What is Salesforce?

Salesforce.com is a comprehensive ecosystem of infrastructure, SaaS applications, programming interfaces, APIs, consulting partners, and learning management systems. In this article, we give you a high-level overview of these products and services. In future articles, we’ll dive deeper into the technology and specific products.

Sales Cloud

Salesforce.com started as a customer relationship management application (its stock symbol is CRM). It was founded by ex-Oracle executives, led by Marc Benioff, in 1999. What was revolutionary about salesforce.com was that instead of being application software installed on “on-premises” server hardware, businesses accessed salesforce.com via the internet, using a web browser. This approach led to salesforce.com being dubbed a “cloud application”. Another key innovation was the “platform” infrastructure approach, where the underlying database (built on Oracle technology) was abstracted to the user. Tables, columns, and rows were renamed as objects, fields, and records, and made accessible to users and administrators, allowing for customized data models for each organization.

The typical use cases for the original product was to manage the sales cycle for enterprise businesses, from lead generation through opportunity outcome, including the ability to manage accounts, contacts, products, territories and marketing campaigns.

Today’s Sales Cloud is the evolution of the original CRM product, with process automation, analytics, AI, and both declarative and programmatic custom development capabilities.

Service Cloud

Service Cloud is focused on customer service management. Whereas Sales Cloud primarily drives opportunity outcomes, the Service Cloud platform provides a customer service agent workspace, case management, CTI integration, and process automation.

The object model is similar to that of Sales Cloud, with the focus shifted from the Account and Opportunity objects to the Case object. Sales Cloud and Service cloud share very similar UI and administration interfaces, as well as process automation and custom development capabilities.

Field Service Lightning

Field Service Lightning (FSL) is an extension to Service Cloud, enabling Technicians, Dispatchers, and Contractors to manage field service operations using Salesforce. FSL offers:

  • Case, Work Order, Account and Contact Management
  • Scheduling
  • Mobile App with in-app guidance
  • Service Contract Management
  • Contact Center Console

Financial Services Cloud

Financial Services Cloud (FSC), based on the core platform, optimizes it to serve the financial wealth management vertical. Used by Registred Financial Advisors (RIA’s), the application provides:

  • Client and Household Profiles
  • Relationship Builder and Maps
  • Next Best Actions
  • Opportunity Insights
  • Advisor Analytics


Work.com arguably was one of the quickest product launches to market at Salesforce. Spun up to address the issues faced by enterprises reopening after COVID-19 quarantines, the product was in a beta release by May (partners and developers had early access) and GA in June. Work.com features include:

  • Workplace Command Center
    • Monitors return to work readiness
    • Automates surveys to assess employee wellness
    • Enables shift management
  • Contact Tracing
    • Tools to track health-related interactions
  • Emergency Response Management
  • Workforce Reskilling

Community Cloud

Community Cloud enables businesses to create self-service portals for customers, employees, and partners, surfacing data from the core cloud applications. The AppExchange ecosystem has developed industry-specific templates for communities that enable businesses to create portal sites with minimal effort. Customized solutions can be developed with both declarative and programmatic development.

Typical use cases are:

  • Access to information about products and services
  • Account and contact management
  • Distribution of leads to partners
  • Enabling B2B commerce transactions
  • Case management
  • Knowledgebase access
  • Onboarding

Einstein Analytics

Einstein Analytics brings predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to the Salesforce platform. Businesses can analyze data both in Salesforce and in external data sources. The features include:

  • Analytics Studio: Dashboards and quick-start templates
  • Einstein Discovery: Automated discovery tools, modeling, and scoring
  • Einstein Prediction Builder: Predictive Analytics on Salesforce objects
  • Data Platform: ETL and APIs for managing data

Marketing Cloud

Salesforce has grown through numerous acquisitions. Marketing Cloud is an example of how it has integrated technology from these acquisitions to provide a fully-featured marketing automation toolset:

  • ExactTarget: Email service provider (ESP), content creation and curation, campaign management
  • Radian6: Social media listening
  • BuddyMedia: Social media publishing
  • Krux: Data Management Platform (DMP)

Marketing Cloud enables cross channel messaging, including SMS and Push. The Advertising Studio feature set includes integration with the Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest digital advertising platforms.

Marketing Cloud is not built on the core Salesforce platform, but it can integrate with it and external data sources via platform interfaces, APIs, automated FTP, and file import/export.

Additional features include campaign automation, audience segmentation, and integration with Google analytics.


Tableau, the industry-standard data visualization and analytics toolset, became a member of the Salesforce family in August 2019. While it is now a Salesforce company, it continues to operate independently,


AI driven analytics vendor Datorama was acquired in July 2018. An innovator in marketing analytics, Datorama is used by ad agencies and in-house marketing analysts to measure and optimize marketing campaigns. Integration with Marketing Cloud creates a unique marketing automation stack that can measure campaign ROI in close to real time.


While Marketing Cloud can serve both B2C and B2B use cases, Pardot is primarily intended to be used as a B2B marketing automation platform.

Pardot offers:

  • Lead capture
  • Landing page creation
  • Email marketing (ESP)
  • Content creation and curation
  • Content personalization

Similar to Marketing Cloud, Pardot is not built on the core Salesforce platform, but it can integrate with the Sales and Service Clouds to share data between the applications.

Commerce Cloud

Commerce Cloud represents another acquisition by Salesforce. Previously known as Demandware, Commerce Cloud brings B2C and B2B eCommerce to the ecosystem. A full-featured eCommerce platform, Commerce Cloud functionality includes:

  • eCommerce website templates for mobile and desktop
  • Campaign management
  • Product catalogs
  • Automated payment processing
  • Personalization
  • Integration with Marketing and Service Clouds

Customer 360

Customer 360 enables the Salesforce Customer Data Platform (CDP) solutions. The technology links platform entities (Accounts, Contacts, Persons, Subscribers, and Customers) across the ecosystem to provide a singular reference to the entities. Customer 360 allows for a single view of a customer across Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Commerce Cloud, with integrated hooks for implementing controls to comply with local, national, and global privacy regulations.

App Exchange

AppExchange is the “App Store” for Salesforce. Listed on the exchange are resources and solutions for implementing and extending the functionality of Salesforce applications. All of the application packages are subject to a rigorous security review, and certified consultants are vetted through the Salesforce partner program. Resources and solutions include:

  • Apps: Ready to install third-party application packages
  • Lightning Components: Building blocks for Lightning pages and apps
  • Bolt Solutions: Industry-specific templates for apps and communities
  • Flow Solutions: Pre-built Flows for process automation and connections with external systems
  • Lightning Data: Third-party data sources with native integration to the platform
  • Consultants: Salesforce certified system integrators and independent software vendors


Integration with enterprise and SMB applications is often required with Salesforce implementations. The robustness, reliability, and accuracy of data across back-office applications can often make the difference between a successful implementation and one with poor user adoption metrics. The are several types of integration patterns:

  • Programmatic: Using the platform’s programming language, Apex, custom code can be written to source and consume data via APIs. Industry-standard REST and SOAP APIs as well as HTTP protocols are supported. Data formats include XML and JSON.
  • Declarative: Workflow Rules and Flow process automation can be used to consume APIs and services to and from external applications
  • Integration Platforms: Integration Platforms as a Service (IPaaS) that connect Salesforce to enterprise applications. Salesforce recently acquired MuleSoft, which arguably has become the “native” Salesforce integration tooling. Other integration platforms include:
    • Jiiterbit
    • Boomi
    • Informatica
    • IBM Cast Iron
    • DBAmp
  • AppExchange Packages: AppExchange packages can provide integrations for enterprise and SMB applications and services. The AppExchange covers a wide variety of industry verticals and use cases.


Heroku is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that has been integrated with Salesforce.com platform databases. This allows application containers running industry-standard application technologies to interact with Salesforce data and applications.

Applications can be written in Node, Ruby, Java, PHP, Python, Go, Scala, or Clojure. Postgres, Redis, and Apache Kafka can also run on Heroku.

Training and Certification

The Trailhead learning management system (LMS) is the Salesforce platform for training and certification. When used with the comprehensive documentation published publicly by Salesforce, users, administrators, and developers have the tools to learn the skills necessary to administer and develop applications on the platform.

Certification tracks are available for administrators, developers, and architects. The certification process includes in-depth testing to assess the knowledge of candidates. These tests emphasize hands-on skills as well as theoretical knowledge.

Enabling Technology Transformation

In summary, “Salesforce” refers to a multi-faceted, diverse ecosystem of related technologies:

  • Fostering enterprise revenue growth by enabling process automation, democratizing data analytics, and integrating AI technologies
  • Automating customer service
  • Enabling marketing automation with integrated data from first, second and third-party sources
  • Providing analytics that focuses on the key metrics driving profitability
  • Predicting next best decisions
  • Platforming eCommerce tooling with 360-degree views of the customer
  • Declarative and programmatic development
  • Integration with enterprise applications

With the robust integration between the technology stacks atop the platform and external systems, Salesforce is uniquely positioned to enable enterprise technology transformation.

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