Salesforce's major transformationSeptember 20, 2012: 6:36 AM ET
At its habitually over-the-top annual conference, the company unveiled a slew of new services and products.
FORTUNE -- Salesforce has long been known for its cloud-based customer relationship management software for salespeople. That's why, after all, its ticker symbol is CRM. But during a lengthy keynote speech at the company's annual Dreamforce conference on Wednesday, CEO Marc Benioff unveiled a slew of new products he hopes will be snapped up by HR and marketing teams, among other business groups.
Much of the new software is the product of recent acquisitions. Take Work.com, a feedback and performance review tool that was started by a small company called Rypple, which Salesforce acquired late last year. San Francisco-based Salesforce says Work.com will "liberate performance management from a top-down, once-a-year process into an integrated daily solution that makes a meaningful impact on business performance."
How exactly? By putting feedback and rewards capabilities within apps that employees and managers use regularly. (Of course, its success will at least partly depend on the company's ability to build Work.com into all sorts of apps, not just those made by Salesforce). Salesforce also announced the Marketing Cloud, which helps companies track and manage social media activity and is a combination of technology from recent acquisitions like Buddy Media and Radian6.
Branching out from its core product isn't an option for Salesforce -- it's a necessity for the company to keep growing and keep investors happy, not to mention stave off increasing competition from larger enterprise players who are entering the cloud-based software space. At last year's Dreamforce Benioff pushed Chatter, his "Facebook for the enterprise." But it's clear Salesforce is ramping up its efforts to expand, and is making the necessary acquisitions to accelerate the process.
Of course, new products bring new competitors, and even though Salesforce has made a name for itself as the cloud-based CRM vendor, it's new to the hotly contested, so-called "human capital management" set of software tools used by HR departments. Meanwhile, large, traditional enterprise software companies like SAP (SAP) and Oracle (ORCL) have thrown billions -- not just millions -- of dollars on similar acquisitions.
There are also plenty of smaller, nimble competitors that Salesforce will be up against with Chatterbox, yet another new product that was officially announced this week. Chatterbox will allow customers to manage and share business files -- it's no surprise Salesforce is calling it the "Dropbox for the Enterprise." Several other players have already made headway in the file sharing business, like Box, which says it is being used in 120,000 companies (customers include AARP, Red Bull and P&G).
So what's next for Salesforce? Expect the company to expand its HR offerings with recruitment tools and other software. And expect more acquisitions and more attempts to push itself as a platform for developers, not just an application provider. Oh, and you can also expect Dreamforce to continue to be one of the most over-the-top technology conferences out there. Salesforce pulled out all the stops for this year's 90,000 attendees -- both MC Hammer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed.