Disrupt or be disrupted. But where to start?


That is the question. In the December 15th edition of Fortune, Heather Clancy reveals Salesforce's surprising answer: a program called Salesforce Ignite that challenges orthodoxies about how enterprise software should be sold.


The article emphasizes Ignite's role in propelling Salesforce to its goal of $20B in revenue. Sure, the $20B is exciting, but even more than that, Ignite is an innovation in Salesforce's go-to-market model that pulls investment in customer success forward into the sales process itself.


The Ignite practice was incubated from 2012 to 2013 as digital disruptors like Uber, Spotify, and Square hit the radar of C-level executives across every major industry. The innovation imperative was clear - disruption was affecting companies of all sizes and they recognized they needed new ways to transform themselves for this new digital era, fast.


At the same time, Salesforce was being recognized as the disruptor of our own industry, having led the charge for the cloud computing revolution. By 2013, it was the 3rd year in a row that Forbes magazine recognized us as the most innovative company in the world. So it isn't surprising that customers across industries, sizes and geographies began to look to us to help them accelerate their response to the digital transformation challenge. How can we disrupt our industry? How can we become a talent destination? How can we identify new markets and businesses to catalyze growth?


Reflecting on our own success, we concluded that the best strategic and tactical decisions we had taken along our journey all had a single focus: the customer. We made decisions by asking “What is the right thing to do to best serve our customers?”


We concluded that this was not a unique key to success - all great long-term market leaders and emerging disruptors had one thing in common: they were Customer Companies driven by the desire to better serve their customers' needs. They were hyper-focused on making their customers love them, and to do that, they had to deeply understand their needs and design business and technology systems to optimize the customer experience.


And so Salesforce Ignite was born. We started by putting what we had learned as a digital disruptor into practice, and augmented it over time with our best innovation techniques and practices. We adapted these for the Customer Company challenge, set it into motion as an experiment, and it evolved into a self-learning practice.


Ignite started small, testing the methodology with a select set of companies and a team assembled from diverse backgrounds within Salesforce. The experiment was embraced by these customers, and they helped us refine our thinking and techniques as we worked with them to build their unique customer company visions. As word spread about how Ignite could bring the art and the science of the possible to customers, and Ignited customers grew more and more successful in leading and disrupting their own industries, the practice steadily grew in size and experience.


Salesforce Ignite now invests time and resources in over a hundred customer engagements globally every year.As the Fortune article describes, what sets Salesforce Ignite apart from traditional design innovation offerings is our inherent ability as a cloud platform provider to move quickly from ideation and iteration into tangible, production scale solutions. The amazing ecosystem of internal experts (like Solutions Engineers, Business Value Services, Enterprise Architects, etc. ) and external partners (Systems Integrators and Application Innovation Partners) amplifies and extends this unique combination of talent and capabilities.


Recently we added innovation design firm gravitytank to Ignite to bolster our capabilities, through both specific disciplinary capabilities in research, design and strategy, and a way of bringing those skill-sets together in integrated teams. Their integrated approach — human centered design to envision new products and experiences — was so successful it was packaged as a methodology around how to “Work Differently” that empowers customers to transform themselves. We expect amazing things for our customers and Salesforce as the newly integrated team gets to work in 2017.


This is an exciting time for Ignite. Of course with success comes demand, but also permission to explore entirely new and exciting innovation areas such as AI, IoT, talent management for the digital era, and more. We increasingly see previously Ignited customers returning to ask for additional Ignite engagements to help define and accelerate their next digital innovation. The Fortune article covers one example of Ron Guerrier, CIO of Farmers Insurance, who had previously experienced the power of Ignite at Toyota Financial Services. When he arrived at Farmers and took stock of their digital initiatives, he recognized an opportunity to massively accelerate their transformation and turned to his trusted partner: Salesforce Ignite.


The conversations we've started and visions we've created have reached the board rooms of the world's largest brands, and powered the growth of some of the most successful startups. As Mr. Guerrier put it so well, “It’s a ‘who do you want to be when you grow up’ conversation.” Digital transformation is on every CEO's agenda these days and our Salesforce Ignite teams are working with customers of all shapes and sizes to help them succeed in their Customer Company transformation.


Click here to read Heather Clancy's Fortune article, Salesforce Sets its Sights on $20B.


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