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By 2018, there will be a new giant looming in the San Francisco skyline. Rising more than 1,000 feet, the new tower will be the tallest in San Francisco and will form the centerpiece of the much-heralded San Francisco Transbay redevelopment plan. Like the Sears Tower and the Chrysler Building before it, this skyscraper will likely become synonymous with the city in which it stands.

But unlike those famous buildings, this one will not bear the name of a mid-20th century American corporate titan. Instead it will be named for a much more modern business giant: Salesforce.

And in this way, the Salesforce tower represents an undeniable truth about the modern business landscape: Tech companies have become anchors of the national economy, and Salesforce is in many ways leading the way.

Salesforce’s position as tech’s economic anchor is not just limited to its fancy new digs or even its significant impact on the modern sales team. No, in many ways, Salesforce’s true contribution to the global tech scene is something total different: its vast ecosystem.

A recent report carried out by IDC analyzes this exact topic: Salesforce’s powerful and far-reaching ecosystem that fuels a surprisingly large part of the American tech economy. For anyone in the tech industry or who thinks about Software-as-a-Service, this report is a must-read, and it sheds a lot of light on exactly how Salesforce has affected the economy.

Read on for some of the most surprising insights and interesting conclusions from the report.

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The Shape of the Salesforce Economy

Mapping the Ecosystem

A central finding of the Salesforce Economy report is that Salesforce’s partner ecosystem generates “2.8x the revenue of Salesforce itself.” But what exactly is the Salesforce ecosystem?

Fundamentally, the Salesforce ecosystem refers to all of the other companies, products and partners that exist because Salesforce exists. The apps that plug into it, the consultants who help companies harness it, and the companies acquired by it ‒ these are all parts of the ecosystem that thrives as a result of Salesforce’s dominance.

The amazing part about the Salesforce ecosystem is that the more deeply Salesforce becomes entrenched in the business environment, the more robust, stable and farflung the Salesforce ecosystem becomes. In fact, it has been commonly argued that, over time, Salesforce has grown more and more into its role of keystone species in the business software ecosystem.


“More than a suite of sales, marketing, and other customer relationship applications, Salesforce provides the underlying infrastructure for a host of third-party apps and services,” Jason Bloomberg wrote in a recent article for Forbes. “Nobody has ever built an ecosystem bigger or better than Salesforce has.”

Salesforce’s investment in (and proficiency at) developing its own ecosystem has helped it create a financial engine that has a massive impact on the overall economy.

No one has ever built an ecosystem bigger or better than Salesforce”

A look at Saleforce’s economic footprint. (Source: Outbox Systems)

In the Shadow of a Giant

In many ways, the impact of Salesforce’s vast and diverse ecosystem is obvious: It has spawned numerous companies, changed the way young companies evolve and mature, and disrupted huge legacy industries.

But the impact of Salesforce’s empire extends beyond just the executives, founders and investors who have latched onto it. It has also had a tremendous effect on the millions of people with jobs in sales, sales ops, IT, marketing, finance and consulting.

According to the report, “by 2018, Salesforce and its ecosystem of customer and partners will create 1 million jobs and generate $272 billion in GDP impact worldwide.”

Once you see that stat, it’s easier to understand how Salesforce’s impact splinters and replicates as it echoes through the national economy. An evolution in Salesforce’s product or mission, creates many downstream changes, each subtly altering the entire ecosystem.

“[The jobs that the Salesforce economy creates] will engender another 1.5 million indirect or induced jobs, as customer revenue drives new positions in supply and distribution chains, and as new employees spend money in the general economy.”

The short-term projections of Salesforce’s impact on the national and global economy are interesting, but they also raise a natural question: What happens next?

The Future of the Salesforce Economy

Since its founding, Salesforce has has a rapid rise and unparalleled history. As one of the first true SaaS success stories, it has played a huge role in shaping the entire industry. But what do the next years and decades have in store for the SaaS juggernaut? Can we expect a similarly seismic impact on the industry? Will Salesforce’s ecosystem continue to grow and evolve? Will it eventually displace the company responsible for it?

No one knows the answers to these questions, of course, but the findings in the report tell an interesting story.

The Student Has Become the Master

Based on current trends, it appears that Salesforce’s ecosystem will continue to outpace the company itself in terms of growth rate, revenue, and diversity. According to the report, the partner ecosystem will soon generate 3.7x the revenue of Salesforce itself, up significantly from the 2.8x it does now.

And this is just the beginning.

The central thrust of the report is how rapidly public cloud spending is expected to grow. The last few years have seen a steep climb in this regard, but experts believe it’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to the report, cloud spending surpassed $50 billion last year, but that total represents just 3% of total spending on IT. If the current pace of growth continues, we’re likely to see rapid growth for the Salesforce ecosystem.

Partner-First

The importance of the partner and customer ecosystem is not lost on Salesforce. In fact, it’s a core part of their strategy for continued growth and market domination.

How can we tell? Well, for one, Salesforce’s monster annual conference, Dreamforce, kicks off each year with a keynote for partners.

“Leading off Dreamforce with the keynote for our partners is intentional and by design,” Tyler Prince, Salesforce’s EVP of worldwide alliances and channels, told Diginomica recently. “It’s important for our partners to understand our message and our announcements because over the course of the coming days, they’re going to be meeting with customers.”

But Prince’s (and Salesforce’s) attention to partners doesn’t just stop with lip service at Dreamforce. It extends into the very fabric of the company’s overarching strategy.

“If you look at other big enterprise software companies, almost all of them have very discrete parts of their partner business,” Prince told the news source. “They have a team that manages the big SIs, they have a team the manages their resellers, they have a team that manages their ISVs. There’s very little collaboration across those.

“We had a unique opportunity when I got here two years ago to put all of that together. We have one partner strategy. That strategy ensures that we’re working across this to determine how to pull the best solution together for a customer.

“This connected partner ecosystem will certainly serve us well in the coming years.”

And the coming years are likely to serve Salesforce and its ecosystem very well in return.

Mike Baker
Mike Baker is the Content Strategy Manager at InsightSquared, where he helps distribute original eBooks, articles and guides about data-driven sales and marketing. He has a BA in English and Journalism from Oberlin College.
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