So what does this mean in practice, particularly for Sitecore customers, where they have had a “strategic partnership” with Salesforce for two years.
First, this is not unexpected – the CMS beta and roadmap had been known for quite some time. But looking at the actual release notes confirms some of my thoughts on the matter; namely that Salesforce needs a CMS that is tightly integrated with the rest of the CRM platform not only as a “web/portal CMS” but also as a way of augmenting existing content and applications within the overall Salesforce platform.
“Content isn’t just for Lightning communities anymore. Get content created and managed in Salesforce CMS using Chatter REST API or Apex and add it to Salesforce Tabs + Visualforce communities. “
In the short term, this shouldn’t affect the overall Sitecore / Salesforce partnership, but that is only because the integration has focused on Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and not the larger Salesforce platform. For those that don’t know the distinction, Salesforce Marketing Cloud was a unit largely built around the ExactTarget acquisition, with some other purchases such as the DMP Krux and CDP(ish) Datorama revolving around that orbit. In many ways, it was distinct from the mothership in San Francisco, with most employees still centered in Indianapolis. It even had it’s own CEO, Bob Stutz, who recently left to head up Customer Experience at SAP.
However, in the long-term, this should have some profound implications on that partnership. Ever since it was announced, I used to constantly get the question: “When is Sitecore going to be acquired by Salesforce?” I had to always respond a non-committal fashion, but my personal opinion was always “never” for the same reason that I didn’t see the Salesforce Ventures $300 million investment in Automattic leading to an acquisition either; The fact is that the needs of enterprise content within the larger CRM/support/sales suite are far different than what Sitecore (or WordPress) could deliver.
If anything, a headless vendor would make more sense as “core” content sharing, linking, and re-use would take priority over any visual layout (which is where Sitecore and WordPress would excel). Similarly, Sitecore wasn’t a SaaS offering or aligned architecturally in any way with Salesforce, so acquisition was always a bizarre prospect at best. I always thought that Salesforce would build their own CMS, and so they have.
With the larger “strategic” possibilities of that relationship all but gone, and the executive sponsors at both companies departed, I suspect the partnership roadmap will also similarly diminish (but have no inside confirmation on this).
For Salesforce customers, I expect this will be a fairly long process to get the CMS product to the level that it would compete head-on with other offerings, but in many ways it does not need to. Salesforce already ranks as a leader in all DXP analyst evaluations on the strength of other aspects of the platform (even prior to this) and this will provide another arrow in that platform quiver at no extra cost. If you are already on Salesforce Communities, it would likely cost nothing but your own time to start using this in experimental or departmental fashion.