Salesforce CFO explains why companies need to meet the fourth industrial revolution head-on

TORONTO – If Salesforce.com Inc. president and CFO Mark Hawkins had one message for the audience watching his keynote at the first-ever Salesforce World Tour in Toronto, it was this: Adapt or die.

Customers are already embracing what Salesforce calls “the fourth industrial revolution” – information – Hawkins said, faster than anyone ever embraced the steam-driven revolution of the 1700s, the electricity-driven revolution of the 1800s, or even the computing revolution of the 1990s.

Yet 59 per cent of companies lack the ability to join this revolution in the first place.

“If you look at the revolutions that have happened over the course of history, they’ve always been driven, at the heart of it, by technology,” Hawkins said. “Steam… made what was unimaginable, imaginable. And electricity – imagine being in that revolution when it first happened. This invisible force that’s changed the world, changed society, changed economies, changed jobs, to this very day, and created betterment in the world.”

“Computing – I’m always so fascinated by computing, because I’ve been in technology for 37 years,” he continued. “I look at the power of the computer in my pocket, which is more than the computer powered to take the space shuttle into outer space.”

For too long, Hawkins implied, laggards who put off joining the fourth industrial revolution have justified their actions by saying it will arrive “someday” – but it’s happening now, with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology promising to be both more disruptive than its predecessors, but also create more opportunities – “incredible” opportunities, he said.

“You can pick your favourite,” he said. “Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. 3D printing. Robotics… It’s happening right now.”

And lest business leaders think their customers aren’t embracing it, Hawkins begged to differ with a single word – connected.

“Everything, and everybody, everywhere, is connected,” he said. “And the customer understands that.”

Hawkins shared two examples from his own daily life, via two morning routines.

“One thing that settles me in the morning is I listen to music,” he said. “So as I’m getting ready, I’ll pull out Spotify… I can share music lists with my children – one lives in LA, one lives in Boston – and they send me terrific music lists back. I have a wonderful customer experience. I press a button, it’s tailored to me. It’s awesome.”

Hawkins pulled his next example from his morning walk to work in Salesforce’s home base of San Francisco: Before walking to work, he can place an order for his favourite non-fat cappuccino from his local Starbucks using the company’s app, pay for it using Apple Pay, and then make his way to the physical store.

“Artificial intelligence knows where I like to shop,” he said. “It knows my prior selections. I hit the button, the payment’s done, and the best part of my experience is about to come.”

“I walk into this busy, busy San Francisco Starbucks, and there’s this huge line. I walk right up to the counter, I grab my cup of coffee, with my name printed on it, and I say, ‘that’s an awesome experience,’” he continued. “That is the expectation that’s happening in every business – B2B, B2C… People are connected with customers in a whole new way. And that’s where we come in.”

Salesforce announced that Salesforce Ventures, its venture capital arm, would be investing $100 million USD into Canadian startups over the next five years on Thursday.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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