trojan horse sculpture in public square
PHOTO: Ayca Wilson

CMSWire recently covered the release of Salesforce CMS, with a splendid dissection of the product by Melissa Webster of IDC and Irina Guseva of Gartner. 

It’s an interesting take, focused on product maturity, its chances in a feature and function fight, the prospects of it making a dent in an analyst’s magic quadrant or wave, and what the outcome would be in a selection process as a rational buyer compares this early Salesforce offering with mature products from WCM vendors like Adobe, Sitecore, Acquia or Episerver. 

The analysts conclude it currently lacks experience and brand awareness and it will take time for Salesforce to build both the functionality and buyer trust to become a recognized player in the category. 

This is of course all true. 

But there are people in the world who use Apple Mail.

Why? It’s not as good or as pretty as basically any other email client. But it’s bundled, it's free and it's good enough to save users the friction of finding or paying for something else. And as a bonus, it's supported by the halo of the Apple brand and its loyal consumers.

Related Article: Will Salesforce's CMS Help it Dominate the Digital Experience Market?

Flying Under the CMS Radar

Let's be clear: I haven't used the Salesforce CMS product. Like many commentators I am judging it by the company's PR and marketing. But it seems it's taking a trojan horse approach, with integrations and a hybrid model that plays nicely with incumbent solutions, while offering a decent enough capability to build web pages. 

Salesforce CMS could have the same effect on the category that SharePoint had on intranets a decade or so ago. Nobody in the industry at that time, especially if they used it or tried to develop on the platform, would have said it was the best product in the market. Far from it. It was a nightmare and many CMS professionals still bear the scars. 

But it took a big chunk of commercial demand out of the CMS market as it was part of an existing infrastructure, bundled and attractive to the old gatekeepers of marketing technology — IT.

Plus, the CMS business has a dirty little secret: As much as we commentators, analysts and vendors talk about solving the sophisticated use case of digital experience, personalization and solving the cat’s cradle that is the backend of content management and publication — many, many, many organizations aren't there yet. CMOs and CIOs are realizing they need to drive difficult digital transformations programs through their organizations to make that happen. 

In the meantime, in the same way SharePoint took a chunk of the intranet market out of play — without credibility, analyst recognition or functionality — if Salesforce has released a product that is "good enough," some CMS projects will simply disappear from the market, flying under the radar of the analysts and before the currently considered leaders get a whiff of the opportunity. 

Related Article: Happy 21st Birthday Web CMS

Will Salesforce Shake Up the CMS Realm?

It will be interesting to watch. CMS observers have wondered about this for years — who would dominate, do what SAP did to ERP to the CMS category? Maybe this isn’t it, but with Salesforce's existing penetration into the marketing technology stack of so many organizations, it’s going to have an effect. It might just be the biggest change in the category since it was formed two decades ago.