Excellent Article about Salesforce as a Phenomenon

In my daily reading yesterday, I stumbled across this gem at Qz.com Four days, 170,000 people, and one Metallica concert later, I figured out what Salesforce is by Nikhil Sonnad. It was not only a joy to read, but something of a revelation.

Be warned. It’s very long form, very The New Yorker-ish. Legitimately interested but maintaining adequate critical distance. It’s engagingly well written and well worth your time. It will make you think, and largely (but not entirely) be pleased to be an inhabitant of the Salesforce ecosystem.

Main thesis:

If “inclusive capitalism” is to survive, it could have no better advocate than Mark Benioff.

But there are problematic areas that shouldn’t be overlooked, and visible gaps between what’s said and what is done, including this notably vivid observation:

I’d gone to the terrace to avoid two things. The first was the verb “to leverage.” This is a corporate-jargon favorite popular among people at the conference: Instead of saying, “Let’s use Cassandra on this project,” they’d say, “Can we leverage Cassandra here?”

The second thing I was trying to avoid was the constant sight of well-paid Dreamforce attendees, on their way to events like Dreamtalks, Circles of Success, or Keynotes, scurrying past homeless San Franciscans. The pale blue lanyards issued to all of us conference-goers provided access to stacks of radiant apples and self-caring lunches like “Grilled Tofu Bánh mì.” Yes, the label even had diacritics….

Do they donate the leftover lunches, I’d wondered, or should I just push this cart of 200 well-balanced meals out the front door as fast as I can?…

The next day, I saw conference workers throwing leftover meals into trash bins by the dozens. Guess you can’t include everyone.

Nihkil Sonnad in QZ
A latter-day (re-)incarnation of mascot Salesforce Sassy
(at, to judge from the font, a recent Dreamforce)

I wish there had been a longer treatment of how prescient Benioff was when he stormed the Siebel Systems Conference with Sassy and a (paid) crew of “protesters” chanting

“The internet is really neat, software is obsolete!”

But that is, in a sense, ancient history.

Regardless of your assessment of Benioff and Salesforce relative to its peer Titans and competitors, this article is a great read because of passages like this, where he explains the whole structural imperative of a reason that Salesforce has been so successful:

People were here because non-tech companies suck at tech, because they are dealing with ancient systems designed by a guy named Jared who never responds to emails, because there is a vast technological gap between the slick, intuitive applications they use as consumers and the obsolete crap they use at work. 

I can’t recommend it highly enough. Enjoy!