So, what was my proposal? To refresh your memory from my last post, I was fortunate to explore the capabilities of the Salesforce.com cloud and what it could offer data vendors. As an application platform, although there are some limitations, there are real possibilities specifically in the off-trade floor businesses such as investment banking and wealth management among others. As a distribution platform to enable customers easier access and integration of information sources into existing and new Force.com apps, the platform offers real promise. But there was a third area I explored which I saw as a game changer.
One issue today is accessing clean and accurate data, not to mention the on-going support and maintenance of that data. This includes not only customer and financial data sourced from inside the firm but externally sourced information which a firm depends on. For larger financial institutions, this is getting to be a business onto itself. Firms spend millions of dollars and thousands of person-hours addressing the issue of data and data quality. The cost doesn't include data center space, servers and other infrastructure to support the number of applications needing the data stored therein. In addition, much of this work is duplicated across firms.
Vendors generally offer datafeeds or APIs to push information out to customers who then store and replicate the data across their enterprise - highly inefficient. While looking at Salesforce.com and a firm they acquired, Jigsaw, I saw an opportunity. For vendors, much of what they do is data collection and data quality - why not move this 'business', this function into the cloud? Why not run a cloud-based data management business for customers? Why not do for data management what the cloud did for infrastructure management?
This was my proposal - for TR to get out of providing data collection and management services for one customer (effectively, TR) and provide the same service in the cloud - starting with customer data on Salesforce.com - and go from there.
The response was simply this - TR doesn't run a data management service. Yes, that's right, according to a couple of my former colleagues - one of the world's largest information providers doesn't operate a data management service. Now to me, data management is the core of what TR does (not to mention what Bloomberg or Factset or S&P and others do); the applications and other 'products' each offers are an off-shoot of this core business.
So here's the opportunity for a vendor - go back to your first principles, start offering a data management service for customers. Start moving to where customers store and want their data (and other data) to be located. Use the years of experience in building data management systems to build and run your customer's data systems. Accenture and other consulting firms do it, why can't you? You are all fighting over the same pie, create a new market and expand what you do, don't limit yourselves. What you can't do is try and offer a 'product'. Don't look to sell another software solution or another 'configurable' data platform - its not what people want.
If you can't figure out the difference, well good luck to you.....
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
While at Thomson Financial/Thomson Reuters, I was given the opportunity to explore the capabilities of the Salesforce.com platform initially as a proof of concept for integrating Thomson data into the Force.com cloud. During this period, I saw the future of the information industry and a new paradigm of how ‘information products’ are delivered; one which I hoped to see Thomson grab and change the industry. Alas, it was not meant to be but nonetheless, recent events and discussions further enforce my belief that the time is near where there will be a change in how information is delivered to customers.
After I completed the proof of concept, thanks to some smart folks at Okere/Fujitsu in executing my requirements, the future appeared. What I saw was a future where an information vendor, like Thomson, could fundamentally shift its operating model, expand into new markets and leverage Salesforce.com not only as a CRM tool but as an application platform, a distribution network and more importantly, a model whereby they can shift out of siloed mainframe databases and complex delivery systems they have now and open up their content to the mobile/cloud-based world we live in today.
The Salesforce.com platform itself is very flexible and easy to build out some complex functionality and workflow. With the introduction of Java, this likely will result in more impressive visual tools and better usability. Although some functionality needed for financial services might be out of range as this time, I suspect as the platform grows, many of the tools now available through vendor applications, will be available – specifically those within the “off-trade floor” disciplines such as Investment Banking, Investment Management and Wealth Management.
There are some ‘restrictions’ currently in the platform, but they are more a function of how the firm sees itself as a CRM player and can be worked around. Nonetheless, as an application platform, there is the possibility to rewrite many of the solutions vendors offer for those segments mentioned above with added functionality and at a reduced cost.
As a distribution network, Salesforce.com allows for easy integration of bundled services into a firm’s “Org” (or Salesforce.com instance in the multi-tenet environment), which means a customer on the platform using the CRM tools, for example, can be ‘entitled’ for a subset of data from a vendor very easily and with a great deal of confidence of the security. In fact, due to the tiered nature of the platform, different user profiles can be permissioned for different data sets and even data fields. Further, an information vendor can ‘lock down’ their content ensuring the data isn’t changed or altered by the customer (or can be depending on the controls in place). Finally, due to packaging controls offered through the platform, information providers can easily see who is accessing their information and how and offer new commercial models instead of the pure monthly subscription rate.
Using the platform tools would allow an information vendor to offer ‘packages’ of information, tailored for each customer with extensive protection and tracking capability while reducing cost of delivery for both themselves and customers. In effect, once the data source is ‘plugged’ into the platform, any one of the nearly 2 million users on the platform can access the data while being tracked for that use.
Using this model, ISVs wishing to serve a market, but require specific information can also access these data packages and either license directly for the data and pass on the cost to their customers or the information vendor can sell directly to the ISV’s customer for the data.
Effectively, Salesforce.com’s platform can become the “iTunes of data” by information providers leveraging the tools and building the delivery model I pioneered while at Thomson.
Add to it, the cross-platform integration Salesforce.com has natively built and information from a provider can be accessed through Facebook, Linked In, Google, AWS and other cloud platforms.
There is an even more compelling opportunity which I explored, one that was deemed pretty controversial and shifted the definition of what an information vendor did for customers. I’ll explore that next time….
I would be remiss in thanking those of you who offered their congratulations for my inclusion in the Forrester Research book “Empowered”. The experience and being included in the book is very humbling and one I would do again. Thank you again to those at Thomson that were supportive of both my effort that lead to the mention as well as my being included in the final book, I greatly appreciate it.