Benioff and Salesforce: True Socialists
Benioff and Salesforce.com are true socialists, in the business sense of the word. Customers want to install and deploy enterprise social networks, social monitoring and other new-generation tools. "They want their sales force to act in a social way in order to be able to work with these social networks," he explained. "They want their call centers and contact centers to work in a social way, so that they're not just monitoring the phones, but are working on Twitter, on Facebook.If you really want to know what your customers and potential customers are thinking and saying about your business, you need to read and analyze the forums where they socialize. Benioff realized this early on. When Salesforce.com bought Heroku for $212 million in December 2010, it acquired a Ruby-based application PAAS (platform as a service) that was powering more than 105,000 social and mobile cloud applications and boasted a worldwide development community of more than 1 million coders. Its customers include Twitter, Groupon and Hulu. "We bought Heroku because we want customers to use any language they choose [in their own platforms]," Benioff said. "We now have more than 130,000 apps on Heroku, and there are 3,000 to 4,000 new apps going up every week." Examples of these applications include Flightcaster, a complex flight prediction application; CloudApp, an easy way to share files on a Mac; and Clobby, which adds group chat to Facebook. "This is all [done in] recognition that enterprises realize they need to change because where their customers are has changed," Benioff said. "Customers are in the cloud." Benioff knew what he wanted with Salesforce early on, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT in Alameda, Calif. "Benioff approached the Internet differently," King said. "Before the [tech] bubble burst [around 2000-2001], the hot new trend was for an Internet company to become an -application service provider' [ASP]. "This was the early version of the cloud, but the key factors weren't in place yet to make it work correctly. I remember talking to some of Benioff's people about their new startup in about 1999 and asking them if they were an ASP. They immediately said: -Don't ever mention that term in connection with us again. We're not in that boat.'"
"One of our customers, KLM [Airlines], just deployed our Service Cloud internally, and it's not just managing their call center or contact center, but Twitter streams and all the social networks, too. We're also seeing a need for social sales forces, social networks, social marketing-and customers want to build custom apps. So we're building a platform that inherently has that social, mobile capability in it."