Salesforce Prepping To Join the Blockchain Revolution

By: Shirley Siluk

Lots of companies are exploring how blockchain technology could change the way they do business, and the customer relationship management giant Salesforce is one of them. Co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff said recently that he expects to unveil a blockchain/cryptocurrency offering for Saleforce customers during the company’s annual Dreamforce developers conference in September.

Benioff made the comments during a March 28 fireside chat with co-founder/CTO Parker Harris and Business Insider’s Julie Bort. The on-stage discussion took place during Salesforce’s TrailheaDX conference in San Francisco.

The business market for blockchain and related crypto applications is beginning to take off, though the technology is still in the early stages of development. Global spending on blockchain solutions is expected to hit $2.1 billion this year, more than twice the amount spent in 2017, according to a recent forecast by analyst firm IDC.

Benioff: ‘I Was Like, Whoa.’

Based on cryptographic concepts similar to those used for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are being tested for a number of different applications in business, government, and other areas. Decentralized databases can, among other things, help verify and validate digital records for supply chains, financial transactions, digital identity management, and more.

Salesforce has been broadly eyeing blockchain along with other emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, but Benioff said during the TrailheaDX event that a lightbulb went off in his head while he was at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos in January. A blockchain conference was taking place in the city at the same time, and Benioff said he began speaking with one of the attendees at a bar one day.

“I had been thinking about what is Salesforce’s strategy in blockchain,” Benioff told Bort. “And then in my mind, all of a sudden I just kind of hear this click and it’s like, ‘You know, if you did this, this and this, you could put blockchain and cryptocurrencies into Salesforce and this is how you would do it and this is what it would mean to your customers and how it would impact them,’ and I was like, ‘Whoa.'”

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Blockchain Will Be ‘Very Disruptive’

Later, when Harris mentioned there was a senior engineering leader at Salesforce who was currently without a project to work on, Benioff decided it was time to pursue a blockchain initiative with the goal of having something ready in time for the company’s annual conference in September.

“I hope that by Dreamforce we will have a blockchain and a cryptocurrency solution for Salesforce and for all of our customers, because I think it’s a really exciting area for all of them,” Benioff said. He added that the current environment around blockchain resembles that seen in the early days of mobile communication and social media development.

Amruta Moktali, vice president of product management for Salesforce Analytics, made similar comments recently in a company Q&A.

“Among other technologies that are really bubbling up, blockchain will be very disruptive,” Moktali said. “It will take a few years to become mainstream, but it has a lot of promise. For instance, I was chatting with my relative in India and blockchain would be awesome to help issues involving tracking and payments for the new GST taxes implemented there.”

Benioff said it appears that the time is right to consider the new opportunities that blockchain technology could bring.

“Sometimes the urgent does become the important, when that idea can become a game-changer and something can really happen,” he said. When that happens, “we will just say to everybody, ‘OK, stop. This is all we’re going to do and we’re going to change our platform and do something completely new.”