Today we are talking to Parker Harris, the CTO and Co-Founder of Salesforce. And we discuss the value of real relationships with your customers, key indicators of a successful acquisition, and how to scale your culture as the company grows.
All of this, right here, right now, on the Modern CTO Podcast!
Parker Harris oversees product strategy for Salesforce, from design to development to service delivery. He is also a member of the company’s Board of Directors. Parker founded Salesforce along with Marc Benioff, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez in the spring of 1999.
Prior to Salesforce, Parker developed cloud computing expertise at Left Coast Software, a company he co-founded in 1996, and salesforce automation expertise at Metropolis Software, an early pioneer in field salesforce automation, subsequently acquired by Clarify.
Parker developed a love of math, science and computer programming at an early age, but also developed the other side of his brain with a fluency in French and a degree in English Literature from Middlebury College.
Salesforce.com, Inc., incorporated February 3, 1999, is a provider of enterprise software, delivered through the cloud, with a focus on customer relationship management (CRM). The Company focuses on cloud, mobile, social, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence technologies. The Company’s service offerings are configured and integrated with other platforms and enterprise applications. The Company delivers its service offerings via Internet browsers and on mobile devices. Its Customer Success Platform is a portfolio of service offerings providing sales force automation, customer service and support, marketing automation, digital commerce, community management, analytics, application development, IoT integration, collaborative productivity tools and its professional cloud services.
- Calling in from salesforce tower San Francisco. Have to go to the top floor of Salesforce Tower
- Predictable revenue. Started salesforce with Marc. Recurring revenue model was the most important thing to him. Tried to get venture capital firms to invest but they said no at the time.
- Just had 20 year anniversary. Each year it gets bigger and bigger. When they started the company they thought about what they could create and how it could serve anybody of any size.
- Tactics dictate strategy. Market for long term execute for short term.
- Visibility in to their scale at DreamForce. Swarms of people and the impact they have on customers and non profits
- Somedays he still feels like he’s part of startup.
- Importance of balance. Salesforce is important but also family is also a key part of it.
- Early 80’s Parker was in 8th grade grandfather gave him the money to buy an Apple 2 computer. Started with cassette tapes for storage. Subscribed to nibble magazine. Nibble is half a byte. Sample code. Sister and Parker typed out a program from the magazine.
- Big launch party in Feb 1999 pouring rain previous movie theater. The Regis Theater in San Francisco. At the bottom of the building, paid actors to sit in jail and hand you CD’s. Paid actors to protest software.
- Early vision, had been doing early cloud as a consultant. Were already in the space and had the background in salesforce applications. Had lunch with Marc in 1998 and thought it was a fantastic idea and they had met the right person.
- Technologist view of the world. The satisfaction of knowing that he’ll be running the system as opposed to having a customer call saying they are using a software and there is something wrong
- They turn out a lot of high quality leaders but try not to let them go. Prioritize their people first and make them successful. Early on they weren’t thinking about agile methodologies. When you’re 5 people you’re naturally agile. As they grew the natural evolution was waterfall process.
- Had a crisis where they hadn’t shipped code for an entire year. So Salesforce had an idea for agile and presented it to the team and they were like nope that’s not going to work. So let’s come up with another idea. So he had 2 great leaders come to him and present Agile. They wanted to roll it out incrementally and Parker said no we have a crisis. We’re rolling it out everywhere all at once. We’re going to time box the next release. That’s a requirement. Date and quality.
- Credits head of engineering. Operational excellence. Do 3 major releases a year at incredible scale with no regressions, with very few bugs. Very few performance regressions. They take the upgrade process on for their customers.
- How do we keep moving the ball forward? When you acquire people how do you move them forward. Sales force security, compliance, quality, etc
- What led to him moving in to the CTO role. Have done 60 acquisitions over the last 20 years. Have gotten really good at acquisitions. Acquisitions come with their own data stores, code bases, dev methodology.
- Recognized that they were running tech in a lot of different databases. Wanted to deliver to customers. Customer success platform. 2 years ago shifted more to CTO architecture role where as a co-founder through influence he can work across a lot of different salesforce platforms.
- Driving long range planning. Success is on tactics but long range planning is important. Getting teams across different units working together and collaborating.
- Just created something Platform Events. Have a team that built something for some of their clouds. Other clouds like marketing need to have the same bus. How does this service start to level up and be a global service.
- Acquired team getting the idea that they are bigger and better with Salesforce. Marc was good to go through with acquisitions early so that they could get good at them early.
- Acquisition hypothetical. What should you look for on the human side of things. First you need to understand their culture. Is it command and control where it’s hierarchical? Is it flat and collaborative? Is it one where teams own their areas? Then try to figure out if you are similar or if you are different. If culture is similar it bodes well for your success. How are we going to integrate them and how much are we going to ask them to change
- Will look at security. Technically how are they dealing with cyber security. Trust is important to Salesforce. How much of a problem will it be to up-level them?
- Trust is #1. Customer Success is very near to that. Make every customer successful and they will help you grow your company. They’ll spread the word
- TrailheadDX is coming up in may – 14 to 15k developers attending. Mini Dreamforce just for the geeks.
- You have lots of people how do you personally deal with stress? People are most important. Planning process is people and their well being. Make sure you’re eating right, sleeping right, exercise. Have had super stressful times. At some point you have to give yourself permission to be less stressed. Step back get a little perspective. Humor is a great stress reliever. We are not running a sprint. We are running a marathon. Wants all engineers to keep going. If we’re over stressed in the short term, then how do you get to the next one. Take a break.
- Craig Weissman second CTO. Marc we want you to talk to Craig and close him. Marc is a consummate closer. Marc told him he needs to go to Spain for a month and that he needs to go relaxed.
- Relates to success metric for customer it relates to employees. Ohana.
- Joel talking about the difference working with corporate partners
- It’s all about those relationships. Customer success value. Making customer successful. Tech you can abuse and mess it up. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about what you do when there is a problem. Are you going to show up? Are you going to be a trusted partner? Empowered to make customers successful and it pays itself back. It builds up trust when you are in the trenches
- Advice from Parker. It’s easy for 10-11 people to understand culture. When you’re a big company you have to make sure they share your values. Communicating it, reviewing it, on-boarding, transparent
- Were you always confident and well spoken, lean more towards an introvert. Learned to speak. First conference ever was all things digital. 1999. Barely had the service, had bugs and the service. Hello palm springs! At Salesforce public speaking is very important. Have speaking coaches working with them. Have introverts and geeks who don’t want to speak but they are always rotating in new speakers. Take Dreamforce on the road. Do Dreamforce on the road
- First official event was in Sydney and now it’s on the blooper reel for marketers. But it’s all about practice and he’s nervous every time.