A Surprising Partnership
Microsoft and Salesforce.com once had a relationship that would be better characterized as acrimonious than collaborative, but after Salesforce.com acquired ExactTarget and became a Microsoft customer in 2013, that dynamic began to change. When Satya Nadella joined Microsoft as CEO the same year, he proclaimed a new “cloud-first, mobile-first” strategy for Redmond. Before long, Microsoft and Salesforce.com decided to leverage their respective strengths (cloud and mobile for Salesforce.com, office and operating system software for Microsoft) in a new partnership. In a sign of how much the relationship has evolved, Microsoft was even considering acquiring Salesforce.com until recently. Although for now the companies remain competitors, particularly in the customer relationship management space, Microsoft and Salesforce.com apparently strongly believe that there’s a strategic benefit in satisfying the needs of customers who use both of their products.
The Salesforce App for Outlook
The newly released beta Salesforce App aims to meet Microsoft Outlook users in their home territory. Some sales professionals work primarily within their e-mail clients, only occasionally switching back to the browser for more in-depth information in Salesforce.com. Now, those users can view Salesforce contacts directly from Outlook, cutting down on the time required to look up key information and move a sale forward. If the contact isn’t already in Salesforce, users can automatically create it using the information from Outlook. Because the Salesforce App for Outlook is cloud-based, no software installation is required. It currently integrates with Outlook 2013, Office 365, Outlook for Mac, and the Outlook Web App. Salesforce.com is reportedly planning to make the plug-in available for users of older Outlook versions, as well.
Where will the Microsoft–Salesforce.com partnership go next? Now that it appears acquisition talks have reached an impasse, with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff asking for a $70 billion purchase price and Microsoft CEO Nadella agreeing only to a $55 billion investment, industry analysts are speculating on who else might emerge as a suitor for Salesforce.com. That means Microsoft and Salesforce.com are likely settling back into their original partnership role at this time. Hopefully, this arrangement will continue to be fruitful for both companies and their customers. If Salesforce.com is acquired by another firm, that situation could of course change, but for now, the alliance is one to watch.