As a business software professional, I've found it unusual that the CRM software industry seems to generate the lion's share of oddball stories and get the most media attention.
For example, if you're looking for a laugh within the business software market, don't search out the accounting software space. Go to CRM.
If you're looking for outlandish CEO behavior, don't turn to the Supply Chain Management software industry. Go to CRM.
If you're looking for gorilla marketing events that go completely over the top, don't look to Human Resources campaigns. Go to CRM.
If you're looking for software that is bigger than life, don't seek out Manufacturing software. Go to CRM.
I created this entertainment site to highlight some of the more unusual, unorthodox and strange events which seem to occur with near predictability. If you're looking for more serious CRM industry websites, I suggest CRMforecast.com as the best CRM software review and research site and CRMlandmark.com as the best CRM software evaluation site. However, if you enjoy the entertaiment, here's a small sampling of some of the more classical CRM industry events which generally either bring a grin to your face or a scratch to your head.
NetSuite Pokes Microsoft Great Plains and other non-cloud ERP vendors with the Hairball Syndrome
After a few duds (remember the NetSuite Guy vs. Great Plains Guy vs SAP Guy?), NetSuite releases a marketing masterpiece which diagnoses and classified the integration of multiple disparate business software systems as SHS - the Software Hairball Syndrome. This is worth watching.
Charles Phillips Commits Oracle CLM (Career Limiting Move)
In a marketing example that proves not all publicity is good publicity, Oracle President Charles Phillips gave sidewalk pedestrians plenty to look at and the industry press plenty to write about.
Oh my, I don't think Larry Ellison is going to like this.
Three story banners prominently displayed over New York's Times Square as well as in Atlanta and San Francisco show the magnitude of infidelity exposed and a woman scorned. YaVaughnie Wilkins put up the billboards after she learned that her eight year lover, Charles E. Phillips, President and Director of Oracle Corp - gave her the boot. Wilkins also published the website http://www.charlesphillipsandyavaughniewilkins.com/, however, it appears that Phillips may have been successful in bringing down the tell all website - at least for now.
In a 2006 Oracle newsletter, Phillips was described by his employer as an ex-marine and "family man" who has a wife and 10-year-old son, Chas.
Now in crisis mode, Phillips is in retreat and put out a public statement "I had an 8-and-a-half-year serious relationship with YaVaughnie Wilkins. The relationship with Ms. Wilkins has since ended, and we both wish each other well."
Call me crazy, but from the three story high banners, I'm thinking Ms. Wilkins doesn't really wish him well. I also suspect the response he'll get from his wife doesn't begin to compare with the ass kicking he'll get from boss Larry Ellison. Perhaps Phillips handlers can devise a way to return the media attention to Tiger.
I think I have finally found a more entertaining speaker than Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com - actually I've found two of them. And thanks to the era of social media and the hip hop translation by the team's public relations experts, the presentation in the below video illustrates the true powers of a well constructed, thoughtful and persuasive public debate.
Ah, the beauties of Web 2.0.
Cooked Books, Crooked CEO, Careless Auditors & Incompetent Board
No humor in this post, but certainly CRM gone wild. It's been a wild week at on-demand CRM software maker Entellium. On about October 1, Entellium CEO Paul "PJ" Johnston and CFO Parrish Jones abruptly submitted their resignations. Then on Friday, October 3rd, staff in the Seattle-based company were greeted with a company wide meeting to be informed that all but about four were being released from the company immediately. Software development staff in the company's Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia office were further disbanded. Shortly after the meeting, the FBI had arrested Johnston and Jones for charges that included wire fraud.
Now that the dust is starting to settle, it appears that Johnston and Jones had dramatically exaggerated the financial statements - by over 400% per year - from 2004 through the current date in order to secure $50M of venture funding. A resignation letter drafted by Johnston to two Board members suggests that he and Jones acted alone in their fraudulent activities.
Despite VC firm Ignition Partners putting in $19M of the $50M total and retaining board seats, the VC firm is playing stupid, saying that it would never have invested had it known the company's true financial condition. Other venture capital contributors included Intel Capital, West River Capital, Sigma Ventures and Mavcap, a Malaysian venture fund. With so many high profile ventures, where was the due diligence? Where was the independent audit?
Montgomery Securities and Cascadia Capital also helped Entellium raise money. Were they, too, duped with the company's bogus financial condition when they presented the deal to venture capitalists? Silicon Valley Bank apparently loaned Entellium millions of dollars and acted as the company's bank. As part of the normal loan acquisition process and ongoing loan management inspection process, could the bank not realize the amount of money flowing in didn't match the financial statement revenues?
And what about the local outside independent accounting firm Moss Adams who was paid twice to complete audits of the company? Moss Adams claims it actually never 'completed' an audit. Hmm, makes me wonder why the Board and the accounting firm would agree to not finish audits. While the duped parties are claiming an elaborate scheme orchestrated by Johnston and Jones, the most current information suggests that the scheme was not so elaborate at all.
As of the date of this post, Johnston remains behind bars and not eligible for bond as he is deemed a flight risk. His accomplice Parrish Jones is free on bail. The post-mortem audit now ensues. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Blackstone: "Johnston had used Entellium's credit card to pay for trips for his family around the world and had given himself more than $200,000 in bonuses, as well as two loans totaling $100,000 without the board's permission." Investigators are now trying to track down $9.6 million that was wired to Malaysia (possibly for company operations there) and Singapore (where Johnston's wife, Faith is from).
Software CEO's are Cocaine Dealers?
According to Lawson Software CEO, Harry Debes, people are stupid, on-premise software is like cocaine and the software as a service industry will be dead in two years. In an August 2008 interview with ZDNet Asia, the never before recognized but now famous CEO of ERP software systems clearly demonstrates why the old guard guard of ERP software makers were blinded by the SaaS market disruption and why the ERP software industry is overdue for a new breed of customer-centric business applications.
Questions along with Harry Debes comments included the following:
Q: All the other big players are finally going on-demand. Is cloud computing the next big thing?
Q: Won’t people avoid the prior mistakes of SaaS incarnations?
Q: But what about your competitors finally offering SaaS models?
Q: Theoretically, the business case for SaaS seems fairly straightforward.
Well there you have it. Traditional software is like cocaine —buy it and you’re hooked.
Normally I ignore the self righteousness ramblings of an executive no matter how clueless or comical. However, the Debes' comments underscore why a new breed of business software providers has seemingly emerged from nowhere, gained global market share and may be poised to seriously threaten several of the largest business software manufacturers in the world. During these last few years while entrenched enterprise software publishers Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and Lawson have cast doubt, injected FUD and mocked the software as a service (SaaS) uprising with ridicule, Salesfoce.com has become the highest growth application provider in the world, NetSuite has reached the public markets and yesterday's start-up SaaS ERP companies such as Intacct and Aplicor have each acquired hundreds of customers around the world - all while Lawson's stock has lost about half its value since the release of SaaS business software systems. Beyond casting himself in the role of a cocaine dealer, Debes' remarks clearly show a material lack of customer understanding, a blinding self absorbed righteousness, an il-advised defensive posture and the effects of a bury your head in the sand approach to business survival.
SAP Declares "We had a shitty CRM system"
April 10, 2008. Not exactly the words you would expect to hear from SAP co-founder and Chairman Hasso Plattner, however, in response to the pointed jabs and not so sincere remarks by Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Plattner decried "We had a shitty CRM system" as a reason why the software titan failed to win CRM business against smaller rivals such as Salesforce.com.
Hasso and Benioff faced off at the Churchhill Club's Computer History Museum event. In an obvious and predictable antaganistic approach, Benioff said, "SAP needs to write its new apps on our platform, and I need to help him do that because there is no way he can figure that out." When Plattner responded, "We have the largest software development project in our history, with 2,500 developers developing on demand", Benioff tauntingly retorted, "You have 2,500 developers and 2,100 interfaces. All that and no customer success." Oooh that kinda hurts. This of course isn't the first jab at the German software giant. Benioff previously stated in an interview with News.com Charlie Cooper, "With SAP, you really have not seen innovation in the last 10 years. If you think about what is the one thing that SAP has ever innovated, what have they created that's unique to the industry or value-added technology? I have a hard time thinking about what SAP is going to be known for at the end of the day." Ouch. I kinda feel sorry for the old guy.
Salesforce.com Replaces Staff Bonuses with Chocolate Bars
December 12, 2007. Apparently some salesforce.com staff failed to receive their year-end bonuses because certain financial metrics (outside their direct control) failed to materialize - even though the company hit its magical million users plateaux. In an attempt to make up for the unexpected financial shortful, the staff have turned to selling company paraphernalia normally used for journalist presents on ebay. The ebay seller and salesforce.com employee comments on the auction site, "It doesn't make up for the 10% of our bonus that HR cuts off without telling us because we didn't meet some alleged profit milestones set by who-knows. Maybe you can help me buy that porche my manager promised me when I joined years and years ago."
Perhaps salesforce.com bonuses are dependent upon the moons lining up or the mood of CEO Marc Benioff. Or perhaps this is just another case of a Silicon Valley technology company moving the goal post after the ball's been kicked. Oh yea, the wining ebay bid came to $12.50 plus $5.00 shipping.
October 22, 2007. In a not so funny story and as reported in the Washington Post, MarketWatch and various other web sites, hackers successfully breached salesforce.com's hosted system, retrieved over a million customer records and have successfully used that customer data against the customers themselves in phishing scams. Other misuse and damages stemming from the compromised customer data is expected. Two of the more notable salesforce.com compromised customer accounts were ADP and SunTrust Banks. I believe ADP is the nations largest payroll processing provider and also one of salesforce.com's largest customers (although that might now be changing). While the investigations are ongoing, reports indicate that about 900,000 ADP customer accounts and about 40,000 SunTrust Banks customer accounts were hacked and stolen from the hosted salesforce.com database. These ADP and SunTrust customers have already been phished by the hackers - many successfully.
Now the extended questions persist. Why was salesforce.com's hosted system vulnerable and are other hosted CRM software solutions vulnerable? For the first question, I really don't know. Phishing is an extremely common threat for which most hosted software companies and the rest of the online world retain adequate defenses. I'm really surprised that the CRM industry software giant was compromised to this magnitude. I can only suspect that this is an isolated incident. While I'm concerned that such a recognized and frankly simple hack could break down the security walls of the largest CRM software hosting company, I've reviewed the web sites of several competitors (NetSuite, Oracle, Aplicor and Entellium) and noted that these CRM software companies publish security credentials, audits and certifications. Perhaps its no coincidence that the CRM company that got hacked is the one that doesn't publish - are presumably achieve - the security riggers and safeguards of the others. Just my opinion.
Sage US Executive Team Ousted in Intercontinental Coup
October 19, 2007. In a move that even most in the CRM industry would refer to as sudden and drastic, the UK driven Sage Group leadership team has ousted the US executive team in a single swoop. The Sage Group is the UK's largest software company and the US operation was the largest division of the Sage Group. Not long after Andrew Corbin, CEO of the health care software division and Julian Horn-Smith, Chairman, left Sage over what were referred to as "differences in culture and style", the UK team terminated the North American executive team of US CEO (Ron Verni), CFO (Jim Eckstaedt), CTO (Jim Foster) and SVP (Taylor Macdonald). Swirling rumors suggest that more blood letting may be coming.
Sage says that this event was in no way a payback for that whole American independence thing a few hundred years ago and instead suggests that a new management team with a new culture and focus is needed now that the business has reached $1 billion in annual revenues. However, you gotta think that a more gradual transition could have made more sense and fewer enemies.
Is That Politically Correct?
May 22, 2006. Shortly after describing ERP giant SAP as "innovation-free" and referring to its software as "bulky and inefficient as it is expensive and unloved by its users", CEO Marc Benioff ratcheted up the offending remarks to include a mocking tribute to German speakers accents during an interview with the phrases such as "Vell! At SAP, let me tell you, softVARE as service is just one way to deliver softVARE!" "It's just a del-i-ver-y met-o-do-lo-gy! Customers vant hosted--and zen zay moove!"
Salespeople Are Stupid?
March 10, 2004. In a SearchCRM.com article discussing CRM software user adoption challenges, I was completely caught off guard when CRM consultancy Green Beacon Solutions CEO, Ben Holtz, was quoted as saying:
Perhaps if you start with the premise the sales people are stupid, there's nowhere to go but up.
Salesforce.com Offends the Dalai Lama (ooh, that's bad karma)
August 29, 2003. Gorilla marketer salesforce.com clearly showed that when it comes to public relations, garnering free publicity and shameless commercialism, there is no line that cannot be crossed. The company inserted a large image of his holiness and mass produced a salesforce.com poster in order to celebrate reaching the 100,000 user subscription mark. Just above the picture of a praying Dalai Lama was the company logo, the phrase "There is no software on the path to enlightenment" and the line "Salesforce.com celebrates 100,000 enlightened Salesforce.com subscribers." The posters were sent out as invitations to staff and press members for a September 5 event at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall.
Unfortunately, His Holiness had no knowledge of being made the salesforce.com pitchman. As no permission for such a blatant marketing promotion was acquired from the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan community and the American Himalayan Foundation had a cow when they were routed with the marketing prop. CEO Marc Benioff later made a public apology in a letter that seemed to increase the media exposure even further. Benioff wrote "We had no right to suggest that either the American Himalayan Foundation or His Holiness support us"... "We made a mistake. For any harm done to the reputations of both His Holiness and the American Himalayan Foundation, we apologize."
This wasn't Salesforce.com's first attempt to link its corporate image to Tibetan causes. In February 2003, Salesforce.com hosted a benefit concert in New York for Tibet House that included posters displaying Tibet's Potala Palace with the company's "no software" logo in the horizon.
According to company spokeswoman Caryn Marooney, the company hadn't ruled out using Tibetan imagery in conjunction with the Salesforce.com logo in the future, but, she indicated that the company intended to better communicate with the Tibetan community. "We just need to listen to the groups that we work with and make sure we're a good partner" said Marooney.
User Group Party Crashers
Why is it several of the largest CRM software companies like to crash their competitors user conferences? Is the old adage "all publicity is good publicity" really true? Salesforce.com has sent 'protesters' to Siebel conferences, Siebel has sent disrupters to Oracle conferences (prior to their Oracle acquisition) and Oracle has sent out their carnival crew to SAP's conferences. The disrupters often use full drama and a portfolio of props that include specially decorated vehicles, airplane fly-over's with towed banners, mammoth signs and blow horns. I gotta question the perceived value and attendee feelings generated from playing the spoiler role.
Where's The Customer Loyalty?
After bazillionaire and former boss Larry Ellison contributed a few million dollars to Marc Benioff to help him get his idea for a new hosted CRM software company off the ground, Benioff responded by ousting Ellison from the Salesforce.com board of directors in 2000.
Benioff Mudsling's Silicon Valley's Heavyweights
Benioff's slurring of words, such as 'titanic' for Microsoft's Titan product or 'confusion' for Oracle's fusion product come across as cliche. However, I gotta admit, as a former PeopleSoft implementation guy, found it personally amusing when Benioff commented that the reason PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway decided to buy J.D. Edwards instead of Siebel is because Tom Siebel has a greater Napoleon complex than Conway does. "Tom is even shorter than Craig," he noted, "which is really short."