Salesforce.com and Jigsaw: One Half of a Good Idea

I think I would have preferred to call this one 1/100000000000th of a good idea…but it was less catchy.

Today Salesforce.com announced it will acquire business contacts data service Jigsaw for $142m. The move leaves Salesforce.com with the ability to pre-load CRM accounts with data – OR – which is more likely, charge a premium for that type of data service. Whether it is pre-loaded leads, or data quality, Salesforce.com adds a nice service, with a ton of great data in its service base, to its arsenal.

::Golf clap::

Why such muted applause? Well, on the one hand I agree totally in terms of what Salesforce is doing here. End users could LOVE the idea of not having to add a lot of data – simply having it pre-loaded on their accounts could be huge. The ability for marketing to have lads and other targets in the system without a lot of demand gen work could be a great asset as well. Biz Dev types will love this – and this adds stickiness to the Salesforce app. Good thinking by Benioff and Co.

But, this deal reeks of old style, proprietary computing and business.  Why buy one data service, when if your product is open enough (as Salesforce always claims it is) you can consume any data service? I guess the answer here is – Salesforce has the size and influence to make people think that paying for Jigsaw services is worth whatever they decide to charge, versus simply doing a little tweaking to consume Hoover’s data right in your CRM, for example.

But, I guess that is why Salesforce is so impressive. Only Salesforce can take a proprietary road in the midst of an open, social revolution, and probably do a good job of making this seem innovative and user-focused – not a money grabbing plan. It’s an amazing feat. I mean, Salesforce took simple RSS tools and turned it into Chatter and claimed to change the CRM world…and chatter isn’t even cross platform nor can it be used to leverage customer conversations.

I am always of the notion that “more is better,” especially when it comes to social media, data feeds, etc. I won’t make assumptions as to how Salesforce.com will play out its total social and data services strategy – but $100+m acquisitions are not the best way to aggregate content in my mind.

All in all, the Jigsaw deal will probably be a net positive for Salesforce.com. After all, they do a great job of marketing to business users – those people who are either too time constrained or inexperienced to set up their own data feeds into a CRM. So, instead of doing it for free, the nominal fee just might be worth it to them, and it just might not. We’ll see.

If I had more time and moxie, I’d write about how this potentially screws long time Salesforce.com partners like InsideView (even though what they do is vastly different in terms of value and scale from Jigsaw) – but perhaps I’ll save that for another post…

9 thoughts on “Salesforce.com and Jigsaw: One Half of a Good Idea

  1. Martin,

    As a recent partner in crime of sorts, add to that my lack of ability to,… well, keep quiet (that was not what I originally wrote :-) I need to add my $.02. I always try to take an objective view on things like this, but I am struggling to understand this one. Listening to some of my peers (yours as well) the suggestion has been made that we need to talk about our strengths, and not worry too much about others, but there is something different about this purchase/announcement.

    The Cloud is Open – yes, this is a tagline SugarCRM has used, but I do believe in it. An application provider – cloud out not – purchasing a data provider is a bit concerning. I cannot put my finger on it, maybe others can. I am trying to be cautious and live by my own standards, so I am hoping that others can chime in and help me to understand the value to the ecosystem. It is has to be more than what CNET states on their website “…the process for finding, adding, and organizing contacts can be cumbersome, Salesforce noted, especially if people are manually entering that information into their databases.”

    Am I wrong?

  2. Mitch,

    I don’t think you are wrong. But at the same time, I am not going to consider this for much more than it is – a pocket acquisition that adds a nice feature to a pretty decent CRM system.

    There is a value here – much like what CNET quoted – but not much else. As to the open-ness of data in the cloud – I don;t see this having all that much effect. Jigsaw will probably keep its APIs open – so for example Sugar users should still be able to access the Jigsaw Cloud Connector.

    Instead of thinking – “Does this bode poorly for the open cloud and data in the cloud?” I would put it this way, “Was this an expensive experiment on SFDC’s part?”

    Because ultimately – there are thousands of other data services and millions upon million of other data systems that cloud apps will need to plug into. If anything, this could be alimiting move for SFDC, not for the cloud or open, social data.

    That’s my $.02

  3. Mitch,

    I don’t think there is an inherent contradiction between an open world and a vertical integration. The need for data is universal enough that it justifies Salesforce to have its own offering and complementing with other services such as Hoovers….

    Philippe

  4. Philippe

    Good point…ultimately that is the right assessment – that Salesforce.com has to remain open on its partner/Exchange network and users will have to have choice in terms of what data services they wish to leverage.

    The biggest issue will be around how SFDC continues to feed Jigsaw. Some are positing that SFDC will use its own customers’ data to power Jigsaw services – in short, selling its customer data a la a cloud-based list renter. I have to believe there are mandates in place to protect users from this scenario – but I do not know for sure, as SFDC does hold a lot of cards when it comes to leveraging their app/platform on their servers.

    Again, time will tell.

    MS

  5. Automatic updating of contact data with changes propagating to the chatter stream. Always a good thing (not my idea but a feature of having salesforce.com and jigsaw connected). So, maybe more than just half a good idea ??

  6. Ed – no doubt the feature is great – But really I think what someone like InsideView does in terms of auto-updating etc. is much better IMO – because they take data from a gazillion sources…my issue is two-fold: One – why spend $142m for a data feed? and two – will SFDC start leveraging its own customer data to feed Jigsaw? (that’s a lil scary)

  7. It could very well be that SFDC will let it’s customers ‘feed’ Jigsaw as well, thereby turning it into a crowdsourced database for SFDC users only. Data could become richer that way, and changes will be noted (and spread) much faster. That way it would be of greater value than the standard Jigsaw database.

  8. >> If I had more time and moxie, I’d write about how this potentially screws long time Salesforce.com partners … <<

    What about us Jigsaw fans?

    I love salesforce and Jigsaw, but cannot afford salesforce at the present time. I am one of the millions that use SugarCRM and Jigsaw. Now what?

  9. Jeff – I have heard that Jigsaw will continue to keep its API open, so that users of Sugar/Jigsaw for example will continue to have that great mix of CRM and external data feeds into the system.

    Bart – my last post on the blog sort of addresses this idea – I think I am going to write more about it today ;) This is a lot more to this concept from a data perspective than I originally thought. Thanks to everyone for the great input!

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