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by Brenon Daly

We noted late last week that it has emerged recently that salesforce.com (CRM) did indeed make an (unannounced) acquisition to help bolster its upcoming enterprise collaboration product, Chatter. The purchase of GroupSwim, which had just 30 customers, was undoubtedly a tiny one. That’s been the case in the five previous buys by salesforce.com, as well.

But now, the market is buzzing that salesforce.com may be looking to take on a larger deal. Why else would a profitable company that already has $1bn on its hands raise another $500m in an upcoming convertible offering? If that sort of reasoning worked for Occam (OCNW), then it’ll work for us. All that remains, then, is to figure out where salesforce.com is going to spend that money.

It turns out that coming up with a shopping list for salesforce.com is actually a bit more complicated than it is for many other companies. For starters, the firm positions itself as a platform vendor, which means that it is designed to be open and inclusive. That is exactly counter to M&A. So while it might make sense for salesforce.com to move into marketing automation [MA], for instance, by picking up Unica or Constant Contact Inc, a play like that would immediately alienate all other MA providers on AppExchange. (Currently, there are 29 different MA applications listed on AppExchange, among more than 170 applications in the broader ‘marketing’ category.)

Salesforce.com has worked around that by looking more to partner than purchase, as it did to co-create FinancialForce.com, a partnership with Unit 4 Agresso. Clearly, salesforce.com could afford to buy Unit 4 Agresso outright. (The Dutch company has a market capitalization of about $650m.) We suspect that partnerships might be the approach that salesforce.com uses to cover human capital management [HCM]. A number of rumors have tied the CRM giant to either of the big HCM players, Taleo or SuccessFactors. (As an aside, we might be willing to pay money to listen to any M&A negotiations between salesforce.com’s laidback, New Age-y chief executive Marc Benioff and the blunt-talking, hard-driving CEO at SuccessFactors, Lars Dalgaard. We can only imagine the look on Dalgaard’s face if Benioff invited him to sit zazen, which wouldn’t be out of character for the salesforce.com honcho.)

So having scratched most names, what’s one company that we could imagine salesforce.com reaching for? inContact (SAAS). The acquisition would boost salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, taking the firm even deeper into the call center. The (hypothetical) deal would fit nicely with InStranet, which salesforce.com acquired in mid-2008 for $31.5m, and would hardly break the bank. InContact has a market capitalization of merely $90m. And as a final bonus, salesforce.com would finally be able to shed its limited ticker ‘CRM’ in favor of the bigger, more encompassing ticker of ‘SAAS,’ which is what inContact currently trades under.

Disclosure: No position

Source: Does Salesforce.com's Shopping List Include inContact?