Will New Business Intelligence Features Be a Catalyst for Salesforce Stock?

Will Salesforce1 disrupt business intelligence vendors? Credit: Salesforce.com.

Count salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) among those doing more to cash in on analytics and business intelligence. Last week, the company unveiled Salesforce1 Mobile Reports & Dashboards to enable better access and visualize critical information on iOS and Android devices.

Importantly, the software does more than present static reports. Users can drill down through multiple layers of real-time business data to investigate problems, create visuals that express their findings, and quickly share the data with others on their team.  This is exactly what you'd expect from a stand-alone business intelligence platform for on-the-go staff responsible for meeting revenue targets.

Think of a retail executive studying a report of expected revenue across regions. A few taps on the Salesforce1 app allows for a closer look at key metrics that reveal why some areas are performing better then others, leading to a special sale or incentive program to reignite growth in lagging areas.

A shifting market
The features come at an interesting time for owners of Salesforce stock. Research firm Gartner says that, while the overall BI and analytics software market grew just 8% in 2013, to $14.4 billion, the technology remains a priority.

"Analytics is ... moving beyond just being a singular tool to become more omnipresent, embedded in various other applications and infrastructures," Gartner Research Director Dan Sommer said in a press release announcing the market findings.

What's more, of the 10 leaders identified in Gartner's most recent "magic quadrant" for business intelligence and analytics software, three were suppliers of fully integrated platforms: IBM, Microsoft, and OracleTableau topped the list; Salesforce didn't make the cut.

Is there room for Salesforce in a crowd like this? Longtime business intelligence industry tracker Howard Dresner seems to think so. "Since 2010, our research has shown that salespeople are the most obvious candidates for mobile business intelligence," Dresner said in an email interview. "While perhaps creating some competitive tension in the space, it also vastly expands the numbers of BI users that would otherwise have no access to valuable and actionable insights."

Priced for growth
If Dresner is right, Salesforce's timing couldn't be better. No longer a niche player, the company last year accounted for 2.9% of global software sales -- making it No. 10 worldwide, according to Gartner. Continued growth means convincing more customers to bet bigger on the various elements of its cloud platform.

So far, they have. Salesforce revenue increased 37.4% in its fiscal first quarter after rising 37.2% in the prior quarter and 36.5% in the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Accelerating sales growth has become par for the course. Yet Wall Street expects more of the same in future quarters.

Salesforce stock commands about one-fifth the market cap of Oracle, which took second place in 2013 global software sales ($35.2 billion vs. $182.2 billion) while accounting for roughly one-eighth the revenue ($3.8 billion vs, $29.6 billion). The delta suggests that investors believe the company will continue growing at a torrid pace.

Tapping into the mobile analytics and business intelligence market should help Salesforce meet inflated expectations for its stock. But it's also just one catalyst for a company that needs as many as it can get.

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