• September 2, 2011
  • Necessity is the mother of invention and last year when Bill Clinton was late for the closing keynote, Marc may have discovered an ideal medium for closing out Dreamforce.  This year he perfected it.

    I don’t know if Clinton was scheduled to give a conventional speech last year or a sit down interview I only know that in selecting Stevie Wonder as an interview subject, the limitations of the situation bred a new kind of closing ceremony and enabled a new level of customer or audience intimacy.  Mr. Wonder is many things but one thing he is not is a stump speaker like the former president.  In selecting Wonder, Benioff had to accept that limitation and from it the interview format was a natural outcome.  But who knew the Marc could be such an engaging interrogator and listener?

    This year the interview was established and organized as much as such a thing can be.  In selecting Eric Schmidt of Google, Benioff called on a friend of several decades, a former colleague at Oracle and an individual who has by any measure lived the life of a highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and innovator.  Benioff and Schmidt spent more than an hour discussing the evolution of their industry and setting what Dreamforce had been all about in that context.  When you left it was still possible to think of an alternative universe, but only with great difficulty.

    In fact, there is no alternative universe.  You get what you have and what we all have is an industry that is leading business into the new century and a new era.  That era is mobile and social, it is connected physically and emotionally and increasingly the connectors are technologies.  It is also rapidly iterative and Salesforce was careful within Dreamforce to ensure it touched all bases.

    Benioff’s breakthrough with Schmidt at this year’s Dreamforce was the realization that other people could carry the ball and deliver the same kind thought leadership that Salesforce is delivering.  Salesforce has always been about extending thought leadership; about getting people to imagine a world without the complexities of conventional IT.  The closing interview didn’t just expand that franchise, it sent a lot of people home knowing they were on the right track and doing something important.

    Published: 8 years ago

    What a difference a decade makes.  The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Microsoft will file antitrust charges against Google in Brussels today.  Just about a decade ago circumstances were reversed as Microsoft was the 800-pound gorilla in the operating system world.  Today Google is the monster of search and all things related to it and Microsoft is looking to level the playing field for bing, its late entry into the search field.  Timing is everything in this business.

    From the Times article — Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management who has studied Microsoft said, “The company that was the 800-pound gorilla is now resorting to antitrust, where it is always the case that the also-rans sue the winners.”

    That might be a bit harsh on Microsoft but the reality is that it coasted on the success of Windows and Office and a few other products while others invented new technologies.  You might also say that the company was involved in a protracted legal tussle with the Department of Justice over its monopoly position in operating systems and browsers during that time.  But that would imply the company couldn’t walk and chew gum, not something any self-respecting multi-tasking operating system vendor would willingly admit to.

    There’s a lot at stake and search is only one of Microsoft’s beefs.  Others include access to YouTube (a Google property) and mobile operating systems.  If past is prologue this should provide entertainment for several years.


    Published: 9 years ago

    “Day-to-day adult supervision is no longer needed.” So wrote Eric Schmidt CEO of Google, one of the most successful digital economy companies ever, in a Tweet today.  When he was brought in by the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin to run things in 2001, Schmidt acquired that moniker in part because the founders were so young.

    As has been typical in Internet related industries youth and a new way of looking at things has often been enough to launch iconic brands and mind-boggling wealth.  Google may have been the poster child for youthful innovation but the industry is full of people from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg who fit the mold.

    So now what?  Co-founder Page becomes CEO as well as president of products while co-founder Brin remains president of technology.  The company is clobbering its numbers and despite a challenge from Facebook and continues to print money for its shareholders.

    I do not understand why the shakeup occurred.  According to Google this change will make communication channels cleaner but it’s hard to see how from outside.  The trio appears to still be friends but perhaps a decade at the helm has sated Schmidt.  Or possibly the two still youthful co-founders have a second act.  But if that were the case, it is hard to believe they could not have acted from their previous positions as mere presidents.  We may just have to watch as this company continues to evolve.


    Published: 9 years ago

    Facebook got more visits than any other web property in 2010 according to an article in Computerworld.  Hitwise, an Internet analytics firm said that between January and November 2010 Google, which had the top spot in 2009 slipped to second with 7.19% of all visits compared with Facebook’s 8.93% share.

    Also, for a snapshot in time, another research group, comScore said that for the month of August U.S. users spent 41.1 million minutes on Facebook compared to 39.8 million minutes on Google’s constellation of sites.

    Now, on the face of it, that might suggest that Facebook is superior to Google and in some ways that might be true but which ways?  It is a bit of apples and oranges and we need more data to sort this out—data that might not exist yet.

    Consider this, according to a Jess3 video, “The State of the Internet” 84% of social networking sites have more women than men.  I am not saying that’s good or bad but if women are more social, I wonder if they also ask for directions more than men and if that’s reflected in the demographic breakdown for Google.

    I also wonder what these numbers have to do with doing business.  Are visitors to Facebook more or less business oriented than visitors to Google and all of its applications?  Also, what comparison can we make between Facebook and LinkedIn?  Is 41.1 million minutes—about 342.5 U.S. work-years—on Facebook in August a good thing?


    Published: 9 years ago

    David Nour, the founder of Relationship Economics, publishes an interesting and articulate newsletter.  I don’t always agree with him but even when I don’t we aren’t that far apart.  His latest post on “Tomorrow’s Social CEO” is an example.

    Nour correctly observes (and laments) that few of the current batch of corporate leaders is socially connected.  According to his post, “Eric Schmidt (Google) is an infrequent Twitterer and not a blogger; Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) does not blog or have a Twitter account; Michael Dell is on Twitter but is not an external blogger.  It is also remarkable that neither Steve Jobs (Apple) nor Larry Ellison (Oracle) have a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or blog presence that we could find.”

    My facile observation: Yes, and look where it’s gotten them.

    Seriously, though, I agree that the executive of tomorrow will be much more of a social animal but as they say in court rooms from time to time, absence of proof is not proof of absence.  What I mean, and this is almost pure hypothesis, is that organizations are becoming more social but perhaps the right application hasn’t come along yet to enable a CEO to be more social in a professional setting.

    To borrow a regrettable phrase, the CEO is the decider.  He or she spends the day making decisions for the organization so that it can continue on its mission of maximizing shareholder value and serving the customer.  Other people in the enterprise do the social work for the organization for a very obvious reason—doing it right requires capturing a mountain of data, analyzing it and only then taking action.  CEOs don’t have the time.

    CEOs are great at analyzing data once it’s captured and presented to them.  I once knew a guy who could scan a balance sheet, no matter how complex, and in a matter of moments begin making cogent observations and recommendations.  He was murder on finding misspellings on a lunch menu too.

    I think the blog might be the natural social medium for today’s CEO.  Since Reagan, even U.S. presidents have made weekly radio broadcasts—a social outreach, albeit one way—a standard part of the job.  My preference would be to change that to a weekly newspaper column though.  Written words are more accessible and longer lasting and enable you to elaborate a complex idea but that’s a subject for another time.

    So, why aren’t CEO’s more social?  If it’s because the right social medium hasn’t come along yet, there’s good news on the horizon in the form of a new generation of collaboration software and I think of Chatter from as the example.  Though currently only available as a tool for filtering the social stream within an enterprise, I can see a day when that restriction is lifted.

    A collaboration product like Chatter does the necessary work of filtering the social stream so that only what’s most important to the decider gets in front of him or her.  That makes socializing the CEO possible.

    Eric Schmidt is on friendly terms with Marc Benioff, who is very much socially adept, and I don’t know if Schmidt has tried Chatter.  Michael Dell already has a Chatter deployment measured in the tens of thousands at Dell, which is a big Salesforce customer.  It’s hard to say if there’s a possibility of Steve Jobs adopting Chatter and, of course, Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer will likely have their own brands of collaboration software before they’d use Salesforce.

    So my mild disagreement with Nour is really one of timing.  Yes tomorrow’s CEO will need to be social and maybe collaboration software is the way they’ll get there.

    Published: 9 years ago