4.26.2006

You can Trust me...I promise.

Let's talk about "trust" for a minute.

First, I'm personally not a fan of the domain name http://trust.salesforce.com. It sounds way too much like "trustme.salesforce.com" and I don't trust anyone who tells me to trust them. And I also don't trust anyone who would trust someone who told them to trust them. Apparently I have trust issues - who knew? That's probably why I'm the only person who bookmarked http://status.salesforce.com instead. But that doesn't mean I didn't do backflips when the decision was made to make a website which gave visibility into our datacenter. But I'd really like there to be more. A lot more.

First the praise. I can't find a single on demand vendor in any industry (other than gaming) that talks about their server status. I'm sure they're out there...but definitely not in our industry. A public website for all to see saying a) is our website up and b) show me the performance over the past month. It certainly blows my mind that others in our space haven't followed this example. I don't really think our competitors expected us to do something like this when it came out and they suddenly realized that maybe throwing stones from their glass house wasn't such a good idea. Sure, they'll still whisper in prospects' ears about our "service interruption" and just hope we don't talk about trust.salesforce.com because they know the question will always come back to them asking "where's your trust.salesnet.com" or "trust.netsuite.com" or "trust.siebacle.com" or "trust.salesboom.com" or "trust.rightnow.com" etc etc. The fact is they simply can't show the same stats that we do because they're not as good. Sure, a few of them offer some loosely written SLAs that essentially allows the service to come to a crawl and leave you completely unproductive - but since it didn't technically crash it's still considered uptime. I think the "average speed" column is the most daunting for our competitors...coupled with the number of transactions. That's some good stuff right there.

But I don't think that's where we should stop. At all. Not even close. We opened the door a little and we had a great response... but let's push further and deeper. Let's break the rules. Here's how...

In a previous life I worked at an ASP. We were always asked the dreaded uptime question and had us describe our datacenter. We were terrified of these questions and would throw up enough smoke and mirrors that people would eventually stop asking those questions. I'm not particularly proud of this. We'd talk in generalities about our uptime. We'd talk about how we'd need an NDA to talk deeper than that. We'd still talk in generalities once the NDA was in place. We'd show a "network diagram" that described the fundamentals of any ASP setup and not much more. Only if they were a huge company and we were losing the deal would we ever break out and really give full exposure. And you know what? When we did that... we won the deals. I can't think of any example of a deal we lost because we exposed too much to a customer. So what were we afraid of?

The typical fears around exposing too much are:
1) You expose weaknesses that competitors can exploit - what if their datacenter is better?
2) You expose weaknesses that hackers can exploit - why help the hackers out?
3) You expose weaknesses to our customers - maybe they're better off not knowing?
4) You invite feedback from everyone on the planet on how to make it better or what we're doing wrong - Do we really want to have to justify ourselves?
5) You tell everyone the vendors we use and that can cause problems - they still want our money though, right?
6) And what happens if something goes really wrong...and it's our fault?

I understand all these concerns... and, in just about every circumstance, I agree that if I were someone other than the market leader in our industry these are completely valid.

But salesforce.com is the market leader in the on demand CRM space.
We just invested (and continue to invest) more into our infrastructure than just about any of our competitors could dream about.
And by the way, I'm fucking proud of our infrastructure.

So why not push the envelope? Let's shake things up. This is more than just picketing about no software, this is changing the face of how SaaS providers will operate in the future.

Here's what my dream list includes for trust.salesforce.com...
1) Uptime stats for the last 7, 30, 90, 180, and 365 days.
2) Average speed stats for the last 7, 30, 90, 180, 365 days.
3) Maximum and minimum average speed time on a daily basis
4) Our network diagram. Posted. Yes, you read that right. With equipment and its role within the network clearly spelled out.
5) A log of every change made to the service (be it application or infrastructure) and what the intent of the patch/fix/update was.

And I want everyone to be able to view it: employees, customers, competitors, the press, stock holders, my kids, and anyone who cares to actually look.

Yes, I know that's scary. Parker I'm sure has 1000 reasons why this is a horrible idea. I'm sure a lot of them are valid.
But are they overcome-able? Is the answer really no? Can we work around the problems?

Just think about the benefits for a moment. Talk about trust... People would say "This is one very serious company about its service." I know I'd buy from a company to put all that information out there without thinking twice. And then think about our competitors... It'd crush them. There's really no response that I could think of that they could come up with other than "We've got an SLA" - which, as mentioned earlier, is nearly completely unenforceable from the customer's perspective.

Yes, when we go down, our customers would know it. And they'd know it for a long time. But now whenever we go down there's a press release and a ton of bloggers writing about it anyway - I'd rather them at least know the truth and angry rather than speculating and angry. At the end of the day, did it really hurt us to let them know what's up?

And yes, our vendor's won't like it if we point out it was their fault that something failed... but maybe that will motivate them to fix whatever went wrong in the future? And if we have some confidentiality agreements in place - I don't think anyone will mind too much if our network diagram has a little asterisks that says "we can't disclose the vendor - but this thing is bad ass" or something like that.

About the SLA thing since I know a lot of our customers are passionate about this one... I think we need one too. I just think we're not ready yet. That's definitely not to say that the people above me are in agreement that an SLA will ever come... The problem comes down, as I understand it, to how it would impact our ability to report our revenue to our stock holders. It sort of makes sense. If an SLA is in place that lets you get money back we can't really recognize that revenue until that money can't be refunded. That complicates things... But I'd love to start with an SLA % that we've never dipped below and just move it up and up as we feel more and more comfortable with our ever improving infrastructure. Does that mean it's coming? Nope. But it's definitely something that's debated regularly here.

So this post is about my dream feature list of trust.salesforce.com. Will sharing this sort of information eventually happen in the SaaS space? Yes. It has to. But will salesforce.com be the first to do it? I sure hope so.

What would your dream trust.salesforce.com feature list include?

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put your money where your mouth is! S - L - A. Look at it this way -- if SFDC continues to grow, it will never be *easier* to transition to SLAs than it is right now. Kind of like the license/subscription revenue quandary the traditional vendors are facing.

Trust.salesforce.com is a good idea if you don't fall into the trap of justifying the display of some green indicator during a time period when everyone knows there was a problem. If you do any of that, you can bet the RightNows and Oracles of the world will skewer the whole concept as just more marketing hype.

If I were a smaller ASP competitor earlier in the growth curve, one great way to differentiate vs. SFDC would be to say something like, "Screw the network diagrams. Every customer gets an SLA and your monthly charges already net out (you don't pay) any time when availability is below X." All of a sudden, SFDC looks like the big guy beholden to Wall St. who can't make the nimble adjustment to match.

To be fair, even a cynic has to admit that trust.salesforce.com is a good way for SFDC to turn a potential weakness into a strength. Some more work to be done, though, I think.

4/26/2006 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marc's home phone # for when I can't get to my sales info at end of quarter.

4/26/2006 12:32 PM  
Blogger Kingsley said...

Seriously, do you thinks anyone gives a rat's posterior about our network diagram? This is similar to how SugarCRM tells people how Salesforce only gives you an API, but we give you the source code. I wouldn't know *what* to do with your network diagrams, trended charts and source code if I found it in my morning coffee. Give me something I can digest and deal with.

My ideas for trust.salesforce.com (yes, I prefer "status" as well) are that it should be more customer focused. I think we should show our internal dashboard that shows the number of customer complaints about outages/performance. I've seen those reports and they look fantastic, the issues have been dropping steadily.

4/26/2006 4:48 PM  
Blogger Omega said...

I absolutely think that IT professionals would and do care what our network diagram looks like. If they didn't, why would they ask for it all the time? More importantly, I think that it would just be yet another differentiator because our competitors won't do the same thing - and if they did, it would just expose that their infrastructure is FAR inferior to ours.

I agree, to the average sales person who is evaluating CRM, the network diagram will mean nothing to them - and yes, it'd mean nothing to you Kingsley ... but to the IT professional who I think would be pretty impressed at what $50M+ can get you in equipment, it'd go a LONG way to building trust with a neglected part of our customer community.

And the network diagram was only one of several points I made about what trust.salesforce.com should be.

I wouldn't oppose a few internal dashboards being exposed - though exposing stats that customers/prospects/competitors could theoretically intentionally impact while monitoring their impact raises a very small red flag for me.

The main point to this comment is that trust.salesforce.com means different things to different people. You've got the customers who want to know what the hell is going on with the service. You've got prospects who are trying to figure out if we're a company that lives up to the hype, and you've got everyone else - who basically are looking for dirt on us. The first two groups are most important to me...and IT has a HUGE impact on the 2nd group in their buying decisions. Give them more exposure - even technical stuff neither of us understand - and it can only help given what we've got underneath the covers.

4/26/2006 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Daroz said...

"The main point to this comment is that trust.salesforce.com means different things to different people."

I think you meant to say:

"The main point ... is that salesforce.com means different things to different people."

4/27/2006 8:23 PM  

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