The tech industry loves to brag about “openness”. Indeed ‘open” may be the most abused tech marketing term over the last couple of decades. So, when I first heard Marc Benioff, CEO of salesforce.com talk a few years ago about how they were “democratizing technology” I was cynical. To me it was a nuanced and political version of “open”.
But as I researched for my book chapter on salesforce.com, I saw several signs of openness - like its trust site which showcases performance metrics for all, including competitors, to see. How many vendors, even years after salesforce started that site, openly showcase their operational metrics?
Last year’s Dreamforce conference brought to me other glimpses of what Marc means by “technological democracy”. Some of the observations I captured in the book:
“During a customer panel at salesforce.com ’ s Dreamforce conference in November 2009, at one end of the table sat a ball of color — D.A., of the indie band Chester French, with his bob of red hair and purple trousers. At the other end was Joe Drouin, CIO of Kelly Services, which places 650,000 contract staff around the world, in a dark suit and white shirt. Quite a contrast in size of customer and dress code. That ’s Benioff ’ s democracy in action.
In a keynote presentation, Benioff plays master of ceremonies and gives equal time to Appirio, a next - generation systems integrator we describe in Chapter 18 , and to Accenture, which is 1,000 times bigger. He gives time to Vetrazzo, a start - up that makes countertops from recycled glass, and to Lawson, the second - largest convenience store chain in Japan (behind 7 - Eleven). He gives bloggers front - row seats during his keynote speech ahead of industry analysts and technology media. He high – fives onstage with left - leaning San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and hugs General Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State.”
Last week’s Dreamforce gave me even more glimpses of that openness. The entertainment represented three varied musical genres – Stevie Wonder, Will.I.Am and Neil Young. Bill Clinton and Colin Powell provided political contrasts.
But it was the technology on display which accented the “openness”. Marc playfully showcased iphones and Blackberries and Android devices and iPads during his keynote to emphasize growing device openness. Last year’s Java initiative with VMWare and this week’s Ruby diversification with the Heroku acquisition emphasize growing development language choices.
The launch of database.com during the conference, while self-serving to salesforce, was greeted as one of the most important conference announcements by several CIOs/end-users I talked to. Choices beyond Oracle, IBM and Microsoft in the database world surely qualify as “open” to them. Anshu Sharma nicely summarizes the language/platform/device openness in his blog post here
Apologies to Rev. Jesse Jackson, but Marc Benioff’s rainbow socks during his keynote only reminded me we have a new rainbow coalition. And a new ringleader.