We’re at the dawn of a new industrial revolution. And just as the steam engine and the spinning jenny transformed the world in the first industrial revolution, the new technology of this new industrial revolution will transform our world as we know it.
The seeds of revolution are all around us: More compute power now resides in each of our pockets than in the supercomputers of the eighties; we are rapidly approaching a point where each person on the planet is interconnected through a web of digital channels; billions of devices are capable of instantly uploading data about the device and its environment as an the internet of things; highly automated manufacturing plants will soon intelligently assemble custom products; and instant video communications now take place regularly around the world. All of these changes are already here.
What Benioff and his team at Salesforce do better than every other tech company at a customer conference is make an emotional connection between the audience and the brand.
The opening 45 minutes of Dreamforce 2013, the annual gathering of Salesforce.com (SFDC) customers and industry influencers, focused less on the product and much more on how SFDC is helping transform the lives of those most in need of help. In many respects, this looked and felt more like the opening of a fundraising event than a software conference — I say "felt" because the message was designed to connect with feelings. The visuals and stories all help people connect to the Salesforce message at a deeply emotional level. The implication: By partnering with SFDC, you really do help change the world. This was a masterclass in marketing and leveraging corporate philanthropy.
Too many companies are so focused on their own growth that they fail to connect to something that really matters in the world: making a difference in the lives of people less fortunate than ourselves. By reinforcing this connection for both customers and employees, Benioff successfully gives a deeper meaning to the hours employees will spend to do their job slightly better each day. It's no wonder that SFDC is one of the most admired companies and a top place to work.
Over the past nine months I've been interviewing chief digital officers and senior digital leaders across a variety of industries to gain insight into the emerging role of digital leadership. My colleague Martin Gill and I wanted to discover why firms hire chief digital officers and what they are responsible for — more importantly I was looking to discover what CEOs should be doing to set up their businesses for success in a digital world.
One aspect of the research I'd like to highlight here is the need to think of digital as more than simply a bolt-on to your business. To create a digital business able to compete in the age of the customer, we need to think of building out a digital business ecosystem. I know what you're thinking — "not another ecosystem" — and yes, it's a very overused term, especially by consultants and analysts. But I simply can't think of a better term to describe the interconnected and codependent relationships needed in a fully digitized business (see diagram).