Sanj Bhayro, SVP EMEA Commercial at Salesforce
While the business world has traditionally favoured the biggest and the richest, cloud as a technology is seen as the great equalizer. Through a transition through to the cloud, SMBs are being empowered to take on the nemesis of enterprise business, with the number of wins growing year-on-year.
This, according to Salesforce’s Sanj Bhayro, is one of the most exciting trends we’re now witnessing in business throughout the world. Bhayro currently leads the EMEA SMB business at Salesforce and for almost 11 years has been part of the team which has seen the power of intelligent CRM systems grow backroom businesses to industry giants. Just look at the growth and influence of companies such as Uber and AirBnB for justification of his claims.
“The SMB business in Salesforce is one of the most exciting, because we get to work with really innovative companies,” said Bhayro. “All the innovation in the industry is coming from these small to medium sized businesses. They are disrupting the traditional market which is in turn forcing the traditional players to transform their own business models.
“Something which is interesting from our perspective at Salesforce is that when we started 17 years ago the internet wasn’t that prevalent, the cloud wasn’t a word that was used that often, and it was the SMB companies who adopted our technology. The cloud offered them the operational efficiency, the scale and the reach to take on these traditional players. These smaller organizations are looking more and more towards technology as the enabler for innovation.”
The majority of the SMBs could be considered to be too small to drive innovation in-house. For the most part, the IT department is small, and responsible for ‘keeping the lights on’, working through the cloud has enabled innovation and created opportunities for these organizations. And for the most part, the ability to be innovative is much more prominent in the smaller organizations.
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The fail-fast business model is one which has captured the imagination of numerous enterprise organizations around the world. Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos recently claimed the fail-fast model was the catalyst for recent growth within the AWS business, though the majority are seemingly struggling to implement the right culture which encourages learning and innovating through failing. For the majority, failure is simply failure, not part of the journey to success.
But this in itself is one of the ways in which the smaller, more agile organizations are innovating and catching enterprise scale businesses. The implementation of cloud platforms speeds up the failures and lessens negative impacts on the business, to further drive the journey to innovation.
“For start-ups and early stage companies, failing is an accepted mentality. How many companies are actually the same as when they started? They failed, learned and then progressed. As businesses become bigger and bigger it becomes a lot more difficult. Certainly for larger companies there is a lot more friction around the fail-fast model. Smaller companies are culturally set up to allow them to pivot and try new things, whereas larger ones, purely because of their size, are constrained.”
Outside of the SMB team, Salesforce engineers have been prioritizing the use of artificial intelligence for future product launches and updates. This was reinforced during the company’s quarterly earnings call in recent weeks as CEO Marc Benioff backed AI as the next major growth driver. While there is potential for AI in the SMB market place, for the moment it is only for those who are ahead of the curve.
For the most part, data analytics is starting to drip down into smaller organizations, though there is still a substantial amount of data which is not being utilized. For Bhayro, as the concept of the cloud is now ubiquitous, the opportunities are almost limitless. But only once these organizations have got on top of managing their own data, breaking down the silos within the business.
“AI translates well into the SMB business model and it will be the SMBs who drive where AI goes,” said Bhayro. “There are generally two camps when it comes to the SMB market, those who are cloud-native, those who capitalizing on the sharing-economy and those who are more traditional organizations. The shift that the traditional business has to make to break down the silos, and to move towards a cloud back-end is far more difficult than a company like Deliveroo who started in the cloud and can scale. Never the less that shift has to be made.”
“So much data is being created and there’s so much that you can do with it. The problem is that so many companies are not doing enough with their data. Recent reports stated that most companies can only analyse 1% of their data. Even before we start moving towards AI technologies, the way we service intelligence is through insight. We need to provide the right tools to make data available and malleable, to everybody in your business. These data analytics tools are the first steps and then we can look forward to AI technologies.”
The UK government has made numerous schemes available to SMBs to encourage the growth of this subsector in recent years, and Bhayro believes these efforts have been playing off in the international markets.
“I delighted to say that the UK takes a leadership position (in relation to SMB growth and innovation in comparison to the rest of Europe),” said Bhayro. “Something in the region of 95-96% of the companies in the UK are SMBs, and the government is currently doing the right things to encourage and propel entrepreneurs. I think we’re in the time of entrepreneurship, and this is the time for people to have the vision and grow. These companies are having wonderful ideas, and they are moving into the growth period, but it’s the customer experience which really differentiates them from the competition. Not many of these companies are set up to achieve customer experience objectives, but this is where we (Salesforce) come in.”