First Coffee for September 26, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

First Coffee for September 26, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Frank Sinatra's underrated 1960 album Nice ‘n’ Easy. Just a warning, readers should probably prepare for a good bit of ol’ Blue Eyes this week, First CoffeeSM’s finally caught a bit of why so many people proclaim him the greatest singer of popular song of the 20th century:

Thanks to’s CEO Marc Benioff for taking the time, between travels to Costa Rica and parts unknown, to answer some questions.

Hi Marc, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Tell us what pleased you about the public reaction to the Appforce vision, and what you think people still don’t “get” about it.

When you introduce as idea as big as the AppExchange, you know that you are going to have to be patient – a concept this big won’t sink in overnight. Yet the uptake has been overwhelming. So many customers have come up to us, eager to upload apps. And developers are blown away at how quickly they can bring their products to market. Everybody is blown away at how this expands opportunities around our applications.

And yet we are still beginning. We think AppForce and the AppExchange are changing the way applications are developed, distributed, and deployed. And along the way, we are going to change the very idea of who can be a developer. By democratizing the tools and the distribution, we are unleashing what we believe will be a new generation of creativity and innovation.

What’s the best music to listen to at work?

I keep a collection of ukuleles in one of my home offices, so I am fairly partial to Hawaiian music.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer recently said they were going to give a run for their money. Sweating bullets yet?

Microsoft has really let this industry and its customers down. Where is the innovation? While we are preparing to release the 19th generation of our on-demand service, they are struggling to release their second. And this is true across many product areas that are popular with businesses and consumers today. Google, RIM, eBay and Apple all thrive today because Microsoft has failed to innovate.

In some ways it sounds like is interested in moving beyond not only software, but CRM itself, to bigger stages. Over the next five years how will’s priorities for what you guys actually make and sell evolve?

We are following the call of the customer. That’s a major advantage of being an on-demand service provider. You really can understand exactly how customers are using the applications and platform, and you can easily see where you need to go. And customers are telling us that they want to take the success that they have achieved in salesforce automation and extend it throughout the enterprise.

So we are going to continue to improve our products so that our customers can take our application to places that we can’t even imagine. The AppExchange is going to be a major leap forward in that.

Spiritual integrity is a big priority for you, that a person’s life works together in harmony, and no important parts, such as giving back, are left out. Is it too much of a stretch to see this same belief in what Appforce wants to do for business applications – let each individual or business find their own “fulfillment” or “harmony” without leaving any important parts out?

That’s an interesting concept. I think that the ultimate goal here is that when a customer uses our application, they see their business reflected accurately in it. One of our customers said it best: “Why should I change my business to suit my software?” We completely agree.

Appforce was built, as you’ve said, on the eBay, the iPod model. It’s a great model – but what limitations in that did you see that you’ve structured Appforce to overcome? In other words, where is Appforce improving on that basic model?

I think that we are all going to learn from each other here. Ebay and Apple have pioneered some amazing consumer to consumer and business to consumer models. Now we are talking about a business to business model that combines the strengths of both. And as always, our customers will be very clear about telling us what they like and what they don’t.

A few years ago people were writing about UpShot and MyNetSales as your competitors, these days it’s RightNow or NetSales or Siebel OnDemand. What’s the next level of competition you’re looking forward to?

I recall that back in the mid-90s, Andy Grove was asked a similar question about the microprocessor market. And he considered the “competition” the millions of people who hadn’t bought a PC yet. I think the same can be said for on-demand, and we are clearly in the early days. There are still many companies who haven’t investigated the benefits of this model. So that’s really where we have our sights set.

Do you believe that great athletes, great competitors need a great rival to push them to their utmost, and do you think has that these days?

A few years ago, I would have said Siebel. In our early days, it was certainly useful to have a rival that had such a negative reputation with customers. But the sun has set on that company now, and the lessons loom large for all enterprise software companies: ignore your customer at your own peril.

With Appforce are you worried more about competitors developing a better mousetrap, like Google did to the other search engines, or that the idea simply won’t catch on the way you’re betting it will?

Arrogance is the Achilles’ heel for any company, particularly in technology. So we are going to be relentless in our pace of innovation. I think a major factor in our favor is that we have democratized the tools and opened up the platform so that our customers can take advantage of the incredible creativity of our community.

Is this as, well, slightly creepy to anyone else as it is to First CoffeeSM?

A recently-released study called the Speech Recognition Insights Report found that almost three out of four Britons “are now talking to machines on a regular basis” for such tasks as paying gas or electric bills, inquiring about bank balances, booking train and coach tickets, and even ordering pizza.

Hey First CoffeeSM’s all for voice recognition technology, no Luddites here, keep the technological innovations hummin’, that’s what we say, but… three-fourths of all Brits talk to machines on a “regular basis?” Seems a bit much, what?

But what’s really interesting is that the report, sponsored by speech recognition vendors Fluency Voice Technology and Call Centre Focus magazine, looked at the voices that best suited different sectors. It found that voices conveying “efficiency, reliability, intelligence, credibility, calmness and being straight to the point” are considered the most desirable for a company.

The most popular voice chosen from a given sample for the travel sector is an age 30's woman with a “London Estuary English” accent, whatever that is, which those surveyed took to be “competent, well paced and professional.” For retail substitute 50s for 30s in age, and for utilities interactions the preferred voice is a 20-year old woman with a “strong, husky and independent” tone to her voice.

However, in financial services, the most desired sound is that of a 30s man with – for whatever reason – an Irish accent, conveying a “warm, smooth and authoritative” feel.

Oh, and for travel companies, the survey said one of the most desirable celebrity voices – evidently they do that in Britain – is that of Michael Palin, a former Monty Python who has since made a career out of going to weird places and telling others about them.

If read off-site hit for the fully-linked version. First CoffeeSM accepts no sponsored content.

Featured Events