Saleforce’s Benioff on the Future ‘Corporate Spring’

Yesterday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff kicked off Dreamforce 2011, the largest cloud computing event of the year with over 45,000 in attendance and 35,000 joining online. Benioff took the stage at San Francisco’s Moscone Center to the pulsing sound of Metallica drawing an image of the future of social enterprise with Salesforce at the helm.

Before launching into hard-press sales mode for Salesforce’s Winter 2012 products, Benioff spent quite a while meandering the aisles, pausing to shake the hands of the many CEOs, COOs, CTOs, and even customer Neil Young, that filled the room. He reflected on social enterprise and the historical role social media played this past year in the Arab Spring – revolutionizing the Arab world, overthrowing dictators, and bringing democracy to multiple countries.

During this time of reflection, Benioff went so far as to put CEO’s on notice, saying that a ‘corporate spring’ is next:

“We need to pay attention to that at this conference too…. It’s not so long from now that we’ll start to hear about a ‘corporate spring,’ an ‘enterprise spring.’ We’ve seen Mubarak fall, we’ve seen Kadafi fall. When will we see the first corporate CEO fall for the same reason because his or her customers are rising up or not listening to their employees, not paying attention?”… That is what this sign is, It is more important to listen then ever before… that is the social revolution.”

We are moving into a time where class differentiation is finally making mainstream news – CEOs are getting called out for making more than their companies pay in taxes, Jon Stewart is skewering class warfare on the Daily Show, and now a leading S&P 500 CEO is pointedly discussing it at one of the largest conferences in the world. Part sales pitch, part reality, Benioff’s warning publicly puts many of his colleagues on notice.

This reality that has come to fruition recently with the fall of BP’s CEO Tony Hayward after the gulf catastrophe and the PR disaster that followed it, and the forced retirement of PG&E’s CEO after the horrific San Bruno gas explosion. As we move into the era of social enterprise where Facebook and Twitter rule, will the fall of governments be followed by the fall of CEOs?


Chelsea Souter holds her MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School and has a strong interest in impact investing, shared values, responsible tourism, and storytelling for implementation.

Chelsea Souter is a social impact strategist devoted to implementing business strategies that increase competitive advantage while creating positive societal benefits. You can follow her musings on organizational design, behavior change, leadership development, shared values, responsible tourism, and storytelling @ChelseaLura.

One response

  1. Cloud computing is only useful for certain things. It has failed for games, it failed for movies. It is only good for software protection, data streaming for small file, and a few other things.

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