We’ve talked a lot about Salesforce.com on this blog. Those of you who follow it know that I talked to CTA Marc Ferrentino in July 2011 for my Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing series. Once a company that focused primarily on facilitating customer relationship management for its clients, Salseforce has started branching out into platform as a service and other areas. My conversation with vice-president of applications Alex Dayon will focus on his perceptions of the mobile and social worlds as well as Salesforce’s evolution.
Sramana Mitra: Hi Alex. Let’s start off with a little bit of context about your role, responsibility and background. Both within Salesforce.com and in general, what have you been up to?
Alex Dayon: I’ve been in the enterprise software industry for about 20 years. I’ve started two companies. I was part of the founding team of a company called Business Objects, which in the early ‘90s was the first European company to be publically listed on the NASDAQ in ‘94. We felt it was an achievement because we started the company in Paris, France in 1990. After 10 years at Business Objects, I started another company in Paris called InStranet that ended up being acquired by Salesforce. That was the genesis of one of Salesforce’s service products called Service Cloud. Since then, I’ve been running firs the Service Cloud as the general manager of customer service and over the last couple of years, I’ve been running all of the application business at Salesforce. I am kind of part of your target audience as well as one of the senior executives who drives the products or the applications.
SM: This is going to be a great conversation. Let’s start with the trends on your radar. For a minute, do me a favor and put on your entrepreneur hat, and look around and tell me what are some of the major trends that you are watching? Based on what you are watching, where would you look?
AD: I think we live in exciting times for entrepreneurs because the consumerization of technology has completely shifted the way you can build a brand, acquire customers and grow a company. All the trends we read about in the papers every day are first and foremost, access to mobile lightweight applications in a couple of clicks, reach through social media and be able to scale your information systems through different types of cloud-based offerings. I think the times have never been more exciting for entrepreneurs. Most of the traditional business processes in most companies, whether it’s in CRM, HR, are kind of under pressure. What we see every day is all the largest companies in the world trying to reinvent themselves to adapt to this new world. I think it’s an amazing time in terms of entrepreneurship. If you’re in the tech industry or if you’re starting your own business, whether it’s in manufactured goods or services, you can reach your customers; you can build your company; hire people; and you can build your brand in different ways from the way it used to be even five years ago.
SM: With that, let’s double click down on some of the most interesting ideas that we’ve seen in this consumerization of technology, especially in the context of enterprise applications. From Salesforce.com, you’ve acquired a whole bunch of them. Let’s talk through some of the ones that you’ve acquired and what specifically was the top process behind picking the companies you did? Obviously, there are lots of options. You must be feeling like a kid in a candy store. There’s so much out there to acquire from. Some very interesting startup companies are starting to find traction and so forth. So, when you think about it from the lens of Salesforce.com and looking at all the entrepreneur activity out there, how do process all of this?
AD: Yes. As you know, Salesforce has evolved from a cloud vendor where our mission as a cloud vendor was to make applications as easy to use as Amazon to social enterprise where we believe the world is changing. And the social enterprise is really built around a couple of key constituents. What’s the most important for an entrepreneur? There are three things.
When you’re an entrepreneur, there are only three things that matter: your customers, your product and your employees. What we’re trying to achieve with the social enterprise is to deliver a completely different experience for the employees within an organization and for your customers and to enable your products to be much smarter than they used to be. That’s what we see happening with all of our large customers, whether it’s Coke or Burberry. These are super large companies. There are also very small companies that are just starting and entering the market and leveraging these new trends. For example if I stay in the Burberry world, which is closing Bonobos in New York using all these dot com services, reaching out through social media to customers, we see everyday new startups relying on our service in order to better interact with our customers, to build their brands in the social network, to have their employees work in a mobile, real-time environment. For us, the social enterprise is about accepting that now, the world is social. Your employees are social; your customers are social; and your product needs to be social. Your products need to be integrated into your customer experience and your employee experience.
That applies to any type of product, by the way. When you go to Starbucks, and you pay with your iPhone, your product is social. Your product is connected to a network and do tons of things in that network, including notifying your friends on Facebook that you love the soy latté every morning at 9 am. That’s kind of the world we live in.