For more than 20 years, Salesforce has been selling cloud business software, but it has also used the same platform to build ways to track other elements besides sales, marketing and service information, including Work.com, the platform it created earlier this year to help companies develop and organize a safe way to begin returning to work during the pandemic.
Today, the company announced it was putting that same platform to work to help distribute and track a vaccine whenever it becomes available, along with related materials like syringes that will be needed to administer it. The plan is to use Salesforce tools to solve logistical problems around distributing the vaccine, as well as data to understand where it could be needed most and the efficacy of the drug, according to Bill Patterson, EVP and general manager for CRM applications at Salesforce.
“The next wave of the virus phasing, if you will, will be [when] a vaccine is on the horizon, and we begin planning the logistics. Can we plan the orchestration? Can we measure the inventory? Can we track the outcomes of the vaccine once it reaches the public’s hands,” Patterson asked.
Salesforce has put together a new product called Work.com for Vaccines to put its platform to work to help answer these questions, which Patterson says ultimately involves logistics and data, two areas that are strengths for Salesforce.
The platform includes the core Work.com command center along with additional components for inventory management, appointment management, clinical administration, outcome monitoring and public outreach.
While this all sounds good, what Salesforce lacks of course is expertise in drug distribution or public health administration, but the company believes that by creating a flexible platform with open data, government entities can share that data with other software products outside of the Salesforce family.
“That’s why it’s important to use an open data platform that allows for aggregate data to be quickly summarized and abstracted for public use,” he said. He points to the fact that some states are using Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought last year for a tidy $15.7 billion, to track other types of COVID data.
“Many states today are running all their COVID testing and positive case reporting through the Tableau platform. We want to do the same kind of exchange of data with things like inventory management [for a vaccine],” he said.
While this sounds like a public service kind of activity, Salesforce intends to sell this product to governments to manage vaccines. Patterson says that to run a system like this at what they envision will be enormous scale, it will be a service that governments have to pay for to access.
This isn’t the first time that Salesforce has created a product that falls somewhat outside of the standard kind of business realm, but which takes advantage of the Salesforce platform. Last year it developed a tool to help companies measure how sustainable they are being. While the end goal is positive, just like Work.com for Vaccines and the broader Work.com platform, it is a tool that they charge for to help companies implement and measure these kinds of initiatives.
The tool set is available starting today. Pricing will vary depending on the requirements and components of each government entity.
The real question here is, should this kind of distribution platform be created by a private company like Salesforce for profit, or perhaps would it be better suited to an open-source project, where a community of developers could create the software and distribute it for free.