Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, returned last week to Munich to start off this year’s ‘Salesforce World Tour‘. At this point, I could basically just refer to last year since it was a mini version of Dreamforce, the annual customer event held in San Francisco.
However, it is not that simple. Vendor events always reflect the status quo of a company as well as its evolution. And in this case, I can look back on several years in common with this company and draw my very own conclusions.
The show – it was again a perfectly organized (and free of charge), typically US-American sales event par excellence. The ingredients included a live act, loud music during breaks and many interviewees. Without a doubt I highly recommend seeing Marc Benioff. This time, however, I got the impression that he only wanted to reel off his program. With the exception of Benioff, all the presentations were given in German, whereas the German speaking protagonists haven’t come close to mastering this kind of entertainment. Those who didn’t mind enjoyed a well-made show. As you can see, Salesforce definitely accomplished its goals.
The contents – more interesting were the contents or better, the not mentioned contents. Just like last time, Coca-Cola (CCE AG) was again part of the keynote. Apparently the company has no other high profile customers that they could have presented. In the ‘pre-American show era,’ German events always illustrated just how democratic Salesforce’s applications are regardless of company size and how important that is to Salesforce. And again, there was a breakout session for SMEs. But it seems that this commitment to democracy is no longer that important for the company, just enough to garner an interest in its announcements over the past year. Obviously analytics were addressed in the keynote, but not a thing was said about ‘Salesforce for HR‘, ‘Salesforce Wear‘ or the global partnership with Sage and its impact on German companies. I even did not expect a statement of previous years’ announcements like ‘Work.com‘ or the ‘Superpod‘ and its introduction to or adoption in Germany.
The data center that is being built in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom as announced last year was also only briefly highlighted likely due to its opening date in August and a related video clip was shown. While it was really about data protection, I couldn’t help but think of the BND/NSA and Telekom ‘cooperation’ – evil to him who evil thinks. Salesforce is opening a German data center. Not because the company wants to, but because it has to. Or as Jürgen Tuffentsammer, CIO of Koenig & Bauer, so diplomatically put it in the video: Salesforce now complies with demands. My point of view has always been that vendors and their IT partners should take a more active role in regards to transparency, self criticism and reflection. I must admit, it’s purely wishful thinking.
Miguel Milano, President EMEA, elaborated in an analyst session about Salesforce’s potential. On a slide, he showed that 82% of the Top 500 enterprises in Europe are Salesforce customers. He then reduced the statement, Salesforce was becoming the strategic customer platform for those companies, to absurdity when he mentioned what a small percentage of the IT budget they received from these multinational customers.
But how did it come to that? 16 years ago, Salesforce came to the market with a vision. The company emerged as a small and agile rebel to offer IT software, in this case CRM, presented in a new way: the Cloud. This software could be consumed ‘as a Service’ and paid for by the companies as a subscription. Fast-forward to today: Salesforce is named a Fortune 500 company in the US and is the sixth largest software company in the world. And as often mentioned, the company has sufficient potential. So far, their efforts have mainly been focused on a single application: CRM. Besides the analytical part, which will certainly become more important in the future, a HR or HCM suite was added this year. In addition, the platform presents a wealth of opportunities. There is plenty of room for improvement. However, the company is hauling an increasingly large vendor’s tray around with it. The transition from rebel to mainstream cannot be denied.
And what about the human factor? It is worth mentioning that I do not know Marc Benioff personally. But what were his thoughts when discussing the acquisition by Microsoft? Would he really have taken a management position at Microsoft like the rumors claimed? Or would he morph into his former rebel with a new vision to change the world, like Elon Musk with his ventures Tesla Motors, SpaceX or the Hyperloop? Maybe he would turn to politics like Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of HP, who is running for President of the United States in 2016. Who knows?
Anyways, I’m eagerly awaiting Dreamforce 2015 which promises a ‘great’ advertisement for the ‘Internet of Things’. In the meantime, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the next rebel who wants to change the industry…