A Different Kind of Keynote


When journalists and developers pack auditoriums for launch events and keynote addresses like Google’s I/O or Apple’s WWDC, the focus is almost always on the tech. What is the company working on next? Where does the company want to be? Why does the company plan on investing in x over y? These events are usually exciting affairs, but the focus is always on the company. Yes, the consumer is relevant (someone has to buy all of that new tech anyway) but developments incubate internally and radiate outwards.

Salesforce bucked those conference expectations a few days ago. Granted, they didn’t have much in the way of product to report on, but their keynote was far from a dud. The presentation’s focus wasn’t “what products can you buy from Salesforce?”, but rather, “how can Salesforce improve lives?”

In their customer-centric approach, there was a testimony of how they enhanced Aston Martin’s customer service network as the car manufacturer expands production of their luxury vehicles. Another company, ABB, demonstrated how its new robot will work alongside humans. As with Aston Martin, this means that ABB can now use Salesforce to better deliver field service.

Salesforce touched on their corporate philanthropy and diversity initiatives as well, and that’s where they really shone. In keeping with the theme of using technology to make space for cultivating human potential, Chief Adoption Officer Polly Sumner introduced what Salesforce calls “the 1% challenge”. The challenge encourages other companies to model their community involvement after Salesforce itself, and is divided into three parts: pledging 1% of equity to the community, 1% of employees’ time to volunteer projects, and 1% of product to nonprofits that could use it.

Sumner also reiterated Salesforce’s devotion to diversity and gender and race equality. Tech has long been perceived as the domain of men— just look to Silicon Valley and the proliferation of the “tech bro” stereotype. But Salesforce is determined to level the playing field, and in his recap for Diginomica Phil Wainewright observes that they seem to be making meaningful strides. Salesforce has also been supporting an educational initiative called STEMettes, which gives girls the opportunity to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEMettes founder Marie Imafidon made the point that equal opportunity for relevant education is only part of the equation. Just as important is teaching young learners the virtue of follow-through, which is necessary when making potentially life altering career choices.

Salesforce brings something unique to the table. When coupled with advanced-technology, business can focus more on people— both their employees and the community that surrounds them.

Written by

Dave Pflieger is currently the CEO of Island Air and previously the President and CEO of Silver Airways. Previously, Dave Pflieger was the CEO & Managing Director of Air Pacific (later Fiji Airways). Before joining Air Pacific, Mr. Pflieger was a Founding Officer and Senior Vice President at Virgin America from 2004 to 2010.