Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Final Frontier of Cloud Democratization - Technical Talent

Credit: Wikipedia
@spartovi - Sal Partovi

Think Different

In the early days of Salesforce, CEO Marc Benioff masterminded a brilliant marketing campaign titled, “No Software”. Perhaps inspired by Apple’s campaign around “Think Different”, the No Software mantra was clearly an emotional play, targeted to a very specific set of individuals.

Much like “Think Different”, which is not grammatically correct, “No Software” isn’t exactly true. is most definitely software, but at the time delivered through a vehicle that was completely novel and refreshing (SaaS, aka, Cloud). The connection here likely revolves around Benioff’s adoration of Apple’s Steve Jobs, though it could just be a coincidence of two great marketing visionaries coming up with short and expressive mantras.


While grammatically incorrect and technically incorrect, respectively, I look at both of these messages as poetry. Artists use lies to tell the truth, and the art behind these incorrect mantras is an attempt to trigger an emotional response with a specifically targeted user.

Why “No Software”?

Back in the early 2000’s, prior to Salesforce’s public launches of the Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, or even - the business focus was echoed by the company name: “Salesforce”: SaaS-based CRM. For those used to costly, time-consuming, failed, and awkward on-premise Siebel implementations it was a game-changer. It was Benioff’s task to find a way to differentiate from the legacy providers of the 90’s and position a message directly to his target buyers.

(Sidenote - it’s still Salesforce’s mainline: 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE)

Who Was The Target? 

Benioff took all his muster and might and will and aimed it directly at the VP of Sales. And this my friends is where the story gets interesting.

Imagine if you will, a VP of Sales at a small person company back around 2003. To paint the picture, let’s say her name was Victoria. She drives a black BMW, lives in Texas, has two labradors, and loves her job. Victoria manages about 10 sales folks as well as 2 inside sales reps for lead generation. The inside folks work out of Texas HQ along with her, but the rest of her team is distributed across the US, with varying territories.

Here are a few facts about Victoria’s team -
  • They’re distributed
  • They are mobile (in the 2003 sense of the word, which meant, they were on the road a lot)
  • They HATE their CRM system (usability) 
Within those facts lies Victoria’s problem. Managing a distributed team of gunslingin’ sales reps whilst receiving death threats from her CEO in response to her inability to accurately forecast or even provide current reporting.

Who’s In Victoria’s Way?

IT. No question about it. IT in 2003 is NOT in the innovation business. IT is in the “hey, it works, it’s not our problem if it doesn’t work well” business.

The Hero Victoria Needs

Along comes Marc Benioff in his pinstripe suit and shiny shoes. He invites Victoria to Dreamforce. Keep in mind that it’s being located at the Hilton Hotel, and has way less than 5,000 attendees (probably closer to 2,500). And the moment she walks into the room the first message that hits her is on the back of a Salesforce employee’s shirt: No Software. 

To Victoria, this means No IT. No Headaches. A CRM she can pay for and expense on her personal credit card if need be. A web-based system that her reps can update from any place with internet. Done. Sold.

That was 10 years ago.

“You could call it people-oriented architecture: democratization of IT that puts computing power in the hands of users and lets them get a job done without having to adapt their processes to the way the technology works.”
- Phil Wainewright
In the light of Victoria’s story, the above quote takes on a different light. “No Software” was Benioff’s way of putting that entire quote into two words, and he achieved it directly for his target market (appropriately moving away from the phrase at a later date when the market shifted). 

At its time to the VP of Sales, “No Software” simply translated into “the power back into my hands”.

What’s Left To Democratize?

Fast forward to 2013, and where has our current Cloud state of democratization matured to?
  • We have democratized infrastructure.
  • We have democratized computing platforms.
  • We have democratized software.
At every stage of the technology stack, a startup of two individuals has access to the same computing technology and power that runs the largest and most powerful tech firms in the world.

But something is missing.

We do not have democratized talent to leverage these democratized systems.

Or do we?

Competition-based Crowdsourcing

It’s the final piece of the puzzle / the final frontier of Cloud Computing / the final cap on the stack. Democratized expert technical talent: a way for any sized organization to tap into and reward the best technical experts in the world - AND - a way for any talented specialist to participate on the toughest enterprise challenges. Effective application of abstracted Cloud power to the technical resource model.

Imagine 600,000 of the world’s best technical experts in a subscription and pay-for-performance” model. Sounds near ridiculous doesn’t it? Well so does “Think Different” and “No Software” when you first hear it - but the visionaries can usually see what the core message is saying:

Together we now have the power and freedom to build technology innovation on our terms.

Welcome to CloudSpokes and TopCoder: “Let’s Build It”.

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