Salesforce stresses that rebranding of ISV program articulates partnering philosophy

Salesforce is now calling its ISV partners App Innovation partners, and explained in some detail why new conceptions of customer value make the distinction important.


Keith Block, Salesforce’s Vice Chairman and COO

SAN FRANCISCO – At its Dreamforce event here, Salesforce has announced the rebranding of its ISV program. Going forward, ISVs are now App Innovation partners. This type of announcement typically gets buried at the back end of press releases – and news stories. Salesforce is emphasizing, however, that the rebranding is extremely important, both in redefining what development provider partners contribute, and defining the modern view of how Salesforce views its partner ecosystem.

Tyler Prince, Salesforce’s EVP of WorldWide Alliances and GTM Innovation, made the point that the Independent Software Vendor term was thoroughly obsolete.

“We had this ‘aha’ moment in a conference room on a whiteboard where we concluded it didn’t make sense any more,” he said. “The term ISV was invented around the IBM ecosystem and is 50 years old. Today, they aren’t independent. That’s not a good word, because they are typically working closely with other developer companies. Software isn’t a good word anymore either, in a cloud world. And ‘vendor’ implies we are trying to sell them something, whereas its more or less a partnership.”

On the other hand, App Innovation Partners describes precisely the value such partners provide, said Todd Surdey, SVP ISV Sales at Salesforce.

“That describes who you are, and what you are doing,” Surdey stated in the Partner Keynote on Tuesday. “That innovation ties directly to customer success.”

The number of partners at Dreamforce has increased from 15 in 2003 to over 400 partner sponsors today, and the importance of that ecosystem has increased proportionately. Adam Seligman EVP and FM, Salesforce App Cloud, stressed this in the Partner Keynote.

“After 10 years, we are now 3000 apps in, with four million apps downloaded and installed by customers,” he said. “What an amazing number! Customers love the apps you are building. There are 45,000 5 star reviews. In enterprise software, that’s unheard of.”

Keith Block, Salesforce’s Vice Chairman and COO, said the company had doubled in size over the last four years, in large part by increasing leveraging of its partners.

“I am very passionate about this audience,” Block said in the keynote audience. “Whether SI, or AIP [ISV] or reseller – you are so integral to our strategy.”

Block said that at a very high level, Salesforce has four pillars of philosophy.

“First, we are doubling down on Ohana – family,” he said. “We think of this as a key part of our culture – the way we treat our partners and customers. We make them feel part of this culture.”

Second is the ability to speak the language of industry with customers.

“Talking to the consumer packaged goods industry is very different from retail or telco,” he said. “We have striven to elevate our game by understanding their industries. That plays beautifully into partner strategies.”

Third has been driving international expansion, and fourth has been leveraging the partner community.

“SIs and boutique resellers have the mindshare and knowledge to engage with C level executives, where industry-specific products are really important,” Block said. “That’s why we have increased investment in the ISV community and the developer community, to make it easier to do business with us.”

Block said it all means that Salesforce is in an enviable position.

“The CEO agenda is all about growth and shareholder value, and our message is transformation, so there is an alignment here,” he said.

That applies equally for Salesforce partners, he stressed.

“The opportunity for partners is much better than it is for the Cubs!” said the Red Sox-supporting Block. “We will be talking a lot about Einstein’s AI capabilities and how they can be leveraged by partners. Our mobile first strategy – it’s amazing to me how many companies have NOT embraced a mobile first strategy— productivity, connectivity – all of these trends are playing out, which creates incredible opportunity for the Salesforce ecosystem. I think the sky is the limit.”

Prince cited JDC data supporting this view, and quantifying the opportunity, indicating IDC’s latest projection that every dollar of Salesforce revenue, which created 2.9 dollars for the Salesforce partner ecosystem, last year, would create 3.7x in 2018 and 4.1x in 2020.

To maximize this return, Salesforce is stressing the value to partners of Einstein, its new AI capacity, whose capabilities are being unveiled at Dreamforce.

“We are putting Einstein in the platform so you can put it in all of your apps,” Seligman said. “We can transform the whole industry with all these apps.”

Keith Fox, President of Mississauga ON-based CloudWare Connections, a Salesforce Platinum partner, thought that while Einstein was the most significant thing being announced at Dreamforce, the big thrust was with Lightning. Lightning, announced a year ago at Dreamforce and fleshed out in the year since, is a multi-tenant, next-generation metadata platform designed to provide a consistent, modern Salesforce user experience across any device and make it easy for business users and partners to build apps.

“Salesforce has invested mightily in AI technologies, and Einstein seems to be something that will permeate all of the platforms, but the big push seems to be in Lightning,” Fox said.

Certainly the Lightning opportunity – building apps faster and better – was highlighted in the Partner Keynote. Seligman unveiled a four-part program to test apps in Lightning and have them validated, as part of a program to greatly expand the number of Lightning Apps in the Salesforce AppExchange. The AppExchange is also being placed directly in Lightning Experience, removing the need for a separate login, which Salesforce thinks will enhance adoption. A new Utility Bar has also been added to improve Lightning Experience.

Josie Chiles, Senior Product Marketing Manager for the AppExchange, did a demo in the keynote and stressed why Salesforce sees Lightning as so critical, and so valuable for partners.

“Lightning is really exciting on customization,” she said. “Building with Lightning gives the ability to customize the customers’ experience to solve their unique business problems.”

David Schmaier, the founder and CEO of San Francisco-headequartered Vlocity, the fastest growing partner in the Salesforce ecosystem, stressed that this level of customization is key.

“Customers want applications tailored for them,” he said. “It’s that last mile in CRM that really makes the difference. Customers want rich customer experiences and the best customer experiences are very, very specific.”