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Salesforce.com Makes U-Turn on Analytics Pricing

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Posted February 3, 2012 By Thor Olavsrud     Feedback

Responding to a social storm of customer feedback, Salesforce.com has abandoned its plans to charge for an analytics module that customers feel should be part of the software's core functionality.

In a dramatic show of both responsiveness and the power of social media, Salesforce.com earlier this week abandoned its plans to charge for an analytics module for its customer relationship management (CRM) software and said it will instead incorporate the features as enhancements to the software's core capabilities.

"In December, we pre-announced a new set of enterprise analytics capabilities on our blog," George Hu, chief operating officer of Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) wrote in a blog post earlier this week. "While we viewed this as a new product, feedback from customers clearly showed they view these features as enhancements to our current functionality. We got it wrong, and we sincerely apologize to our customers."

Hu added that the enterprise analytics features would be included at no additional charge in the Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition and Unlimited Edition as part of the spring 2012 release.

The company set off a furor in December when it announced the upcoming analytics features, which users had been clamoring for, but said they would be part of an additional module for which users would pay another licensing fee.

"Those of us who have been Salesforce.com customers and promoters for years, building our businesses together—developing, supporting and sharing—are experiencing a saddening and loss of trust at the shift I policy," one Salesforce.com user wrote in a comment on the announcement. "This move to charge for basic upgrades outside of the contracted amount feels principally wrong—certainly unethical given the past model. This is not about a 'report;' this move communicates that, in the future, we will pay as we have and get less—less innovation, less functionality, less community. As a CEO of a growing company, I am up for change and will respond. And, it will not be with additional licensing to Salesforce.com."

Another user added, "We pay a premium for SFDC Enterprise Edition over other vendors who already include analytics. As great as a new 'edition' will be, I am not going to be able to convince our leadership that in a still-tight economy to spend more. Filtering, joins, bucketing are basic reporting needs, not analytics."

Jeremy Farber, president of Chantilly, Va.-based PC Recycler and a Salesforce.com customer, brought other customers together in a social media campaign against the pricing. They used numerous outlets, including the company's own website to tell Salesforce.com about their displeasure.

"Why are you charging us for functionality that so many people need? If Salesforce.com is Software as a Service then why are you making us pay more for the software if the whole idea is to cover these costs with recurring revenue?" Farber asked.

Faced with vocal opposition to its plans, the company changed its mind and apologized to its customers.

"As a social enterprise, it’s essential we listen to our customers and what they expect around continuous innovation and enhancements on their existing products," Hu said. "We welcome your feedback."

The new features, which will now be part of the core product, include:

  • Bucketing. This feature will let users group data and place it in categories, or buckets. For instance, deals under $1,000 could be placed in a "small" bucket and deals over $1,000 could be put in a "large" bucket.
  • Cross-filtering. This feature will give users the ability to filter on related objects. For instance, in a report on accounts and contacts a user could filter to show all contacts in accounts that don't have a closed opportunity.
  • Joined reports. This new report format allows users to join reports together and report on multiple children of the same parent. A user could create a report showing products and the team members on each opportunity.
  • Higher limits. Users will get higher limits on snapshots, scheduled reports and dashboards, and dynamic dashboards.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.

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