With the end of 2021 quickly approaching, we found ourselves reflecting on what an awesome whirlwind the past couple of months has been. We released our fourth annual Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report that revealed a few surprising trends and reconfirmed some from years past. Then a highly-anticipated return to Dreamforce and IDC’s Salesforce Economic Impact report happened. Kicking off a week at Dreamforce in light of IDC’s exciting economic predictions was a bright reminder of what makes this ecosystem an excellent place to be. And, we’ll be honest, seeing the Foo Fighters didn’t hurt either.
Additionally, the IDC report found that “today, the ecosystem of Salesforce partners delivering cloud services to customers is five times as big as Salesforce itself, and will be more than six times as big in 2026.”
As a Salesforce partner ourselves, we keep a close eye on where the partner ecosystem is heading. Not to much surprise, our research this year found that the number of consulting partners listed on AppExchange grew 14% to more than 1,800. Additionally, the IDC report found that “today, the ecosystem of Salesforce partners delivering cloud services to customers is five times as big as Salesforce itself, and will be more than six times as big in 2026.”
Read on for the 10K view of what these trends may mean for the future of the Salesforce ecosystem’s customers, experts, and partners.
Nick Hamm, Chief Executive Officer
Nick’s 2021 Partner Ecosystem Key Takeaway
Partner growth rate has slowed as partner acquisitions have accelerated
Similar to overall talent supply trends, the Salesforce partner ecosystem is still growing in the double digits, but that growth rate is steadily slowing — 2021’s growth was about as half as slow as last year’s. It’s also the slowest growth rate we’ve seen since our first report in 2018.
The bulk of Salesforce partners are small shops. Of the 1,859 consulting partners listed on the AppExchange, 1,720 (93%) of the firms have fewer than 50 certified experts. Two-thirds of all consultancies have 10 or fewer certified experts. The fastest-growing segment over the last four years is mid-size firms – those with 50-500 certified experts. However, if you look at the number of consultancies in this segment, it’s relatively small.
I recently sat down with Michelle Swan, Partner at Tercera, to discuss why that may be. We agreed that “this is partly because it’s not easy for services companies to make the jump past $10M or $15M in revenue – it often requires capital and a different approach to growth. It’s also due to the sheer amount of M&A happening in the space. There have been 67 acquisitions of Salesforce consultancies in this year alone, and many of the firms being acquired come from that sweet spot. If talent is a gating factor for growth in services, expect more M&A in the years to come.”
But what about the partners who aren’t near the $10M or $15M threshold? How can they take advantage of the growing partner ecosystem in the immediate future? From our experience at 10K, the answer is rather simple — partner with other Salesforce partners to fill in the gaps of your business. We help support other partners in a variety of ways, whether it’s connecting them to a vetted expert with a specialized skill set, providing them with a team to extend their bandwidth, or helping keep their experts busy on exciting projects. In fact, nearly 50% of our customer base are other Salesforce partners, and we’re grateful to be able to support these growing businesses.
Mike Martin, Chief Customer Officer
Mike’s 2021 Partner Ecosystem Key Takeaway
Top five partners hold 32% of the certified consulting talent
When we look at the distribution of certified experts across the Salesforce partner ecosystem, one customer challenge has become more apparent than ever before: qualified talent is extremely difficult to identify, find, and vet.
The top five partners hold 32% of the certified consulting talent — so unless customers are working with these players, or a top-three SI, they’re faced with the near-impossible challenge of sifting through many smaller-sized partners to connect with the talent they need.
Not only is this a time-consuming exercise, but it’s also difficult for some customers to define a direction or starting place. What kind of criteria should customers be looking for in a potential partner? And how should they identify those criteria in the first place? With nearly 1,900 partners to choose from, I’ve found that this is a very common issue for customers of all sizes and industries.
But let’s say a customer has the internal resources and technical knowledge to sift through a large pool of partners, vet them, and narrow down a shortlist of potential options. Their next challenge will almost always be limited talent pools. This can often mean less specialized skills to choose from, less flexibility or availability for projects, or discovering that the partner can’t provide the kind of expert the customer was seeking in the first place.
When it comes to finding the right Salesforce partner, sometimes all a customer needs is a place to start. Some 10K customers have found success working with their Salesforce customer success rep — they are able to provide recommendations or confirm whether a partner and their talent model is a viable fit. Every project is different, so I always recommend approaching partners with flexibility and an open mind.
Jared Miller, Chief Operating Officer
Jared’s 2021 Partner Ecosystem Key Takeaway
Top five partners’ share of certified consulting talent has been steadily declining
When we first started watching the Salesforce partner ecosystem in 2018, the top five partners held 41% of all certified consulting talent, but that number has been steadily declining over the past four years to just 32% in 2021. However, the top 2% of partners (30) still have 61% of all certified consulting talent. That means the remaining 39% of certified partner consulting talent (over 26k experts) is spread out among 1,829 partners. In fact, two-thirds of all partners report 10 or fewer certified experts.
The growth in certified experts at partners is up, too. Last year, there were 42,000 certified experts, now there are almost 67,000. That’s nearly a 60% growth rate. There are a few scenarios that could be playing out here — is experienced talent opting out of the traditional big SI model and going independent or are they migrating to smaller firms?
All considering the triple-digit demand in talent, never before have we seen more opportunities for Salesforce experts to build a career that works for their lifestyle and passions. One path that we see many experts migrating to is the independent lifestyle. We’re keeping a close eye on the evolution of The Great Resignation and talking to the 10K Expert Community about the things they value most, including less travel, the freedom to choose your own projects, and innovative work models.