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The economic power of the Salesforce ecosystem (opens in new tab) is on its way to becoming the first enterprise software company to reach $10 billion. While other major sales automation players such as Microsoft and Oracle have been successful, none have seen the same level of rapid growth. In fact, and its army of partners, customers and apps - also known as the Salesforce ecosystem - is worth an estimated $272 billion (opens in new tab).

What has been the key to such rapid success? The company’s ecosystem is a breeding ground for innovation and economic development, and its flexible cloud-based platform has been a springboard for new startups. The continuous exchange of ideas among the hundreds of thousands of Salesforce ecosystem members not only fosters the creation of new technology, but also helps millions of businesses better serve their customers on a daily basis. In turn, organisations participating in the ecosystem are able to generate more revenue and create more jobs.

In fact, a recent IDC report (opens in new tab) found that the Salesforce ecosystem is expected to create more than 2 million jobs directly or indirectly by 2018. This economic development is largely due to the community Salesforce has created. The company’s ecosystem of partners, customers and apps currently generates 2.8 times the revenue of Salesforce itself and is expected to grow to nearly four times as large as Salesforce. And many of the businesses launched from the Salesforce ecosystem are bleeding into next-generation technologies like predictive analytics or the Internet of Things.

But exactly how does a cloud-based sales and marketing platform generate this much innovation and job growth? The answer lies with Salesforce’s flexible platform and community of ideas.

A flexible platform

The Salesforce platform is uniquely flexible, meaning that anyone with experience using Salesforce can develop apps that run on the platform with little to no coding. February marked the 10th anniversary of the AppExchange, which currently hosts more than 2,800 apps that have been downloaded 3.5 million times. The success of the AppExchange has turned what was an average SaaS CRM provider into an economic powerhouse.

By contrast, antiquated sites like IBM or Oracle require intensive coding and knowledge to make meaningful changes. Many of these legacy businesses face significant issues with innovation because developing one small change requires major resources and is incredibly high risk. Salesforce is flexible enough for relatively average users to have a huge impact, which is what has resonated so well with its user base.

Many of the thousands of app developers who have launched apps in the AppExchange have turned them into widely successful businesses. Not only are they able to generate revenue for themselves, but they’re also able to truly help Salesforce customers operate more efficiently and in turn, create jobs. What’s more, since these apps are developed by users, they address very unique, but important needs among the different communities of Salesforce customers.

A community of ideas

The other contributing factor in the success of the Salesforce ecosystem is the Salesforce Success Community, which is a community of users who have come together to learn more aboutSalesforce development from one another and generate new ideas. These individuals, who are truly passionate about the platform, range from expert volunteers to newcomers. The incredible power of the community shows just how invested Salesforce is in the success of individuals who use the platform day in and day out. Many of the Salesforce ecosystem’s most established and respected players started out as curious users within the Success Community.

Users can take additional certification courses to gain even more knowledge and build apps on the platform. On top of official certifications, the company offers free tutorials and development basics through a program called Trailhead. The program is different than anything other major companies offer in that it is a largely self-service tutorial. It is easy to use and creates modules that allow users to learn in a hands-on way at their own pace. Trailhead allows anyone to learn Salesforce with ease, and has taken off like wildfire.

As the community of users and experts continues to grow at a rapid pace, so does Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference that brings together top executives and customers. But what’s even more impressive is the smaller, user-driven events across the country. These localised events are managed entirely by the community and bring together experts to share new ideas to improve the platform and the apps that are created within the ecosystem.

The fact that users are passionate enough about this community to go above and beyond to learn more about the platform and really bring their ideas to life is astonishing. And this degree of interest in the platform certainly would never have been reached without Salesforce really driving the SaaS movement more than a decade and a half ago.

The company was an innovator when it comes to cloud-based computing and has revolutionised the way we develop new technologies and operate from a business sense. today is so much more than just a SaaS CRM platform. The company has become so successful because of the way the platform fosters creativity and innovation.

The company has given its users the power to act on new ideas that actually make a difference for customers and spark significant economic development. At the end of the day, Salesforce’s user-first mindset has made the company a force to be reckoned with.

Chris Dalton, CEO of CloudCraze (opens in new tab)

Image source: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock