Why Salesforce is going to Fail Spectactularly

If you’re looking for a stock to short in the next five years, I recommend Salesforce.com.

Thank goodness for modern web apps, because they’ve raised the bar to levels where solutions like Salesforce simply can’t compete. Users are starting to expect the level of quality they get from their web and mobile apps to be present in their enterprise apps — and companies that can’t deliver this experience aren’t going to last much longer.

Salesforce is basically a four-letter word for software engineers. In StackOverflow’s 2016 Developer Survey, Salesforce was awarded with the dubious honor of the 8th “Most Dreaded Technology”. I’ve been forced to work in Salesforce, and I can honestly say that this is for good reason.

In a phrase, Salesforce attempts to solve 2016-era problems with 2006-era solutions. Because of Salesforce’s reputation, unwitting customers eagerly gobble it up. Companies that need “CRM platforms” jump at the opportunity to pay $125 per month per user for a platform that has no business charging that much.

Salesforce is more worried about marketing than actually fixing the things that make it terrible. Their new Einstein AI doohickey is supposed to convey the idea that they are a forward thinking company, when the opposite couldn’t be more true. There are great suggestions that have been sitting untouched for years on Salesforce’s Idea Exchange with thousands of recommendations from desperate Salesforce Configurators (i.e. Administrators / Consultants / Architects). The sad truth is that Salesforce ossified long ago, and now they’re just riding it out as a cash cow, continuing to generate interest among people who don’t understand technology with clever marketing gimmicks like Apple Watch apps and Einstein.

These “one-size-fits-all” software solutions like Salesforce, touted by the Configurators, are the bane of software engineers. Typically, software engineers end up having to rewrite major portions of the code anyway when it’s discovered that the system doesn’t do the thing that management specifically bought it for.

There are consulting companies that will tell you “We build solutions on Salesforce without code.” Don’t be fooled. I worked for a company like this and what they really meant was “We build solutions on Salesforce without good code.” I can personally attest that most of these solutions which supposedly had “no code” were, in actuality, over-promised solutions that were rushed to production, consisting of thousands of lines of terrible untested Apex and Javascript, and still worse, integrations built with Dell Boomi (shudder).

It’s the endless argument of build vs. buy. I can see how it would be more attractive for CTOs to simply throw $100,000 at Salesforce or a consulting company instead of spending the time and effort to put together an internal team that can effectively solve problems. But in 2016, I’d argue that we’re moving towards a climate where it’s becoming increasingly easier to build, and increasingly more valuable to bring these skills in-house.

You don’t even have to hire people to manage your own servers anymore. All you have to do is spin up a docker cluster and — congratulations — you now have an infrastructure that’s infinitely more reliable than Salesforce. Salesforce still uses monolithic Oracle servers that render their customers’ production apps unusable when they inevitably go down. (I had this happen at a client earlier this year, Salesforce went down for hours and everyone went home because they couldn’t do any work.)

At the end of the day, most software engineers want to work on meaningful solutions that solve interesting problems. Unless they only care about money, no skilled software engineer wants to work at a consulting firm or an agency where they simply throw shit at the wall and move on to the next client.

Oh, one of your developers left? Well, if you’re keeping tabs on the code base and developing your apps with technologies that are served by commonly available skillsets, no problem. You’ll find a kid straight out of college that will be happy to take $60,000, or a more experienced engineer that will power your team to new heights for $90,000. What’s that? You’re managing a legacy Salesforce solution with 100 kloc? Have fun paying someone $150,000 to pile more crap on top of it.

Sincerely,
A software engineer who made it out of the Salesforce ecosystem alive and (mostly) sane

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