Bluewolf CEO sees pack of prospects in Salesforce consulting

Eric Berridge, CEO of cloud services firm Bluewolf, wants to stay under the Salesforce cloud

I put it to Eric Berridge that Bluewolf has enjoyed a nice ride on the back of the tidal wave generated by the towering, serial successes of

“Come ON, Martin!” a voice booms down the line from New York where the company is headquartered. “We created that wave!”

He’s kidding of course but it’s to Bluewolf’s credit that Berridge and co. saw the opportunity to build a consulting business before Salesforce had even celebrated its first birthday. Bluewolf has been working with Salesforce for nearly all the latter’s 15-year history, passing on best-practice counsel and advising customers on how to get the most out of the Salesforce ecosystem, as well as other advice on how to make the most out of their own people.

So was that historic alliance down to just plain dumb luck or was it the act of a visionary seer?

“It was clear to us that it was a sea change compared to a Siebel, Oracle or traditional on-premise software,” Berridge says.

But what nobody knew was whether Salesforce would scale and whether its leaders had the ability to put in all the cogs, pipes and gears to fulfil its promise, from APIs to additional clouds beyond salesforce automation, and company acquisitions. When Salesforce and Bluewolf started out, lots of people questioned whether Salesforce would ever sell in large volumes, whether it could prove its security model, expand beyond core CRM, scale to meet the needs of enterprises, and so on. Not so many people ask those questions now as Salesforce has grown to become a $6bn revenue company and still fast-growing.

“The business has changed dramatically as Salesforce has become an enterprise solution and the number-one CRM solution on the planet, and that has helped us become an enterprise consulting company,” Berridge says.

“It was a very easy product to work with, and they to all intents and purposes invented the [business applications] cloud. It was just a way easier way of doing things and that’s why we hitched our wagon to it.”

Berridge says Bluewolf is today far more than just a systems integrator and says its focus is increasingly on customer engagement and the customer experience.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed you if you had said we could get this big but amazing things happen when customers are successful,” he adds.

Numbers are impressive. The company has over 500 staff, 18% of sales are from outside the US and it has over $100m in annual revenue. This is amid a fair amount of consolidation in the cloud consulting sector where Accenture has bought both Tequila, CRMWaypoint and Cloud Sherpas, for example.

That growth and customer-centric ethos has in turn led Bluewolf to adopt a new business model. Today it typically works with larger engagements for an annual fee, where it is rewarded on an ongoing basis rather than for statement-of-work projects.


Future shocks?

But what about the future? Salesforce is no longer one of technology’s spring chickens and some say that it may be about to be overtaken by a new breed of companies that focus on predictive analytics rather than the CRM customer of record where historic actions and transactions are logged. The former Salesforce executive Lindsey Armstrong has, for example, suggested that represents a better way where salespeople are advised what to do next rather than being left to probe the data.

But for Berridge that’s already happening at Salesforce and he sees services like InsideSales as adjuncts to core CRM rather than replacements. So long as it develops and creates the right alliances, Salesforce will be able to defend its place as the destination of the customer record for a long time, just as SAP has done in ERP. Also, acquisitions such as the recent SteelBrick show that Salesforce ‘gets it’.

“CRM used to be collecting data that, when put together, would represent a 360-degree view of the customer, and it was very internal. It wasn’t just Siebel but that entire generation: Onyx, Vantive, Scopus. It turned out to be a fallacy – the salesperson could care less [about all the historic data], or it wasn’t the right moment in time… Today CRM is externally focused with prescriptive actions … I want to know what I do now to increase our relationship with the business so it’s about predictive action. I’ll be the first to tell you most organisations aren’t there yet but I think where it can go is into this world of predictive intelligence.”


Focus, focus, focus

Bluewolf has “dabbled with a couple of things” but Berridge sees no reason to step outside the Salesforce ecosystem and work with a NetSuite, Workday or other cloud applications superpower. This is in spite of rivals like Appirio maintaining a broader portfolio but Berridge says that cleaving to Salesforce helps develop transferable skills within Bluewolf and create “a song sheet that is repeatable”.

Despite his company being a veteran in cloud terms, he says that Bluewolf has only addressed a small piece of the addressable market under the Salesforce umbrella. And while rivals persist he doesn’t see an Accenture or similar being able to operate at speed nor Salesforce, despite having its own services business, becoming an aggressive foe.

Bluewolf will need to stay close to Salesforce but even closer to customers, he suggests, from giants like GE and News Corp. to relative minnows. Most companies are “still dipping their toes in the water” and there are oceans to be fathomed in mobile, analytics and even, still, core sales activities. It helps that Salesforce remains remarkably beloved of users and hasn’t shown any signs of having tricky relationships with customers, unlike say a CA or an Oracle.

A big opportunity lies in helping clients understand what’s going on in their organisations and Bluewolf has an app called Rep Rides that lets its consultants get under the skin of companies to understand how they’re working, how they’re collecting data and what they do with it.

Bluewolf is an impressive company with a terrific word-of-mouth reputation but there might be risks of being so closely associated with one major company. Berridge understatedly concedes that were Microsoft to have acquired Salesforce (as reports suggested was possible last year) that “would have been a disruptive moment”. But he believes the legion of customers Salesforce has recruited won’t go anywhere soon so long as the mothership retains its current direction.

As for Bluewolf it’s of a size where an IPO might be deemed logical but Berridge says that’s “probably not” going to happen given that the markets appear to prefer products to consulting at present. Instead, he says, he’s focused on reaching the summit in consulting and staying there.

“That’s the top of the mountain,” he says.


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