Among the Slack acquisition hype, you may have missed the news that Salesforce has signed an agreement to acquire Acumen Solutions.
Acumen Solutions, a ‘Salesforce Top 10’ partner with a 640-strong team of certified professionals, has been scooped up by Salesforce. The process of integrating these highly skilled strategists, subject matter experts, and engineers into the “Salesforce Professional Services” arm will commence in the coming months – however, you may be asking ‘why’?
Source: Salesforce News & Insights
With such a powerful partner ecosystem, the outsourced services model that has turned out to be very lucrative for Salesforce, why would Salesforce wish to buy up consultancies? Surely allowing these consultancies to remain independent maintains a thriving, competitive services marketplace?
This is not the first consulting partner that Salesforce has acquired in its history. Previous acquisitions to strengthen their services delivery include Kerensen Consulting (2015), ATKA, and others. It’s a trend that’s also apparent in the wider Salesforce ecosystem, where larger consulting partners are swallowing up smaller ones – this year alone we have seen Cognizant acquire EI-Technologies, Wipro with 4C, PK (ProKarma) with boutique firm Nuvem Consulting, Infosys with Simplus (Simplus, themselves, acquired Clout only one month before) – to name a few.
My aim is to answer the question: why did Salesforce acquire Acumen? First, let’s take a look at the factors that fuel these acquisitions.
Why Did Salesforce Acquire Acumen?
The primary drivers behind consultancy acquisitions in the Salesforce ecosystem are a) to spread geographically, b) for the client relationships/customer logos, c) to access skilled Salesforce professionals (who are in short supply relative to the demand for services) – or all three.
You could argue that this was the case for the Acumen acquisition; after all, at the time of their acquisition, Acumen had a presence in 12 countries, 640 certified professionals with 2,569 certifications between them. However, one reason stands out above all else: industry expertise.
Salesforce have been heading towards industry focus for a number of years, both in terms of product (Financial Services Cloud, Health Cloud, Manufacturing Cloud, Consumer Goods Cloud, etc.), and their professional services by encouraging third-party consulting partners to hone their client portfolios onto specific industries.
The industry expertise that Acumen has is apparent. The official press release calls out their “extensive industry expertise across public sector, manufacturing, financial services and more”, and their website claims they are a “#1 Cloud Advisor in the public sector”, having “worked with over eight different Federal Executive Branch Departments”. Their AppExchange listing adds more industries to form an extensive list.
It seems that 2020 was the year Salesforce would bolster their vertical offerings with an aim to become the ‘go-to’ CRM platform for every industry and trump the other specialised players that previously could beat Salesforce in deals. In February 2020, Salesforce acquired Vlocity for $1.33B, a “special breed of Salesforce ISV that focuses on industry-specific solutions for the Salesforce platform”.
Vlocity + Acumen Solutions will give Salesforce the expert industry powerhouse (both in product and delivery) they need to execute their industry strategy.
Strategic Customer Relationships
Although Acumen do not explicitly mention any customer logos on their website, their AppExchange listing hints anonymised success stories.
From hearsay around the ecosystem, I know that Acumen have won multi-year, major transformation projects with impressive brands.
To recap other factors attracting Salesforce towards the Acumen purchase:
- Multi-cloud Expertise: hundreds of certified professionals with thousands of certifications (640 people with 2,569 certifications to be exact). Plus, their teams have delivered “2,000+ highly successful cloud implementations”.
- Global reach: headquarters out of Washington, D.C., with a presence in 12 countries.
Why Did Salesforce Acquire Other Consultancies?
Salesforce acquired French firm Kerensen Consulting in 2015 for $24.2M. Their objective was to gain a presence in France, having opened two R&D centers in France, and winning big customers such as SNCF Gares & Connexions. The number of local expertise they had on the ground needed to scale too, within the solution engineering teams. Kerensen’s 175 employees was a nice, tactical short cut for them.
AKTA was a “digital experience and engagement consultancy firm”, also acquired by Salesofrce in 2015. From research, I believe this was to boost their app development and mobile experience expertise. For such a small consultancy (less than 50 employees) and new (five years old), they had major brands in their customer portfolio, such as SpotOn, Agentis Energy, SocialCrunch, Starbucks, Motorola Solutions, Verizon.
It is easy to talk about how Salesforce’s product and technology acquisitions have been incorporated into their ‘Customer 360’ platform offering. The new products Salesforce launch, as acquired technology reimagined, are more tangible to see the direct result of the merger – and why Salesforce even made the acquisition in the first place!
Upon reflection, it’s interesting to look at the factors driving acquisitions in the Salesforce professional services arm and the Salesforce consulting partner ecosystem, too. Whether that be to spread geographically, for the client relationships/customer logos, to access skilled Salesforce professionals (who are in short supply relative to the demand for services) – or for industry-specific knowledge, as has become apparent in 2020.
Salesforce is an exciting industry to watch – often Salesforce’s next moves are a surprise, to everyone!