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Dreamforce: Clouds, party invitations and the need for big ears

4th Nov 2008
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Words of wisdom from Dreamforce as executives and their partners offer up their world views of Cloud Computing, a downturn in the economy and the need to have big ears! logo

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

Marc Benioff, CEO “There has never been a more important time to be focused on your customers. Listening is more important than ever. We had conference call with our employees a few weeks ago. They had so many questions. We took enough time to answer every single question. We have to over-communicate and over-listen. Our heroes are doubling down. The very best customers we have are doubling down. If we are all going to be successful, then it's important for us to double down now. We need to double down on CRM. We have increased our research and development to do that. That means a fundamental shift in our corporate strategy. We've built a full range of applications to help customers manage their business information. We know how important it is that users love what we do. Nothing is more important than every one of our customers becoming an evangelist.”

"Nothing is more important than every one of our customers becoming an evangelist."

Marc Benioff, CEO,

George Hu, EVP applications and marketing, “We take the secret sauce and turn our customers into evangelists. We have opened the doors of our CRM beyond the walls of the company. Customers have delivered a huge amount of innovation. Over half of our new features were delivered by customers. Cloud Computing married to CRM will allow you to change your customers' relationships. All of your customers are out there talking about you and spreading the word. But you also have to do more with less. The goal is customer evangelism at lower costs. You need to meet your evangelists wherever they are. Your customers and prospects are in The Cloud.”

Dave Girouard, president, Google Enterprises: “We are very different companies but we started our partnership with five or six months ago and we have 5,000 shared customers. We share the same passion for technology and for philanthropy. made our job easier by evangelising The Cloud. In a year and a half we have signed up 10 million Google Apps business users. Our friends at Redmond dismiss the rate of adoption. I kind of hope that they believe that. If you worked in old world of software and had to make Oracle work with SAP, you know how hard that is to make work. Now you click a button and you have GoogleTalk inside That's the new world.”

"In this sort of economy, the gap between on-premise and SaaS is so noticeable."

Lindsey Armstrong, EMEA President,

Lindsey Armstrong, EMEA president, “There is a lot of nervousness [about the economy]. Customers are making sure that when they enter into agreements that they have the elasticity to scale up and down. Customers are asking 'what happens if we get smaller?'. But the SaaS model can be delivered very quickly. The downturn has sharpened appetites for things that are infinitely flexible. That flexibility has become very important. In this sort of economy, the gap between on-premise and SaaS is so noticeable. We are getting invited to parties now that we might not otherwise have been able to play in. We're not having to explain what we do, but we are having to explain to customers why our ROI is so dramatically different. It's like when you get three quotes for building work to be done. You get the lowest quote and you ask yourself 'how can that be?'. Sometimes the ROI we can produce really surprises people. There are some people who just don't believe it. But SaaS has a massive advantage in that you can just show the benefits, show the working implementation and the quick ROI.”

Michael Dell, founder, Dell Computers: “By 2012, 80% of Fortune 1000 companies will be using Cloud Computing. A lot of people are asking should they slow down or accelerate technology deployment. Being stunned into inaction is the wrong thing to do. Not everything is slowing down. There is a billion people coming online over the next few years and there's a ten-fold increase in the amount of digital data out there. We love using at Dell. Customer relationships are at the heart of our business model. We have an ecommerce site that has 35 million visits a week and 480 million unique visitors a year. We have put the idea of listening into a whole other realm. We have more conversations with customers than any other company I know. We have had 10,000 ideas posted on our IdeaStorm site. We are inspired by listening. We have this incredible model of co-participation whereby our customers are driving the development of our products. Listening is in our DNA – we are a company with big ears!”

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