A few weeks ago, I unveiled a part of the Watchlist evolution with the Emergence Maturity Index (EMI) (more on that coming) and at the same time was able to identify a near-breakout candidate with the EMI prototype (subject to change without notice) -- Cogito.
As you probably also noticed, I spoke of four companies that I thought were "re-breaking out." Now as a brief call it, year end effort, I'm going to give you a short summary of the state of the Big Four -- and there will be some inclusive info about the 0.5 addition to it -- Adobe -- which remains 0.5, not at the level of a Big 5 yet.
Today, I'm covering two Salesforce and Microsoft. Also two other smaller but as important parts. First, the announcement of yet another (but very different) award for 2017 that will be expanded upon in 2018 and then something else that I'm going to be up to next year that you may or may not be interested in. See this this post for those things.
Following this post, a post upcoming on a piece of work that Brian Solis just released on change and change agents, called "The Digital Change Agent's Manifesto" that I think is both fascinating for its framework and important for its purpose -- and within its covers, goes through some things I have literally never seen anywhere else and yet, are kind of duh, how can they not have been taken into account -- and wow, he made the point of accounting for this. I'll leave you in suspense about what the hell I'm talking about until the post comes out but in the meantime, follow the link above and read the thing and see if you can figure out what I'm saying.
Following that post will be part III of this post -- the final part -- which will cover SAP and Oracle, and a couple of other not-random subjects that I want to make sure you're thinking about as we go to the new year -- one full year into my four-years-&-out-plan. That post will round out 2017 in fine style.
Here we go, readers.
Salesforce's Dreamforce conference is their annual bellwether. This is the place that Salesforce trots out its vision, mission, technology announcements and the underlying themes for the coming 12 months or so -- at least for the foreseeable future. Sometimes its huge, sometimes not so big, almost never subtle yet even though not subtle, it can be sandwiched between the cracks.
Most of the time, my colleagues tend to (rightfully) focus on the announcements of the conference including what is coming in technology and what Salesforce is doing in the world of corporate philanthropy or social good -- and all of this is good information. I do the same. I listen to the announcements and then assess what I think according to what I heard and sometimes what I saw.
But this year is different. While I am sticking to my promise of not writing a tome about Dreamforce or any conference or for the most part anything lengthy on any vendor, what happened at this Dreamforce between the cracks is significant enough to be a part of my actual discourse on company in these pages. So, I will do something here and how. Get ready for the not-as-obvious.
There is a reason why Salesforce consistently remains the market leader and retains mind share year over year. It isn't their technology -- which is very good but there are several competitors who are equally as good. It isn't their sales teams -- they are at times, far, far too many times, hyperaggressive in ways that lose them deals and thus can be a lot more irritating than helpful -- and even damaging to the brand. It isn't their thought leadership -- though they are true thought leaders, SAP in a classic sense, has superior business specific thought leadership content production and distribution. It isn't just their marketing -- though, to their great credit, they not only have the best marketing machine I've ever seen, but also one that is, more often than not and certainly more often than anyone else, attuned to the customers' needs, desires, wants, triggers and demands -- without selling short their own contributions to the market either.
It is their culture -- their ability to implement a "greater good" outlook at a company of their magnitude. No company -- and I mean NO OTHER COMPANY on this planet that I've ever seen or found -- has a stronger more positive active outlook on the world -- and makes the attempts to actually turn that outlook to something actionable and as part of that inculcates it into their culture in a way that activates their own employees to do the good that they look to do. Without getting too effusive, it is a culture that, with some gaps here and there, supports the better nature of human beings.
That's a huge statement but its also a true one. Don't get me wrong. I don't have blinders about any company of their size or Salesforce's ambition to get to, I think the latest iteration is, $20 billion faster than any company in history. There are some not so wonderful things that kind of velocity tends to encourage. Nothing's perfect.
However, Salesforce makes more than just a perfunctory attempt to be a company that is of value to the world and values the world too. They were built with a foundation of a force for social good as well as a company that does what all companies do -- makes money. They are undergoing constant redesign to retain that status in a world that transforms by the minute. They have designed and more importantly, evolved their culture so that it encompasses the Good (with a deliberate capital G) as part of its mantra.
It started years ago with Mr. Benioff's 1:1:1 philanthropical approach and his book in 2004 on what he called Compassionate Capitalism, was the announcement that it was meant to be more than something that just Salesforce did. It also reflected one other aspect of the Salesforce culture that drives the company to this day -- its evangelical (in a non-religious) way -- its desire to spread the idea of corporate social Good.
That was reflected in a somewhat overzealous statement that wasn't reported on (until now) and was stated at one of the smaller (but significant) events at Dreamforce this year -- the Trailhead Trailblazer Awards breakfast. Brent Leary and I had the honor of being two of the four judges for the awards, so we attended the breakfast where the winners were announced and honored. It was a truly nice small event with an enjoyable vibe.
But in the course of it, one of the senior executives of Salesforce who presented there said "Trailhead is a movement," which I made note of far more "loudly" than it was actually meant to be heard. While I think that's more than a bit of hyperbolic stretch -- I've been a participant very actively in movements over my life and Trailhead and all that's being done around it doesn't even come close to qualifying as a movement -- the sentiment and the thinking behind it is important to understanding the current psyche of Salesforce and its business culture.
If you were at Dreamforce, think of the environment. The built-for-the-conference architecture including the entrance arches, the atmosphere, the scenery, the artwork, the tone were all geared toward a strongly-contemporary-fun-to-be-part-of-and-with-a-true-mission-in-life, culture. The net effect and the network effect is that any person attending the conference, employed by Salesforce, or observing from afar felt what was effectively a cool rhythm with a purpose. That purpose was both making Salesforce a successful business and equally as important, making Salesforce a successful company.
Salesforce spends as much time working on their culture as they do selling stuff. They are in this for the long haul, have a proven record of major success, have become the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, but its an 800-pound gorilla who can dance with determined abandon. This leads to buy in from internally and externally facing human beings in the orbit of the company -- and it is why they, unlike any other company in the industry are as close to a force of nature as a company can be.
It's all about the culture -- and how that culture makes the people associated with it feel. And, man, Salesforce does that really, really well. Do they have problems to address? Oh yeah, they do -- see the earlier parts of this -- but all in all, they are on a path to long term success -- and mindful all the way along it.
I spent a full day (not counting travel) in early October at Microsoft's Business Forward event in Chicago to try and get a handle, which to be honest, I had lost, on what Microsoft thought it was doing with Dynamics 365 in particular and of course, to see at least a portion of whether or not it was executing on the company's rather expansive vision.
I came out with some idea and some answers -- all in all I felt it was tentatively not too bad -- but, due to the lack of any subsequent either interactions with them or even seeing any announcements or hearing anything via the grapevine or finding much new about them that I hadn't seen for months preceding or following, I'm now back to the level of "I'm really not very clear on where in the world Microsoft (a.k.a. Waldo) is."
So please be aware that what I am about to say is actually inconclusive but the best I can do with a lack of communication and little news in the Dynamics 365 universe -- at least news of any real significance. Given that, I'm going to let you know what I do know, and you can draw your own conclusions.
To frame all of this. I have been an retained adviser to Microsoft for the last 14 years -- which is not the same as being an analyst. I bifurcate the two roles. My role as an adviser, as it is with other clients in the same world Microsoft is, is to help them be better than they are or were even if they are good or even great.
I'm not there to expose their competitors' weaknesses -- due to both an ethical repulsion to the idea of tearing down another company as an advantage and also, on a more practical level, there is a VERY likely chance that their competitors -- at least some of them -- are my clients as well.
So, I work to build strengths -- which sometimes means tough love. I've had nothing but respect for Microsoft all this time but at the same time saw some things that I was clear, at least in my opinion needed to change. All of those suggestions were kept in house. There was no need for the public to be aware of them.
As an analyst, my mission is different. I need to present to the world at large -- or at least that very small piece of the world that gives a crap about what I think of things -- what I think is the status of a company -- client or not -- in the customer-facing technology markets and the value of their technology and their company to its potential buyers. That means that I sometimes have to say things that aren't terribly nice about companies that might well be my client -- and I will say them despite the possible onus to me -- i.e. the loss of a contract. There is enough of a body of work out there to support that I'm not just blowing hot air about this.
As an analyst I do expect some things that I don't expect as an adviser -- chief among them regular (to whatever extent that means) interactions with the company based on what they feel -- and this is entirely up to them -- I need to know. Getting that regular information gives me the ability to make some judgments that I can present to those who read my posts, articles, stuff all in all.
To be clear, thus, in this post, I'm speaking as an analyst and as of this post, I have no contract of any kind with Microsoft. Also, caveat here, because I have limited knowledge, I'm musing, not providing any kind of solid guidance or direction. So call this a disclaimer.
So, what does this mean in terms of my assessment of Microsoft? To be entirely candid, I'm not clear on where Microsoft stands when it comes to Microsoft Dynamics. I've heard repeatedly from them they are deeply committed to it. I've heard this from two people who work there that I truly trust and a few that I know are supposed to tell me that so they do. Because of the people I trust, I'm inclined to believe them, but not absolutely certain, either.
When I was at Business Forward, I saw Microsoft via the new Dynamics 365 chieftain, James Phillips show what was a very capable suite of sales and especially customer service applications and, during the same presentation, saw Adobe Digital Marketing Suite highlighted as the Microsoft Dynamics 365 offering, with literally no mention of what used to be Marketing Pilot -- all in all a move that I can't say was the wrong one -- in fact, let me be more positive -- it's the right one.
What was noticeable was the lack of any demos of back end Dynamics e.g. Nav or AX at all. What I saw was Dynamics 365 CRM or Intelligent Customer Engagement as they used to call it -- or maybe still do, I don't know for sure. Which I find interesting if not particularly conclusive. From what I gather, what I saw was the last iterations of what Jujhar Singh built before his departure to Salesforce. Which is fine. Doesn't really matter. I just find it interesting.
I also saw the evidence of an extraordinary partnership in the making with Adobe -- one that goes both very deep in the joint go-to-market efforts but even deeper in the technical integration of the Adobe Marketing associated stack with Microsoft from Azure as the infrastructure down to the architectural nooks and crannies. It was so prevalent it makes me think that someday Microsoft will entertain acquiring Adobe though I heard nothing about that nor have I any evidence of even a discussion about it. But it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Just my two cents or 2+ billion dollars.
I also saw evidence that Satya Nadella's vision of making Microsoft the centerpiece for all 21st century business infrastructure is still intact. This wasn't overt on the stage -- after all this was a discussion of Microsoft business applications. But his vision was intact with the peripheral (to the event, not to the company) evidence of the growth of Azure as a trusted business cloud infrastructure at the enterprise level, the bulking up of PowerBI, which is now more competitive than it had been with some of the larger analytics suites such as SAP's (from the outgrowth of Business Objects and HANA), though probably still not quite there yet; and with the evolution of Office 365 from a productivity suite to an industry leading unified communications hub -- with the subsequent integration of multiple products in and around the suite.
It also was in evidence with the extension of the ecosystem with the Adobe partnership and several other smaller partnerships It also became evident with the release of several products geared to the consumer business market such as the hardware in the Surface line such as the Surface Studio and the Surface Pro hybrid, both of which received giant kudos for their work power and their style in 2017. Plus multiple other things that are not the subject of this post.
But business applications, with the Adobe Digital Marketing component added and the completed integration of Parature as the core customer service component, while eminently capable of standing alone and competing with anyone, seem to be the bastard child probably because it's a small piece of Microsoft's overall business. It doesn't get more than a lot of lip service and assurances that there is a commitment to it. Business Forward was valuable to me because it showed me that they have those capable apps, but the followup and subsequent lack of visibility since them makes me think that the commitments are just not there.
The reason I find this distressing is that how can you be an integral part of all of 21st century business infrastructure without a commitment to business apps beyond a lot of chapped lips?
As I stated in the beginning of this piece, and in the title of the post, this is a musing, not a piece of deep analysis. The reason? I don't really have any interaction with Microsoft, for reasons that I thought I had the answer to, but as it turns out, I remain unaware of. I had some hopes that, post-Business Forward, that I'd be part of their analyst cadence again, but apparently I'm not, since my interaction since that event is once again back to none. I'm not complaining really. That's their choice. But it does leave me with a lack of information that I would otherwise need.
Thus, this Microsoft discussion not does rise beyond more than my speculative observation. That said, I think I'm pretty sound in my thinking. I'm simply not claiming to as be definitive as I ordinarily am -- but until I hear or see otherwise, this is and will be my working hypothesis. Business applications for Microsoft are seemingly being reduced to a peripheral piece of their business despite their protestations -- and whether they intend that to be the case or not.
I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that they are smart enough to see that they have a highly competitive product suite at highly competitive pricing -- and with Adobe in the mix can compete with anyone -- and that their vision isn't ever going to be complete without not just a reversal of their reduction of business apps importance, but an elevation of it as a mission critical part of the ecosystem needed to complete their vision.
But then, what do I know?
For a long time, forever in fact, I have been dealing with senior management at multiple companies, most of whom I have found to be standup human beings -- partially because I get to choose who I want to deal with, partially because most people are fundamentally good, not venal and it is not dictated by their position. What is somewhat dictated by their position, however, is the kudos, the lauding over their goodness, because they have such visible public postures and faces. And that's fine and dandy. They are public, they have earned their position more often than not, though occasionally not and they have maintained their good nature in a broad public market, to their credit.
However, there is a much larger group of human beings who are equally as good -- or even better in individual cases -- who don't get any recognition because they are not senior executives in the public eye. This group isn't limited to a single job description or type of person. It is all those, the vast bulk of the human population who aren't senior executives and who in specific aren't necessarily public figures.
Yet, they work every bit as hard and are every bit as good in their own ways as the senior execs are. The difference is that nobody really publicly recognizes them for that.
Nine years ago, I did something about that to some degree and began what I called "The Best and Favorite Personality Awards" on my "other" blog, Pgreenblog (both here and here if you'd like to see who actually won) It recognized people who were either flying under the radar or simply didn't get the good wishes they deserved and were (and are) truly good human beings for their warmth, kindness, empathy and also their business acumen. It recognized people in such categories as:
I spent a lot of time thinking through folks I knew and had worked with before and who really were great to work with and to know. And then... I didn't really do much with it anymore and didn't annualize the way that I intended.
So, starting in 2018, once again, I am bringing this back at the year end. Who are the good people that I know (and perhaps that you do) and who are the folks that can be publicly acknowledged to be the wonderful human beings they are. How I handle it is still TBD -- only people I know; accepting nominations; working with a group of influencers/analysts to make the determinations?
I'll figure all that out. But I have one person that I'm going to give the award to this year because I think that they (see how I keep you in suspense by making it gender neutral, though grammatically incorrect) truly should be applauded due to their exceptional work that goes noticed at their employer but is not known outside.
To do that and as a foretaste of things to come in 2018, I'm going to use the same three-judge panel I used in 2008. They are, in no particular order, but in conjunction:
All eminently capable individually but are most capable when judging as a unit. So, as a taste of things to come, I'm announcing...
Why this one? Because, as a group, executive assistants are perhaps the most underappreciated people -- not usually at their place of employment -- they tend to be recognized for the work they do there -- but beyond that, not recognized at all -- and that's just wrong. Analysts like me, and all others who are involved in the outreach from vendors and others are always in touch -- ALWAYS -- with the EAs of many of the senior executives that we have to deal with. They are the lynchpin more often than not for the success or failure of a relationship between the analyst/influencer/journalist and the senior exec they serve -- and often, thus, the company. That means that they are often the front office face of the company -- behind the scenes -- if that makes any sense.
There are a lot of very competent executive assistants. In fact, the bulk of those I deal with in a given year with any regularity -- which means about 40-50 perhaps -- are eminently capable of doing their job as well as the next person doing it. They all have ambitions too -- most to be more than an executive assistant, which, they, in conversation, see as a stepping stone to their career ambitions.
But what makes the executive assistant who even qualifies for this award special is that they already exhibit enough maturity, skills, personality, knowledge, experience, and confidence to go beyond the job right away and already function in a capacity more like a chief of staff than the typical job description of an executive assistant. Meaning they stand head and shoulders above all those already very capable people who were among the candidates for this award.
It was a tough decision. There were three all in all, who showed me a lot more than being just excellent at their jobs -- which is an achievement in itself. Of the three though, one stood out for their (see, still keeping it gender neutral but grammatically incorrect so I don't give away the gender of the winner. How clever am I? (He stands patting himself on the nearly bald pate).
The one thing that they had that the other two candidates did not -- a commanding presence and a level of confidence that smacked of "CEO of a company someday." This person has all the chops to not only serve as an EA, not only be a chief of state, but could be, if that is their career interest, the leader of a company, because of the leadership qualities they exhibit in the role that they currently have.
So, without any further ado, the winner of this year's Best and Favorite Personality Award for 2017 Executive Assistant of the Year is:
Kimberley Maddock of PROS!
While it might have been a tough race, Kimberley ultimately won hands down. What she (suspense over) does day to day at PROS is function well beyond her job description -- more as a chief of staff than an executive assistant. That means that not only is she able to take care of what she is designated to be responsible for, but she also is able to take command in situations that demand it, be confident in her ability to tell the CEO, her boss, what he needs to hear and do -- and engender the CEO's trust to the point that he hears it and does it.
She also does this with grace, charm and good humor in a highly social position with responsibilities that tend to run to real time rather than long term -- and thus have a constant pressure to have the tasks completed in the here and now -- not an easy demeanor or workload to maintain day in and day out.
It goes beyond that though. She is responsible for the CEO office's logistics which means the logistics and tasks that involve the entire ecosystem around the CEO, Andres Reiner. For example, that means that when PROS puts on Outperform, their user conference, she is responsible for my logistics or any other analyst who deals with the company. At Dreamforce, because PROS is a Salesforce partner, she is responsible for the scheduling of the CEO's meetings but also, in conjunction with others, the success of their Dreamforce-related events -- something that goes well beyond the scope of the job description.
Andres and the rest of PROS senior staff are well aware of it. I asked a couple of them for a quote about her for this post and here is what I got:
PROS SVP Tim Girgenti: "Kim is an outperformer in every sense of the word. She helps ensure everyone around her is successful, while making her own job seem effortless. Kim genuinely has the best interest of others at heart. I couldn't be happier for her as she wins this well-deserved award."
PROS President & CEO (and Kim's boss) Andres Reiner: "Kim is incredibly deserving of this recognition, and I'm pleased to offer my sincerest congratulations for this extraordinary award. Kim serves as an example for all of us and for PROS core values when it comes to creating positive experiences for people both inside and outside our company. Her passion and commitment to innovation and ownership in her role guide all she does to make PROS great. I'm honored to work with her. "
See what I mean. It was no problem getting those quotes. I had them without any hesitation on their part. They get her value.
In my dealings with her, when something needs to be relative to me as an analyst or as retained adviser to the company, the stuff gets done in time and never needs to be fixed ex post facto. And always with good cheer and a strong personal interaction.
But finally, another distinguishing feature, she has a future in mind that takes her to another level -- meaning the kind of ambition that requires great character prior to achieving it. I'll leave it to her to tell you what that is if she wants to but all in all, Kim is worthy of being singled out as the Best and Favorite Personality Award Executive Assistant of 2017, because she deserves to be known by more than those from PROS. So, I'm telling you.
Finally, I want to close this post with a status report on the 2019 CRM Watchlist and some big plans that I have moving forward through the next 3 years. I'm going to be brief since this, as always, is a long post.
Here they are in brief:
CRM Watchlist 2019 Status
Digital 2018 Game Plan
I'm planning on opening up the 56 Group site. The game plan which may change dramatically by the time I actually do this is:
Is this all definitely going to come to pass? Not necessarily. We shall see. I have to see what kind of time this will demand of me and also what it takes to build it in WordPress which is not an existing skill I have, though I'm learning. I have one offer of some help which may make this easier. More on this coming later. Launch looks to be midyear. Or some other time before or after that.
So, this is post 1 of 3 that will end 2017 and usher in a great 2018 which I am excited for. Very excited for and thankful for -- that I get to do this for three more years. I'm a lucky person. That I am.