Behind the Cloud: A book review by Bob Morris

Behind the CloudBehind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company and Revolutionized an Industry
Marc Benioff
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2009)

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison

It’s always interesting as well as instructive to learn how a company such as Salesforce.com created a new industry (i.e. cloud computing), helped to make its customers successful, and established itself as a market leader while growing — in less than a decade — “from a simple idea to a public company with more than a billion dollars in revenue.”

Marc Benioff offers 111 “plays” within nine “Parts” and then “The Final Play.” The information, insights, and counsel are based on what he has learned thus far, especially during the years he has served as chairman and CEO of Salesfgorce.com. More specifically, HOW to achieve these strategic objectives:

o Turn a simple idea into a high-growth and profitable company
o Cut through the noise and pitch the bigger picture
o Use events to build buzz and drive business
o Energize customers into a multi-member sales team
Note: To create what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “customer evangelists”
o Develop products that users love
o Make a company about more, much more than the bottom line
o Launch a product and it introduce a business model to new markets
o Raise capital and create a return without compromising organizational and individual integrity
o Create proper alignment — the key to organizational success
Note: Benioff introduces V2MOM (vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures), “an exercise in awareness in which the result is total alignment.

Benioff would be the first to point out that attempting to adopt all of Salesforce.com’s strategies, tactics, and models would be a fool’s errand. However, he is convinced — and I totally agree — that, with appropriate modifications, V2MOM can help almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) to make several critically important determinations: what it wants to accomplish, what it values most in all of its operations and relationships, which methods will be most effective and efficient, which obstacles must be overcome and how best to do that, and finally, what the numerical outcome will be. “In addition, having a clarified direction and focusing collective energy on the desired outcome eliminate the anxiety that is often present in times of change.”

Here is a covey of mini-commentaries from among the hundreds that caught my eye. They suggest the scope of Benioff’s coverage.

o How to Stray Calm in the Eye of a Storm (Page 11)
o The Host’s Playbook: How to Throw a Great Event (55+56)
o The David Rudnitsky Sales Pitch (91-95)
o The 1-1-1 Model of Integrated Philanthropy (142-143)
o The Case for Corporate Philanthropy (147-148)
o Think Like a Start-Up (174-175)
o Build a Recruiting Machine (238-239)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to scope and depth of material provided in abundance. However, I hope I have indicated why I think so highly of Behind the Cloud. It remains for all who read this book to determine which of the material is most relevant to their own organization.

Here are Marc Bennioff’s concluding remarks: “Seize the opportunity in front of you. Imagine. Invent. Disrupt. Do good. I know that you must be passionate, unreasonable, and a little bit crazy to follow your own ideas and do things differently. But it’s worth it. Life grows relative to one’s investment in it. I promise you that by considering every one’s success, you will see the return. I wish you great success. I look forward to hearing about the future you predict — and living in the one you create.”

To these remarks I presume to add this call to action by Tennyson’s Ulysses:

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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