A beautiful example of symbiosis and justification for the term “ecosystem.”

While attending FinancialForce’s CommunityLive conference recently I took the opportunity to sit down with Greg Malpass, founder and CEO of Traction on Demand. Traction is a Salesforce consulting partner – quite simply they help organizations customize, deploy and adopt Salesforce and related solutions. Traction is a 350 person organization based in Canada but with a US presence.

Traction is in an interesting space – while there were previously a number of independent Salesforce consulting businesses (CloudSherpas and Bluewolf for example) the market has seen these larger independent players snapped up – CloudSherpas by Accenture and Bluewolf by IBM – leaving only smaller consulting shops as independent players. This is an interesting dynamic and has left something of a vacuum of opportunity for consulting shops where customers don’t want to hire one of the larger consulting players, and have an increasingly limited number of partners to chose from.

Anyway, Traction seems to be doing things right. They were recently judged as one of the Top 10 places to work in Canada and regularly feature on the Profit 500 list and Deloitte list of fastest growing companies. All the more fascinating is the fact that Traction is 100% bootstrapped, with no external funding or debt.

And this is a company with real Salesforce ecosystem pedigree – from their offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Houston, they’ve got a history spanning back 10 years on the Salesforce platform and boast of 3500 Salesforce.com projects completed as well as 450+ Lightning components developed.

And things seem to be on the up for Traction, perhaps due to the whitespace that all the roll-ups of other Salesforce consultants has created, or perhaps of their unusually approach towards business ethics (Traction is a B Corporation), the company has been enjoying at least a 50% growth per annum every year of its existence. And staff seem happy as well – despite a massive global demand for Salesforce talent, they have enjoyed low staff turnover.

The interesting thing with traction when it comes to talent is that the vast majority of their consultants are trained in-house – only a handful of employees came to traction with previous Salesforce experience. That employee retention seems to be attracting others, Malpass told me that he approaches recruitment like a sales and marketing operation – nurturing leads and scoring applications. And he can afford to be picky – Traction gets around 600 job applicants per month.

Synergies all around

But the interesting thing here for me is just how good of an example Traction is when it comes to demonstrating the value of the Salesforce ecosystem. On so many levels there are mutual benefits here:

  • Traction is a Salesforce consultant and sells its employees time for implementation projects
  • Traction is a Salesforce customer and uses the platform for its own internal and external tools
  • Traction is a customer of other Salesforce ecosystem players (including FinancialForce, at whose event I met them)
  • Traction has built products of value to the Salesforce ecosystem and markets these on the AppExchange

To demonstrate the ecosystem benefits that Salesforce brings, it is worth noting that in the last year or so, Traction has launched four different businesses from their Traction Labs model – Traction Guest, Traction Rec, Traction Hierarchies and Traction Complete. I spent time talking with a new initiative, Traction Pulse, that looks set to be the next one.

MyPOV

I’m always amazed at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference,  about how many people are there with both supply-side and demand-side involvement in the platform. Of course, this idea of an ecosystem is nothing new, but Traction and its interrelated web of benefit is a perfect example of how ecosystems generally, and cloud ecosystems, in particular, provide mutual benefit to all participants.

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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