Thursday, March 19, 2015

WTF Product Roadmap to EPIC FAIL

Planning product features and the product roadmap -- it's something established businesses do in an effort to chart the evolution of a product in alignment with the market. While it's usually based around a presentation, it's really a conversation to discuss whether the direction makes sense. While someone may own it, it should be a consensus document. I write this to underscore how this recent feature deprecation announcement from represents a strategic choice on their part; albeit one that has the potential to drive a broad exodus from the platform.

What change is looking like it may be the stupidest roadmap decision of 2015? Salesforce has essentially killed support for email integration for companies using POP and IMAP.

But wait, you might say, there is "Email to Salesforce". What I'm talking about is the integrated support for Microsoft's Outlook email client, what used to be the "Connector for Outlook" and then became "Salesforce for Outlook". Salesforce for Outlook, the product feature that they've been telling us is the path forward for four or five years now, does not support POP or IMAP. In the past, the product managers at Dreamforce used to tell us, "although POP and IMAP aren't officially supported in "Salesforce for Outlook", go ahead and use it. It should work." However, the latest version of Salesforce for Outlook only works with an Exchange server. Why? Because they baked in validation to make sure that there's a connected Exchange server.

And then there's this from their blog:
Announcing Availability of the Salesforce App for Outlook
Mar 18 2015 | By Ryan Aytay
Today, we’re excited to announce the new Salesforce App for Outlook. This exciting integration gives you a brand new way to experience Salesforce, right from Outlook and Office 365. Even better, it’s 100 percent cloud based with nothing to install! The Salesforce App for Outlook is the latest milestone of our strategic partnership with Microsoft.
This follows an email that they sent out the day before. Here's a snippet from that:
What is changing?
With the Winter ‘16 release*, we will retire and end support for Connect for Outlook. After the release, the application will no longer save your emails or sync your contacts, events, and tasks between Outlook and Salesforce.

*Currently targeted for October 2015; date subject to change

What do we recommend?
We understand that this retirement will cause some disruption for customers using Connect for Outlook, and we are here to help. Prior to the Winter ‘16 release, we encourage you to migrate to Salesforce for Outlook, the application with enhanced features that brings Salesforce directly into your Outlook environment. There is no cost to migrate, and you can learn more about it in the video here. To get started, please see the Salesforce for Outlook Quick Start page. In addition, you can find more information in the Connect for Outlook Feature Retirement Knowledge article.

Why are we retiring this product?
Salesforce for Outlook supports the latest versions of Microsoft’s operating systems and Outlook. Moving forward, we will continue focusing our development efforts on Salesforce for Outlook.
And then there's this from their ideas portal. The gist of this idea thread is that for four years -- since they first dropped Salesforce for Outlook on users -- people have been asking for POP / IMAP sync support. In the latest comment from Project Management section, there's this from early March:
Kristie Garafola
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful feedback. I completely understand the frustration and the challenge this presents. While Pop3/IMAP was never officially supported by SFO, you have all made it very clear that it was used- and used heavily- prior to the release that added the supportability check that is causing the problem now.

I have consolidated your input and am escalating this to see what our options are here.  Thank you and I'll circle back as soon as I have more to share.
The reality is that the most likely victims of this shift in product support is the SMB market. These are the businesses that are more likely to use Outlook with a POP/IMAP set-up and an email system like Google Apps. Microsoft's Office 365, the product direction from the Microsoft roadmap, is a subscription-based cloud service that parallels the pricing structure of Google Apps. Of course, since they announced a partnership back in 2008, customers have been asking for integration and sync between Salesforce and Gmail, but there has been no support nor improvement in support since that time. Contrast that with the current move -- basically Salesforce for Outlook will work correctly if you pay Microsoft about $4 per user per month. Merry F'n Christmas Salesforce customers!

For Salesforce users that need email sync -- which is virtually all of them -- we've had to endure shitty email sync for years. Connector for Outlook was a good tool, but when they first rolled out Salesforce for Outlook, it was essentially a canned version of Email to Salesforce -- it would only add email to Leads or Contacts and Opportunities if the Contact was on the opportunity. It sucked, but it was the only solution for 64-bit OS users and later versions of Outlook (2010 and beyond). It took two years of updates before they actually approached the functionality that in the original Outlook Connector. Now this move. And don't even get me started on "officially supported Mac email sync.

The bottom line really is, has shitty email sync and integration support and their roadmap is for more of the same. If you're a sales guy and you can't sync your customer's email to your CRM platform, then it's not much of CRM platform. Instead of actually building in useful email integration, Salesforce seems like they would rather devote product engineering resources on things like "Like" buttons for Chatter and those "all critical" tangential product elements like HR systems and Or maybe support for the Apple Watch. Exciting. New markets are all well and good, but if "the Number One CRM Platform in the world" can't easily record customer communications, it may be time to abandon that moniker. And, for customers, it may be time update your roadmap with "start looking at alternatives".


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