I was struck by a comment from George Hu, salesforce.com's Chief Operating Officer, at the Salesforce World Tour event in London this year. Talking about the latest Salesforce1 Platform release, he pointed out that customers with apps dating back fifteen years can now run those same apps on the latest mobile devices.

No one can predict the future.

When traditional software companies casually use the phrase “future proof”, for their latest products, they generally mean that they are at the leading edge of the current technological wave. If you look back through their product development history, you will invariably see major changes every five years or so. In order to take advantage of any innovation in the products, customers must adopt (and often re-purchase) the latest and greatest release. To actually use the latest release customers then have to rewrite all their customisations, integrations and completely re-implement systems, incurring huge costs and disrupting their users and potentially customers too. To compound the misery, as suppliers herald new releases they deem existing implemented versions to be at “end of life”, ultimately making continued supported use prohibitively costly.

In these times of unprecedented austerity, with public sector budgets already severely stretched and predicted to be under increasing pressure for some significant time to come, organisations that are being forced to cut staff and services to make ends meet are placed in an invidious position. They need to innovate in a rapidly changing world. They are urged by government to provide digital, mobile and social access to their constituents. They must become more efficient and meet the increased demands for services being placed on them, but are forced to spend more simply to stand still.

Consider this though.

Imagine a customer creating an app using the Salesforce Platform fifteen years ago. That same app will still run as effectively today as it did fifteen years ago, but with a modern, user friendly interface. In the intervening fifteen years, it may have been updated or modified (which is easy, but that’s another story) to meet changing business needs, but it will have required no maintenance in all that time. No re-write. No re-implementation. Any configuration, programmatic customisation and even integration will have continued to function for the last fifteen years without intervention.

In addition, that same app will today run as a mobile app on an iPad, iPhone, Android or Windows Mobile device, without any additional modification whatsoever. On top of that, with just a simple checkbox setting, social collaboration can be instantly incorporated into that same app. A modern, mobile, social app, created fifteen years ago, before smartphones, tablets and social collaboration tools even existed as concepts. 

Let's get philosophical.

No one can predict the future and every financial product comes with a warning that “past performance is no guarantee of future results“. On the other hand, you have to start somewhere and Confucius suggested you should “Study the past, if you would divine the future”, so perhaps this fifteen year proof of the innovation the Salesforce Platform delivers suggests it is as near to future proof as you can get.

If you are nursing legacy systems approaching “end of life”, stressing over whether to upgrade (or even re-implement, given the costs are often comparable), maybe there is another way. 

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This article was carefully crafted by Tim Wrathall, a salesforce.com UK Public Sector expert.