The benefits of being a customer

Jack Miller, the CTO of a real estate brokerage in Austin, Texas, discusses the benefits of working with

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The benefits of being a customer

Jack Miller: I am Jack Miller. I am the Chief Technology
Officer for the Good Life Team; we are a real estate brokerage
in Austin, Texas.

Jo Maitland: Are you guys are SalesForce customers?

Jack Miller: We are SalesForce customers. We have
an entire team of about 16 people on SalesForce,
and we have been on it for about 8 months now.

Jo Maitland: How do you use the product?

Jack Miller: We observed, in the real estate market, most
agents were out buying their own software, collecting things
together, and just really having a hard time managing their
database and staying in contact with customers. Our offer to
our agents is that we will help do all of that for them, using
the SalesForce Platform and SalesForce is helping us fulfill
that promise. Now we can help them market to their customers
and stay in touch better than they were on their own using
whatever solutions they had picked off the shelf.

As a side benefit of using SalesForce, we have been able
to provide them a great performance management environment,
where we can coach to the right activities for real estate sales
people, to make more sales. Agents that are not on a platform
like SalesForce, a lot of times spend thousands of dollars to
get coaching. What we do is we are able to provide it in-house,
really, at no additional charge because the platform lets us see
what our agents are really doing and help coach them to the
right activities to close more deals.

Jo Maitland: Do you guys use any other Cloud services?
Do you use Amazon EC2?

Jack Miller: We are about to move to Google Apps for
all of our mail and calendar hosting, so we are going to
be using that. We are also about to move to S3, for video
hosting, because we produce a lot of lifestyle videos and
information about neighborhoods, and we want to push
that to a really fast content service.

Jo Maitland: That is the Amazon Cloud Storage Service.

Jack Miller: Yes. They are a content distribution network, the
S3 storage that Amazon provides.

Jo Maitland: Is the reason for this cost savings? What is
the principle?

Jack Miller: You are looking at an army, of one as far as the
IT department is concerned, so it is service and support savings,
really. I now have a network of people that I can rely on to help
manage the IT for the company; it really is not just me, even
though I am the guy in charge. We are a small organization; we
cannot afford to pay a bunch of administrators and database
people, and in-house all of that, so this is a much more scalable
solution for us. We can work with it now and we can work with
it when we have 50 or 100 agents.

Jo Maitland: Is there a trade-off in terms of risk when you
are outsourcing?

Jack Miller: It is only positive trade-offs, there is less risks.
The risk is shared, since we are on a multitenant architecture
and lots of other people are using the servers. If things go
wrong, there is a lot of attention being paid to making them
go right, and it is not just our little organization worried about
our issues. We have big help, we have lots of people that are
making sure things are up and running all the time, so I see it
as being less risky. Doing it yourself is more risky. I have done
it myself, so it is definitely more risky and you get all the phone

Jo Maitland: If you had a top-three wish list from SalesForce,
what are the top two things you would like, having used the
product for about 8 months?

Jack Miller: That is a great question. I have spent some time
doing the training here, and the training has been really good.
I think, from my perspective, some of the customization that I
would like to do with the application still takes a lot more work
than I want to do, really. It is all possible, it is all doable, so I
have no complaints about 'yes you can do it,' but you have to
recreate whole pieces of the application, when what I really
want to do is just tweak existing pages and the way things
work. It is good, I am not complaining, I am a happy customer.
At the same time, I think that making it easier for us to tweak
the application with less work would be most helpful.

I think also, for me, from SalesForce, me more of a staged
training into of the product. If there is some way where we
could, we have a consulting partner that works with us, but
some of it is like, 'Let me stage you through some of the
features of the product that we see you are not using.' We
are not doing any of the Google Adword stuff. We want to,
but it took me 8 months to self-identify that that would be
valuable to us. I think, in some ways, it is just communicating,
'Here are features that we notice you are not using and here
is an easy entry point into those features,' for lowering my
costs for learning about it, and self-discovery that I need to
go. Honestly, that is it. Again, that is not a new feature, that
is just market to us, in that way.

Jo Maitland: Do you ever think about a day when you
want to move your data out of SalesForce? How you
would do that?

Jack Miller: We already pull data out of SalesForce pretty
regularly to do some things on the web, some web display,
so it is a concern. I am more concerned about, if we did a lot
of building on top of the Force platform, a bunch of custom
page templates and kind of stuff that is far more apprehensive.
Moving the data itself, not so much, but moving all the, as far
as all the time and effort we will put into customizing those page
templates and things like that, there is real concern there,
because I do not know if that is the web architecture for us,
for all time. I have some concerns with things like that,
especially the public-facing stuff that we are going to build.

Jo Maitland: How about the pricing model with these
guys, Jack?

Jack Miller: My only complaint with the pricing model,
the per-seat License Model, I think, is a thing of the past.
I am seeing other competitors of SalesForce move to
bandwidth usage or process utilization model, that for an
organization as small as ours, is a lot more attractive. It is
hard to justify a monthly seat license for maybe a real
estate agent who is not full-time, and they have a hard
time justifying it, too. We would prefer to be charged for
how much we actually use.

Jo Maitland: Which is the cloud model, right?

Jack Miller: Yes, it is the Cloud model. I think the per-seat
license is, in this space, an anachronism in some ways to
enterprise computing, as it was done before. I think that is
my one real criticism. Again, I am not complaining, I am a
happy customer; I just know that if there was a competitor
that had it on a utilization model for small organizations
like ours, it would be highly seductive, because it would
dramatically reduce our costs and let us scale more

Jo Maitland: Thank you.

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