Recently several analysts downgraded salesforce.com’s stock, citing high valuation: Salesforce a A Harder Sell , Salesforce.com Shares Seen As Pricy . Chris Selland had voiced his doubts regarding the hosted CRM model before (“ won’t cure cancer anytime soon “) , and sees the downgrades as signs that “the media honeymoon appears to be mostly over”.
I beg to differ … a stock’s valuation is often not indicative of the business’s success, further growth potential, and certainly not of the underlying business model (hosted CRM) in general. The stock can become an underdog, simply because it had previously ran ahead, was overvalued, while the SalesForce.com (and On-Demand software) continues to grow.
AMR research reported 105% growth in on-demand CRM in 2004. Nevertheless, the debate continues as to how suitable the On-Demand model is, especially for larger Enterprises: “Is it less expensive to lease or buy a car? If you don’t have a down payment, a lease looks pretty attractive,” says Bob Thompson, founder of CRMguru.com. But if the total overall cost is the main concern, the best strategy is to buy a car and “drive it into the dirt,” (via The Deal.com)
I think the car analogy is seriously flawed: this is not a simple lease / buy decision. In the On-Demand model bug-fixes, even major upgrades are managed centrally in a painless manner, often not even transparent to the Customer. The car analogy would only be fair if it referred to a lease where any time the car manufacturer had an upgrade (we’re not talking about the new models every 4 years or so, with today’s cars software upgrades, amongst others are almost continuous) my friendly dealer drove up to my house, leave a new car with identical trim level, color, options (“customization”) at my doorstep and drove the old car away. Now, that’s a lease model not even Lexus came up with … but if anyone knows such a deal, sign me up!
Of course the on-demand vs. on-premise decision is not simply a matter of TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analyses. Phil Wainewright discusses a few other criteria specific to large enterprises.
Debate or not, I think both camps agree at least in these points:
- On-Demand software is now a proven business, here to stay
- It is no longer “only for small businesses”
- For small businesses though, it is likely to be the best choice
- There is no “best choice” for a large enterprise, they all have to perform their own analyses and pick the best option.
After more than a decade in the Enterprise Software business with the “biggies” like SAP, IBM, Deloitte my attention is now focused on the SMB sector, their Enterprise Software and Infrastructure needs. It’s a very refreshing change, and I’ve come to learn a whole new world. (Having switched from Service Provider to Customer in a smaller business was a tremendously helpful eye-opener.) In the next several posts I will look at On-Demand, Open-Source and other new trends from an SMB point of view.