Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is known for being a visionary — and today, in an interview with Fortune, he gave us a preview of his vision for the future of technology and business.
“We’re in an AI spring,” Benioff told Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky. “For our company, and I think for every company, the revolution in data science will fundamentally change how we run our business because we’re going to have computers aiding us in how we’re interacting with our customers.”
“Based on the simple fact that there’s just a huge amount more data than ever before, our greatest challenge is making sense of that data,” Benioff told Fortune. “And we need a new generation of tools to be able to organize and view the data. We need a new generation of executives who understand how to manage and lead through data. And we also need a new generation of employees who are able to help us organize and structure our businesses around that data. When I look at the next set of technologies that we have to build in Salesforce, it’s all data-science-based technology. We don’t need more cloud. We don’t need more mobile. We don’t need more social. We need more data science.”
In its early stages, Big Data was about getting the data. But as the volume of available business data continues to skyrocket (quick stat: 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the past two years), the ability to glean actionable insights from all that data is becoming more and more important. And part of that means equipping everyone in your organization to understand and use data. “[T]he whole concept of data science is that the software becomes the expert, and you as the average user are able to understand what’s going on,” Benioff said in the interview.
In the tech business, innovation is currency — and for Benioff, it flows from an exchange of ideas. “I like to be around creative people. That’s a way that I ideate,” Benioff told Fortune. “I think the quality of your innovation is directly proportional to the quality of your questions.”
Benioff also spoke about another of his innovations: committing to donating 1 percent of employee time, Salesforce product, and company equity to communities in need. When asked whether other entrepreneurs lacked his “sense of civic responsibility,” Benioff acknowledged that the tech industry “does not have a good history of giving back” — but added that one of his goals is to show other entrepreneurs that philanthropy is possible. “[A]ll I want them to know is that it’s an option. That’s it,” Benioff said. “It’s kind of like when I said to you that the quality of your leadership is the quality of your questions. Just asking them the questions — ‘Well, what are you doing philanthropically with your company? And what are you doing personally with philanthropy?’ —is enough.”
Read the full interview here.