Relentless might not be the first word you associate with Salesforce.com but in retrospect, it fits very well. Other words might include logical and well planned. President and Vice Chairman Keith Block came to Boston this week with a troupe of “forcers” to deliver the company’s post Dreamforce message to an appreciative audience.
Block’s message was augmented by his announcement of new offices at 500 Boylston Street housing 150 employees with ambition to double. Also, in a surprising move, Block announced the company’s intent to overtake SAP as the dominant enterprise software provider and number three overall global software company behind Microsoft and Oracle.
The world is a shark tank these days and Woody Allen’s adage that if you stop swimming you die is hard wired. But to hear such naked ambition was both a surprise and a statement of received wisdom. I have been discussing the company’s eventual ascension into the Fortune 500, for example, so the idea of this kind of rise is ambient. But saying it out loud tempts the childhood notion that if such aspirations are vocalized they might never come to pass.
But that’s all so much childish nonsense. Salesforce’s relentlessness well precedes this latest announcement and part of Block’s presentation retraced the company’s journey and accomplishments along the way, which includes Gartner Magic Quadrant leadership for Sales Cloud and Service Cloud as well as Platform. But it goes much deeper. There are various Forbes, Fortune, and other magazine coronations and accolades from MSNBC’s Jim Kramer for being consistently one of the best companies to work for, one of the fastest growing, and one of the most innovative companies on the planet. And magazine publishers apparently can’t get enough of Mr. Salesforce, Marc Benioff who’s been named one of the most respected CEOs and philanthropists.
Salesforce is, one could argue, the whole package, and not by accident — its relentless ambition is most visible in retrospect. So where to next? Block also used the occasion to announce the company’s intent to push vertical solutions into six broad industry categories including financial services/insurance, healthcare/life sciences, retail/consumer products, communications/media, public sector and automotive/manufacturing. It is a logical thing to do and emulates the bigger companies that Salesforce contends with, though at this level of granularity you might also say that, the designations are overly broad. However, you have to start somewhere.
For instance, manufacturing and automotive strongly suggest discrete manufacturing but this says nothing about process. Or does it? Retail and consumer beg the question of conventional vs. subscriptions, and healthcare and life sciences is a dog’s breakfast of care delivery, insurance, medical device manufacturing and more. It is also a walled garden maintained by thirty-plus year old mini-computer software. I could go on but all of this suggests not simply antagonists but real opportunity.
There isn’t a company under the sun that cannot benefit from a cloud and platform-based modernization of its sagging software from the last century. This is just the sort of thing that an ambitious company like Salesforce can turn its relentless drive towards.
To be sure there is plenty of competition. Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP all want to play in this new era as well and they are as relentless and ambitious as Salesforce. But Salesforce seems to uniquely understand that it lives in a multi-polar world, one where the winner take all approach of the last few decades in software is being replaced by cooperation and best of breed solutions.
This is also an era of diminished focus on transactions and increasing importance of process, which drives the need for platform. To one degree or another the others may offer cloud-based products and services but they are still wedded to a business model that Salesforce and its kin have made obsolete.