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Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said embracing social media and collaboration can obliterate hierarchies and transform companies. And he should know. It’s already happening inside Salesforce with his enterprise social networking product Chatter. Benioff spoke at the GigaOM Net:Work conference about the company’s shift to social.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, at Net:Work 2010

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, at Net:Work 2010Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said embracing social media and collaboration can obliterate hierarchies and transform companies. And he should know. He said it’s already happening inside Salesforce with his enterprise social networking product Chatter.

He said the network has democratized the company, flattening it out to the point that employees are getting compensated in part by their contributions and influence on Chatter. Benioff said the company is using an unreleased internal tool for Chatter called Chatterlytics, which analyzes the contributions of users and measures their influence. And that is helping determine their compensation.

“We’re one team, it’s a flat organization, it’s a flat world,” he said. “We have a management structure but we have individuals who are way more important than I am. When they use these networks it provides this vast democratization and blows up the hierarchy in an organization enables and empowers the employees who are making a difference.”

He said Salesforce finds that its business is being led by active employees who push the company from within, regardless of their job title. Benioff said this is the vision he had two years ago when he first imagined Chatter and now he believes it is the way of the future for companies.

This is a major change for enterprises and one that comes with risks, Benioff acknowledged, including data leaks similar to Wikileaks. But he said companies need to embrace the risk and become more transparent. In some ways, he said that can head off problems from rogue employees.

The company applied that transparency to an off-site three-day meeting of 250 executives, normally a somewhat secretive affair. This time, the company invited the “Chatterati” at the company and distributed iPads and computers around the room for participants to comment in real time. Benioff also opened up the discussion to everyone in the company to solicit broad input. He said employees are still adding to the feed.

More than a technology shift, Benioff said this is like a cultural overhaul, getting your company in sync with the prevailing trends in society.

“It’s about values and the number one value is trust,” he said. “If there is no trust between employees and managers, nothing is going to work. Transparency builds trust. To get trust alignments, you have to have massive communication, you have to open up everything and focus on innovation and focus on collaboration and self awareness of an organization to get leadership.”

He said it’s this kind or radical thinking that will leave companies like Oracle, SAP and Microsoft behind, because, they’re too tradition-bound. But he said despite the major shift that embracing social means for a company, it can happen rather quickly. “It happens in a nanosecond. It’s when you recognize in a second that everything has changed,” he said.

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  1. [...] Salesforce Embraces Chatter to Obliterate and Remake Itself [...]

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  2. Good to hear somebody is trying to find an organization form beside hierarchical. It just doesn’t have to be flat, brains are not flatly organized either. So I think smart organization should not be flat either.

    I think he talks about context without knowing he’s talking about context. Therefor there could be some problems looming in the back he doesn’t quite understand.

    For example:
    Think about a point, it’s data. Now add a few points. Depending on direction it could be a line or a 1. If your system/organization is “real-time” it will try to make a decision about it. If it knows about context it will “wait” if there a more points forming a + sign. Real time systems can be very reactionary and very wrong. Data has and defines behavior which gets us to information. Seems like a smart guy he will figure it out eventually.

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  3. Wow, this guy dominated this “interview.” So much for collaborative discussions.

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  4. [...] social network (which the software provider also sells to other companies), and that Salesforce is giving employees who provide valuable information or contributions to the corporation via the network extra compensation, in the same way executives are given bonuses [...]

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  5. [...] social network (which the software provider also sells to other companies), and that Salesforce is giving employees who provide valuable information or contributions to the corporation via the network extra compensation, in the same way executives are given bonuses [...]

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  6. [...] tools into Salesforce’s internal systems. At the recent GigaOM Net:Work Conference, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff discussed how they are using their Chatter tools internally to flatten the structure of their own [...]

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  7. [...] collaboration tools into Salesforce’s internal systems. At the recent GigaOM Net:Work Conference, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff discussed how they are using their Chatter tools internally to flatten the structure of their own [...]

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  8. [...] Benioff, CEO and founder of Salesforce recently spoke at the GigaOM Net:Work conference talking about the power of social tools in enterprise, which he said have the ability to flatten hierarchies and democratize companies. The move to social [...]

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