Salesforce.com: I missed an opportunity
Salesforce.com is heading toward an IPO. You have no idea how much I kick myself in the ass everytime I hear about their success.
When the company was founded in 1999, we were considering the implementation of a similar system at Penton Media. By “we” I mean the corporate Internet development group, of which I was not a part of but worked closely with from my business unit. I think the idea was at one time pitched to the execs, but they didn't get it. To us it was obvious... the ability to consolidate CRM across the entire company and identify overlap between customers and the markets we covered via magazines and trade shows. It was an even harder sell I suppose because of all the little “kingdoms” in the company.
Outside of work, I was looking at the crappy contact managers and some of the other software being used at the time to manage customer contact, and it all sucked. A Web-based app seemed like a really good idea at the time, even though Web-based apps were not thought to be a very good idea by the general population.
I didn't have the programming skills at the time, and probably still didn't for another two years or so, but what I would have given to thought of the idea and got something to market first. I signed up for a demo account at Salesforce.com, and I was only partially impressed. Overall, yes, it's a good system with a ton of features. However, I think the UI absolutely sucks.
Salesforce.com pretty much owns that Web-based CRM market, but it can't last. At $65 per user, it's kind of steep. Someone can do better. I certainly have the resources and partners to develop such a system in a relatively short amount of time (.NET, of course!), but I certainly don't have the sales and marketing to sell it.