Becoming easier for partners to do business with remains multi-year journey: Salesforce

Salesforce has implemented new programmatic initiatives for partners, including the final architect solutions and Salesforce DX. The big change, updating the company’s infrastructure to effectively serve its growing army of partners, is underway, but is a long term project.


Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President, Partner Programs & Marketing

SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce has come a long way with respect to partners since its early days, when CEO Marc Benioff touted that Salesforce’s simplicity meant that customers didn’t need partners at all! Now, with Salesforce’s clouds, and the depth of its solutions continuing to grow yearly, the company’s partnering philosophy has changed completely. At its Dreamforce event here, senior Salesforce executives have repeatedly emphasized that partners are now a vital component of their Ohana – the Hawaiian word for family.

When it comes to supporting its partner family, Salesforce has to some degree been a victim of its own success, however. The company now faces the task of handling about 46,000 partner users with an infrastructure designed to support far fewer.

“We have tools today, but they aren’t well connected,” said Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President, Partner Programs & Marketing. “Growth is a nice problem to have. But it does mean that the infrastructure of three years ago isn’t going to hold up. Instead of a lot of discrete apps, we need a much more holistic view.”

Taychakhoonavudh said this is necessary to address a top partner priority, making it easier for them to do business with Salesforce.

“Ease of doing business with us is top on the list of what we could do better, along with more transparency and better communications,” Taychakhoonavudh said.

She indicated that Salesforce had to decide whether they wanted to address this by addressing numerous individual processes, or completely overhauling their infrastructure, and have decided on the latter.

“Making it easy to do business with us requires modernizing infrastructure that reduces manual touches. We could have automated lots of discrete little flows, but if want partners to be able to quote and sell just like a Salesforce salesperson, that required looking at the whole thing and a complete overhaul.

“There is a large and growing number of the transactions, many of which now need to be reviewed and looked at by a human,” Taychakhoonavudh added. “We could survive on what we had today. But with the kind of growth we are seeing in the partner base, we concluded that things are not really sustainable without major infrastructure changes to automate and modernize the infrastructure. From licensing to billing, to invoicing to customer management, partners can expect more from us there. The process could be a lot more seamless,”

The catch – and it’s a big one – is that Taychakhoonavudh acknowledged it’s a multi-year journey.

“We are making investments accordingly, but it is that back office equivalent that takes time,” she said.

To cover that gap, Salesforce is essentially doing two things – hiring more people, and focusing on improving operational efficiency.

“We have doubled partner operational resources over the last year,” Taychakhoonavudh said. “It has produced results. The case resolution has improved from four days to two days. We know that still isn’t good enough, but we are working on improving it.”

Improving partner learning continues to be a top priority as well.

“Learning was the number one ask from partners three years ago, and it’s the number one ask today,” Taychakhoonavudh said. “We are adding to this with Trailhead, and additional partner-exclusive content.” Trailhead, Salesforce’s self-guided learning environment offers modules on everything Salesforce, from culture to leadership to specific skills. More than 200,000 badges have been earned by partners to date. Now a new Lightning Superbadge in Trailhead has been introduced, assisting partners to market their expertise in building Lightning apps, and supporting Salesforce’s major push to get more partners involved in Lightning.

“With Trailhead, the platform remains the same, but the content keeps increasing,” Taychakhoonavudh said. New content on existing platforms “We have also increased role-based learning for partners through the Salesforce Partner Community and Salesforce University, and are going out with more face- to-face training for partners.”

Two new certifications, for System Architects and Application Architects, have also been added.

“This is really the last stage of the certification journey,” Taychakhoonavudh stated. “The challenge with the Technical Architect certification was that it was all or nothing. You were a developer or an architect and there was nothing in between. These last two certifications finish off that journey between the two.”

Salesforce has also launched Salesforce DX – the DX being an acronym for developer experience. This allows partners to deliver innovative apps faster than before, with features such as scratch environments, an improved integrated development environment, and seamless GitHub integration

“Salesforce DX is a huge deal for both partners and customers,” Taychakhoonavudh said. “The improved integrated developer environment will especially appeal to partners who were used to developing in Java. Salesforce has always emphasized clicks, not code, but professional developers could do things faster. That’s what DX lets them do, with tools that give a more modern and collaborative experience.”

All these changes mean that the role of partners will continue to expand, Taychakhoonavudh said.

“With all our products today, customers could do things themselves, perhaps, if they were just implementing sales forecasting in a small business,” she said. “But that’s not what they want to do today. Salesforce talks big – because that’s what our customers want. Today, even a small business wants that ability to transform.”