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Platform Power

Thursday, February 15th 2007
Three months ago, I made the transition from to SugarCRM, mainly as a way to learn what was available out there. I was extremely impressed by this open-source alternative, and described what I liked about it in details in last week’s CRM Roundup. Nevertheless, I decided to revert back to, and completed my reverse migration today. Here is why.

Any good Office 2.0 setup, be it mine or yours, needs a focal point, a place where all the bits and pieces fall into place. And because no single solution will address all the requirements you might have, what you really need is a platform that can integrate multiple applications in a meaningful way. If your setup is made of simple widgets, something like web-based desktop might be all you need. But if you’re using a lot of transactional applications, and need something a lot more data-oriented and workflow-driven, a CRM system is what you should be looking for.

Problem is, building a platform is one of the most difficult things to do. We are building one at Intalio, so I know a thing or two about this kind of challenge. And what I learned from more than seven years of trials and errors is that your success as a platform vendor hinges on your ability to develop a thriving ecosystem of partners whose success is tied to yours. In Intalio’s case, it’s over 44 system integrators and 22 independent software vendors located in 21 countries. And in the case of, it’s the AppExchange, with over 500 applications developed by over 240 partners. The larger your ecosystem, the stronger the platform. It’s that simple.

Today, many Office 2.0 vendors have embraced AppExchange and started to offer their services as extensions to Among them, there are a few I just cannot live without anymore: EchoSign for electronic document signing [review], Koral for content management [review], and Spanning Partners for data syndication and synchronization [review]. The desire to have these directly integrated within the hub of My Office 2.0 Setup is what convinced me to return to my first CRM love. Today, has matured into a full-fledged platform, and it has become too difficult to ignore its appeal.

That being said, I want to make it crystal clear that after three months using SugarCRM extensively, I could not find anything missing from a pure CRM standpoint, and in many areas John Roberts’ company kept innovating where had stopped. SugarCRM is certainly one of the best CRM systems out there for on-premise deployment, and the on-demand edition I have used has worked absolutely flawlessly. For this, I would like to thank the good folks at SugarCRM. I learned a lot from them and their application. But being the bleeding edge pioneer that I am, I need something that will help me build a more integrated Office 2.0 setup with minimal resources, and I think I will find it where I came from.

Note to Marc: you should really talk to the folks at ThinkFree.

Entry filed under: Office 2.0, SOA
2. Jorge Fanny  |  February 16th, 2007 at 5:25 am
Hi Ismael,Interesting that you mention the platform concept. It’s hard to go more than a few hours these days without hearing about SaaS platforms or ecosystems. I’ve been keeping a close eye on these guys at Apprenda as they promise something truly revolutionary, and I’m looking forward to evaluate the platform myself.I’d love to hear what you think of them
3. Ismael Ghalimi  |  February 16th, 2007 at 9:11 am Jorge,I’ve looked at them a month ago, signed up for the Beta, but have yet to heard back from them. They’re making bold claims, but I want to play with it before expressing any opinion. What they are after is not easy, so it will be interesting to see what they can pull off.Best regards-Ismael
4. Jorge Fanny  |  February 16th, 2007 at 9:46 am Ismael,I agree, I’ve signed up for their Beta, and I’m also waiting to hear back from them. I’ve contacted them, and I got to chat with Sinclair about their technology, and some of the things that it promises to do. Unfortunately I haven’t seen a full demo, but I can’t wait to try it out, as our needs won’t be satisfied with what offers, and Apprenda seems to offer what we are looking for. I’ll let you know once I get the real scoop.Thanks for your thoughts-Jorge
5. Ismael Ghalimi  |  February 16th, 2007 at 9:48 am Jorge,Thanks! Also, have you looked at Coghead?
6. Jason M. Lemkin  |  February 16th, 2007 at 10:02 am
It was interesting to me that you never mentioned price. Many Office 2.0 companies are trying to produce versions of X that is Y% cheaper (or free). Yet is materially more expensive than Sugar, and I’m guessing you went with the Enterprise Edition. The value was enough that the price issue didn’t rise high enough to get mentioned in the piece…
7. Jorge Fanny  |  February 16th, 2007 at 10:13 am
Yes,I’ve looked at Coghead in the past, but from my understanding they are more aligned with the do-it-yourself model, and not really focused on enterprise grade applications.
We are interested in building a true enterprise application to be delivered as a service, but are trying to avoid having to worry about the SaaS intricacies that some of the SaaS platform players promise to deliver (multi-tenancy, scalability, etc.).Our biggest problem with is vendor lock-in. Not only from the hosting perspective, but we would be required to develop the applications using their Apex language, which for us is unacceptable. We wouldn’t be able to take advantage of any of our in-house skills, and we would have to spend time and money training our developers on their language; not to mention that if we are not satisfied with their service for whatever reason, we would have to start writing the applications again from scratch, as the code would not be portable.
They definitely have a compelling product when it comes to CRM, but as far as their platform offering is concerned, we are not sold yet.Thanks again-Jorge
8. Ismael Ghalimi  |  February 16th, 2007 at 10:39 am
Jason,You’re right, is not exactly cheap, but they changed their pricing model a bit, and cheaper editions now support custom objects, which makes it a lot more competitive on that front. Also, I am using as a single user. If I had to pay for more accounts, my decision might have been different. That being said, we are also using it at Intalio for 10 accounts, and we are planning on adding more later this year. Expensive, but worth every penny as far as I am concerned.Best regards-Ismael
9. Ismael Ghalimi  |  February 16th, 2007 at 10:43 am Jorge,
You’re making some very valid points. I also was disappointed that did not adopt a standard language such as Java, JavaScript, or PHP to build custom business logic. I believe that it would have made the platform a lot more attractive to many more developers.Best regards