Salesforce Gives Its State of The Union Address

February 3, 2016, 1:53 AM UTC
Key Speakers At Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity
Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Inc., speaks during a panel session at the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity in Cannes, France, on Wednesday, June 24, 2015. The advertising industry's largest annual gathering runs from June 21 to June 27. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

Business leaders are repeating a familiar mantra these days about how companies must stay on top of the latest technology or risk falling behind.

The rise of ride-hailing startup Uber and its impact on the taxi industry is a prime example of how a more nimble startup with better technology can upend ill-prepared rivals.

Now software specialist Salesforce (CRM) is beating the drum. The San Francisco company on Tuesday used a press conference to brag about its new software services for sales teams that will presumably give customers a technological edge over competitors that fail to similarly invest.

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At the event on Tuesday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff gave a sort of State of the Union as he ushered in his company’s new year. He and fellow Salesforce executives boasted about new products and services, like a new app for field technicians and another for sales staff to make phone calls through Salesforce’s products.

Benioff and his team discussed how advances in mobile computing, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and Internet-connected equipment are all impacting the way companies are conducting business. Newly installed chief operating officer Keith Block talked about how he and Benioff met with various CEOs during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where they invariably discussed the rise of new cutting edge technologies and the fear of being passed by.

Block singled out Uber as an example of a company that really gets technology and that it is forcing other companies to change their business strategies. He said new technologies are altering every industry, from transportation to healthcare.

“No industry is immune to this innovation,” said Block.

Salesforce invited the heavy metal band Metallica (sans singer James Hetfield) to kick off the event, almost as if to highlight the sense of urgency that comes with keeping up with technology.

As for how Salesforce has been dealing with change, Benioff explained that the company has been putting pressure on its engineering teams for the past three years to roll out an onslaught of new apps and services. The last 12 months have been a particularly busy time for Salesforce engineers, he explained.

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Salesforce overhauled its flagship sales product in August and is using that new underlying technology for all of its new software and features.

“We have really hit the accelerator as hard as we possibly can, and at times we almost broke it,” said Benioff.

Now, the challenge for Salesforce is to convince customers that its new lineup of tools are the perfect mix of data analysis, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and whatever else that’s fashionable that they need to stay on top.

Story updated at 5:05 PST with correct spelling of Marc Benioff

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