Salesforce hires Bruce Richardson - this is a big deal

Bruce Richardson joins Salesforce,com - this is a big deal by any standards
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Bruce Richardson is one of the smartest and most gifted analysts I know and a person with a rolodex you could not buy for all the tea in China. When he chose not to join Gartner but go to Infor following the AMR acquisition by Gartner I said this:

I’ve known Bruce - or The Silver Fox as he is more affectionately known among analyst circles - since the mid 1990’s. One of the industry’s rock stars, he was always prepared to make himself available when Gartner analysts were ‘too busy’ to take a call. His sound bite worthy turn of phrase and often brutal honesty contrast sharply with the bland, PR driven statements you’d get from others. I always find Bruce to be generous with his time and willing to listen to counter argument.

We last met on the steps of the Moscone Center in San Francisco during Dreamforce, As we were chatting, a steady parade of industry insiders walked up to Bruce wanting to shake his hand. That included Charles Phillips, CEO Infor, the company he had recently left.

Fact is that Richardson is one of the few analysts in the industry who, when you ask a pointed question, will tell you the truth as he sees it. That's incredibly rare in this industry where vendors dollars speak more loudly than customer need. That's so valuable as a buyer rep you can't count what that means for people like myself.

Anyhoo - I heard that he'd agreed to join Salesforce so called him up. He confirmed that he is joining the company in early November. The role is not well defined at this stage but Bruce says it will involve 'a lot of traveling.'

Given all this insider stuff why should anyone care? Fercrissakes he's only another talking head. Right?  Wrong.

When put to the test, Richardson tells it as he sees it. He is one of the last remaining analysts (note: not anal-ysts) who will give you chapter and verse as to why this or that decision is correct in your circumstances. That has earned him the respect of a rolodex of CXOs money cannot buy. So - what does this mean for Salesforce.com?

Over the last couples of years, Salesforce.com has been assembling some of the best people in the industry as mouthpieces for the future. Some of its decisions have been great, some are questionable. In my view, the establishment of its media presence fronted by Steve Gillmor was plain dumb. Steve is a great guy with big thoughts but doesn't get enterprise. At least not in a way most CXOs can understand. But Steve's ability to attract the Silicon Valley glitterati while fantastic is meaningless outside that small segment of the world. Salesforcec.com's hire of JP Rangaswami was inspired but while JP is a fantastic visionary, his ability to relate to today's enterprise issues is non-existent. Hiring Richardson changes that.

Side note: I thorougly admire both Gillmor and Rangaswami as theorists- I just don't think their rhetoric, on its own, resonates with business. It's often expressed in ways that are way too esoteric for operational people to 'get.'

Richardson brings a sense and purpose to the reality of Salesforce.com going forward. If used correctly, then Richardson provides the intellectual glue between the idealists and those who live in the trenches of building and developing modern applications with a social flavor.

My lingering question has to be this: Why didn't SAP hire Richardson when they found out he was available? For years he was the 'front man' asking the tough questions at SAP media conferences. Right now he looks like SAP's analyst nemesis.

Side note 2: it was a person from SAP who tipped me off to Richardson's move. In other posts, ASUG had RIchardson as a keynote speaker. How delicious is that irony?

My message to Bruce: by all means let Saleforce milk your Rolodex...don't lose your credibilty.

Editorial standards