Only a few weeks ago Salesforce raised eyebrows as it announced a huge $6.5 billion acquisition of integration vendor Mulesoft. At the time there was much discussion of the deal, with many people suggesting it made total sense as Salesforce moves on its stated ambition to get to a $20 billion revenue rate – increasingly integrating all the different solutions that its customers use becomes an important requirement and one which can drive increases in the spend those customers have.

There was, as is always the case, those who wondered at how the ecosystem would respond. As I wrote in my own analysis:

…readers may recall last time Salesforce made a choice like this – a couple of years ago when they acquired Steelbrick. there where other companies (and, again, Salesforce was an investor in some of these companies) that did ostensibly the same thing, and it’s fair to say that the acquisition of Steelbrick caused some massive pain, particularly for Apttus.

After the Steelbrick acquisition, many people suggested that building a business off the back of Salesforce’s footprint, while a logical-enough strategy, is also one fraught with risk. It’s great if Salesforce deices to leave the space alone and lets third-parties deliver the functionality, but it’s worrisome if Salesforce decides that it wants to own that part of the market – someone is going to be left feeling jilted in that instance.

The other aspect of the deal, by my estimation, was Salesforce’s own internal need to integrate the various parts of its platform that it has obtained through historical acquisition. Although Salesforce talks a very strong story about a consistent platform, it is one which has been brought together on a somewhat ad hoc basis and, as such, integration is always a challenge.

Given all of these thoughts, it is fascinating to peruse Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant. Gartner is, of course, a technology analysis firm that makes a serious amount of cash through creating these magic quadrants which rate different vendors on their vision, their ability to execute, and their market momentum. So this latest report, coming as it does so soon after the acquisition, has all eyes peeled.

Gartner takes a more cautious approach to Mulesoft

In it report, Gartner dropped Mulesoft out of the leader’s section of the report, and raises these cautions:

  • Customer experience: Mulesoft’s reference customer satisfaction ratings declined from last year in both vendor and product satisfaction. Gartner feels that this can be partly explained by the company’s go-to-market strategy of focusing on larger, more strategic opportunities, which, by their nature, will be more complex to implement.
  • Client base growth: Mulesoft reported adding just over 100 enterprise organizations during 2017, which is well below the market average. However, the number of users of the platform grew above the market average, reflecting an increase in use by current clients as well as by new clients with a large user base.

It needs to be added that the Gartner report, while it was published after the acquisition announcement, was written before it. The impacts of the new ownership, on strategy and market perception, are unknown at this stage.

MyPOV

I generally ignore the day to day shifts within Gartner Magic Quadrants – one annoyed customer, or an errant quarterly revenue figure can make a difference to the assessment. Does this report mean that Salesforce’s acquisition was unwise? Certainly not. The fact is that Mulesoft is going to get a newly reinvigorated sales pipeline from all the attention that the deal gives them. There are always questions about how well they can execute upon that opportunity, but again that is a problem that Salesforce’s cash and experience can help with.

While it must have certainly bruised the ego of those at Mulesoft HQ, I don’t see this report and Mulesoft’s relative step off the dais that comes with it, as a long-term issue for the company.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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