In part one of a two-part interview, John Wookey, executive vice president of social applications at Salesforce.com, discusses his vision for Rypple and what he learnt from his time at SAP and Oracle.
It’s difficult to resist the temptation to open any conversation with John Wookey other than by saying: “Fancy meeting you here!”
This time when we meet he’s in his role as executive vice president of social applications at Salesforce.com. The previous time he was in charge of driving SAP’s enterprise On Demand apps business. Prior to that he was tasked with the protracted business of bringing Oracle’s suite of next generation Fusion applications to market, something he didn’t complete before departing the firm.
“What can I say – I can’t hold a job down!” quips Wookey.
In reality of course he’s one of the most respected apps development names in the enterprise software space and one with perhaps a unique insight into the strategies of three of the most bitter rivals in the applications software market.
Don't chase the competition
But he insists that while his experiences at both Oracle and SAP will have shaped his thinking, his underlying philosophy means that what those two are up to isn’t a direct influence on his current role.
“I’ve always believed that you should never try to chase your competition, you should think about where you want to go and how to get there,” says Wookey. “When I was at SAP, I was there because they were concerned about Salesforce.com and Ariba and because of that they wanted fresh thinking around on demand.”
That’s the wrong way to go about it, he argues, citing the example of Salesforce.com to support his thesis. “People weren’t looking around for a new CRM provider when Salesforce.com was founded,” he suggests. “Siebel was pretty much dominant and Oracle and SAP had started work on CRM themselves. The difference was that Salesforce.com set out to build something that sales people actually wanted to use. Tom Siebel got that wrong – strange for someone who was a sales guy. Siebel approached CRM from the point of view of imposing organisational control.
“I came to the same conclusion at SAP, that I had to think of different problems to solve. Individual executives who wanted to be successful had to find a better way to collaborate so we needed to build a collaborative sales on demand offering. I became convinced that social could and would fundamentally change the way we built applications.
“Marc had come to the same conclusion and when I left SAP he said ‘let’s talk’. Salesforce.com had done a great job in thinking about the social enterprise and how it supports the company. That starts with the people, so you need to think about how you on board, how you recruit and so on. I didn’t have any boundaries in this thinking.”
Wookey was brought into Salesforce.com at the same time as the firm acquired Canadian Cloud firm Rypple which is being positioned as skin in the Cloud HCM market space, albeit very focused on performance management. But the ambitions are there to flesh out Rypple’s capabilities considerably.
“One of the reasons that ERP has been unsuccessful is the design model. HCM are some of the least liked applications that people have to confront on a regular basis,” explains Wookey. “We will extend the functionality to include other aspects of HCM. We’ve had some conversations with customers about recruiting for example. When you bring people into a company you often do a poor job in that you’ll validate skills but not necessarily focus too much on skills alignment.”
“An area in which we can do some interesting thing is around the referrals process. The best employees typically come from the connections of existing employees. But they are almost not incentivised to bring colleagues forward from their own networks. We think from conversations with customers that there are good opportunities to leverage your own workforce more effectively. People also don’t often appreciate that when you bring people into a company it tend to extend your own tenure as you bring in people you like and respect and want to work with.”
Despite these ambitions, Wookey insists: “We’re not interested in being a traditional ERP provider, but then you might be surprised in three or four times what what we call an ERP system. There have always been boundaries between ERP and CRM but those are going to get a lot more blurry. People don’t just play a single role in an organisation. I manage people, I have a budget, I build products – different, but related roles.
“Our interest in Cloud ERP has been driven out of our wider Social Enterprise strategy. How do you enable a company to become truly a Social Enterprise? You focus in on the systems that are inherently social. If I think about the work initiative at the core of the enterprise it’s about how you get employee alignment, how you manage your workforce on an everyday basis. In great companies, people know how much they contribute every day. We still go through this crazy annual budgeting process, but that in itself is social. It is about the leadership of the organisation setting priorities and about the individuals who have to execute on those.”
He adds: “Making Rypple better is a top priority. I want to get people to like it and love it. Another priority is the integration with the rest of Salesforce.com’s offerings so that we can bring those tools to places where people do work. I want to integrate it with Chatter for example. These are things we want to spend a lot of time on.”