Making a CRM solution fit your business processes, and not visa versa, has been a cornerstone of CRM implementations for well over 10 years, but the concept of leveraging an application’s base functionality as a platform into other capabilities has really taken off with cloud computing.
There’s a strong difference between a SaaS vendor providing customization capabilities and functionality extensions and another vendor that provides honest-to-God access to the underlining architecture to allow for true deep-dive alterations. The first allows for what I like to call “topographical customizations,” the latter the ability to get down and dirty, so to speak, and truly alter the functionality at its foundation.
And this isn’t simply a sales pitch for open source. I’ve come across a number of proprietary vendors that offer capabilities along these lines. I give Microsoft a lot of credit with today’s unveiling of Azure. While it is something of a “walled” approach to cloud development, in the sense that developers can only utilize Microsoft code and Microsoft environments, Microsoft environments are much more inclusive than many of the closed-source SaaS products on the market today.
With Azure, developers can build application that run at the OS level and not simply extensions from the core system. In addition, the ecosystem surrounding Azure is much larger and all inclusive than say Salesforce.com’s.
Ideally I’d like to see more open sourced-based cloud computing environments and development tools, but in the meantime, standards-based environments such as these are a step in the right direction and should offer customers improved portability and flexibility for years to come.