Dreamforce 2015: Employee culture in the age of unlimited data

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Bluewolf CEO Eric Berridge was joined on the Dreamforce 2015 stage by a panel of leading industry executives, analysts and consultants for a discussion about employee culture, data management, and design, with an eye toward maximizing engagement to drive profitability.

Speakers included Informatica CEO Anil Chakravarty, Bluewolf consultants Andrea Scott and Dane Nightingale and best-selling author Stan Slap.

Berridge’s observations on data, design and culture, as well as Slap’s incisive examination of what makes a culture, deserve a closer look.

Eric Berridge, Bluewolf CEO

Remember the Apple Newton? Berridge does, and the Bluewolf CEO believes the ill-fated MessagePad series can teach us about the difference between what is possible in the future and what can succeed now.

Why did the Newton fail? For one thing, it was completely disconnected. It was plagued with data issues and had a terrible design. A $3 notebook was a better experience. The culture at large was not ready for what turned out to be a precursor to today’s ubiquitous hand-held devices. But back then, people just didn’t see the value in it.

That’s the thing, says Berridge. The Newton was ahead of its time. It was based on a cultural hypothesis, on the future—not on what could succeed in 1993. Now contrast that with the iPhone and Uber. They work together seamlessly and intuitively. The consumer culture was certainly ready and the results have been nothing short of revolutionary.

Data, design and culture are make-or-break today, asserts Berridge. But how do you apply all three to business? For answers, look to the customer. You cannot know enough about your customers. Data is everywhere, and it is unlimited. This isn’t always necessarily a good thing, he notes.

Fully 76 percent of Salesforce customers struggle with integration and data quality. Seventy percent of users enter the same data into multiple systems. What a waste of time!

The danger of unlimited data is that it soon becomes unlimited workflows, unlimited dashboards, and so on. You will quickly find yourself trying to do too much. Grappling with this data deluge can be a daunting challenge. There is an overriding need to reduce the data to the customer moment.

For a cure, Berridge implores us to look to your employees. They are the ones who best know how to use Salesforce. “Your employees own the narrative,” he says. “Data and design are the medium, but employees tell the stories.” The ability to tell those stories effectively is inextricably tied to your culture.

But what exactly is culture?

Stan Slap, Best-selling author of Under the Hood

“Employee culture is an information gathering organism designed to ensure its own survival,” says Slap on the Dreamforce stage. Culture doesn’t necessarily make a connection between its survival and the company’s survival. But aligning the two is crucial to success.

A culture is powerful. If it wants something to happen, it will happen. If it doesn’t, it won’t. “You can’t bribe, bluff or bully a culture into doing anything,” warns Slap. A culture is genetic. Everyone belongs to your employee culture. It is also hereditary. It is a belief system passed down from one generation to the next. “It’s a bullet train on the underground railroad,” says Slap. Finally, a culture is neurotic, and that’s on a good day. On a bad day, it is downright crazy.

Author Stan Slap at Dreamforce 2015
Author Stan Slap at Dreamforce 2015

Then there’s compatibility between strategy and culture. Not only must a successful strategy be planned and implemented well, the culture must be compatible too. “You’re building a basecamp on Mt. Delusional if you think you can implement successful strategy without culture,” says Slap.

When introducing change to your culture, be sure to take the time to explain what isnt changing. Underscore your organization’s core values and raison d’être. It is also imperative to grasp the difference between understanding your employees and understanding your employee culture. And always remember that “you can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside,” says Slap.

For more Dreamforce 2015 coverage, visit this report here.

Photos by Brett Wilkins

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Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for U.S. news. Based in San Francisco, he is the editor and publisher of Moral Low Ground and is a Yahoo! Featured Political Contributor.