause minor delays in service. "It's a major benefit for us," says Bennett's Benwick. "It shows the daily performance records as well as the performance history for the month."

Though Salesforce.com already boasts a number of large customers including ADP, Merrill Lynch and Cisco, which has 15,000 on-demand Salesforce.com CRM subscribers, it is seeking to build traction in that market with both AppExchange and its recently announced AppStore. The latter is a full-service distribution channel for the developers—many of which are startups—that are building applications for AppExchange, which to date is offering about 400 applications (see go.baselinemag.com/Jan07).

Still, as the market share leader with 44% of the on-demand CRM market, according to AMR, Salesforce.com needs to keep a sharp focus on its service uptime to continue winning and retaining customers.

This article was originally published on 2007-01-07
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