Greece ‘a growing technology hub for entrepreneurs’

Greece ‘a growing technology hub for entrepreneurs’

“I recognize the importance of Greece as a growing technology hub for entrepreneurs and its potential for the development of new digital talent,” Denis Terrien, Salesforce’s CEO for the Southern European market, tells Kathimerini.

“As Salesforce grows, we will continue to invest in supporting our customers and partners in the region,” he explains a few days after he and his team held a series of meetings in Athens with leading business groups. Based on data at its disposal, he estimates that “the Greek ecosystem of Salesforce customers and partners is expected to create 6,300 new jobs and almost $2 billion in turnover by 2026.”

Salesforce is a cloud-based multinational software company headquartered in San Francisco with $66.3 billion in assets that provide customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, analytics and application development services.

Terrien emphasizes that the concept of work has changed: “It’s no longer a place to go, but what one does.”

Kathimerini asked him what he thinks about business tomorrow, and how companies should create their digital headquarters, connecting employees, customers and partners to make collaboration easy and flexible.

– Salesforce is 22 years old and has achieved remarkable growth globally. It’s the leader in its market. How did it achieve this success?

In 1999, Marc Benioff and Parker Harris founded Salesforce with a mission to transform enterprise technology and make it as easy to use as Amazon and eBay. They launched an innovative new CRM platform to enable businesses to manage their customer engagements online – with a technology model delivered in the cloud and a subscription-based business model that ensured a company-wide focus on customer success.

At the same time, Marc introduced the idea that a company can have a purpose beyond profit with the launch of a new philanthropy model and embedded within Salesforce the belief that “the business of business is to improve the state of the world.”

Over 20 years, Salesforce became the pioneer and leader in enterprise cloud computing. Today, Salesforce is the global leader in CRM, enabling companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful technologies – cloud, mobile, social, voice and artificial intelligence – to connect with their customers in a digital-first world.

Our success has also been driven by a core set of values upon which we were founded all those years ago. An enduring commitment to trust, customer success, innovation and equality has shaped our approach, and defined our actions, at every level.

After all the disruption of the past two years, values-driven leadership is more important than ever before. Our values are one of the main reasons why customers choose Salesforce and people want to come work for us. They empower us to play a critical role as a trusted adviser to businesses whilst having a positive impact on society and the environment. That balance is key to our success.

– Salesforce founder Marc Benioff frequently says that “business is the greatest platform for change.” What does that really mean?

Salesforce has always believed that a company should have a purpose beyond profit. Marc launched Salesforce with philanthropy at its heart, pioneering the 1:1:1 philanthropic model. This model pledges 1% of employee time, 1% of product, and 1% of equity to help support communities around the world.

Salesforce has continually leveraged its people, technology and resources to help make the world a better place. Since the company went public in 2004, we’ve delivered a 5,000% return to shareholders. At the same time we’ve volunteered more than 6 million hours, helped 52,000 nonprofits and NGOs run on Salesforce, and donated $475 million in grants to give back to communities. This is, I believe, a great example of how business can serve both shareholders and citizens.

In more recent times and especially during the pandemic, we’ve seen many more companies step up to embrace a more fair, equal and sustainable way of doing business. One that values all stakeholders – employees, customers, partners, shareholders, communities, and the planet. The role that business can play in society, and the expectation to balance financial return with social impact, is greater than ever. We believe that when we serve all stakeholders, business can be the greatest platform for change across society and the environment.

– How does Salesforce see the future of work?

At Salesforce we see the future of work as digital-first and flexible – it has shifted from a place you go, to what you do. For business leaders, it used to be that selecting your physical HQ was the ultimate decision. Now, every company must create its own digital HQ which connects its employees, customers and partners on a single platform, which makes working together easy and flexible.

This explains why earlier this year Salesforce acquired Slack, a hub where everyone can communicate and collaborate. By seamlessly bringing the right people, information and tools together, we’re helping our customers to become more connected, more productive and more innovative. Together, Salesforce and Slack are creating the digital HQ to deliver success from anywhere.

With the addition of Slack, we’ve completely transformed the way we work at Salesforce. Since January, we’ve seen individual and team productivity increase by 16% and 13%, respectively. The number of emails we send has decreased by 46% as our teams have turned to more collaborative, real-time communication.

The power of collaborative technologies is helping us to redefine how our teams work and reimagine how our physical spaces can bring people together. Our Flex Team Agreements are a great example of this – empowering teams to decide how, when and where they work. This includes how many days a week they come into the office and what kind of work they’ll continue to do at home.

At Salesforce, our vision for Success From Anywhere is all about succeeding together in a human-centered, digital-first environment. On the road to the future of work we will continue to practice and learn together, prioritizing connection and empowering employees to redefine the workplace on their own terms.

– The pandemic has clearly accelerated digital transformation globally and, at the same time, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has proven that companies, countries and societies need to adapt to this new digital era with new skills. How does Salesforce help companies, countries and societies adapt to this new digital era?

As economies emerge from the pandemic, the world’s great digital awakening will not be equal. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but government and business must work together as an integral part of the solution to the widening skills gap.

A recent Accenture study estimated that by 2028, the G20 countries could miss out on $11.5 trillion of cumulative GDP growth if the widening digital skills gap is not addressed. Across every country and region, not least in Greece, if appropriate action isn’t taken we will see inequalities across companies and communities exacerbated.

At Salesforce we believe that governments, nonprofits and educational institutions should not be left to solve the problem alone. Businesses like ours have a pivotal role to play addressing the skills gap through a rethinking of education and training initiatives. This role will not only promote economic recovery in the short term, but also enable sustainable growth and a more equitable future.

We’re committed to addressing the training and reskilling imperative. We’ve done this, for example, by launching Trailhead, our online learning platform. It takes participants from a low level of technical knowledge to a Salesforce role in as little as six months. By earning credentials along the way, participants can demonstrate their expertise to current and future employers.

It is also essential that businesses constantly refresh the way they hire, with less focus on traditional education and more on the tech skills that individuals already possess or are striving towards. This way, digital roles will be opened up to a wider and more diverse talent pool.

Our new digital world revolves around everyone having the skills to participate. Immediate and sustained investment in digital skills is therefore imperative to our global economic recovery from the pandemic and to the resilient, long-term growth that must follow.

– Recently a lot of tech companies, among others, have supported Greece with additional investments, and this is mainly because they consider the country to be something of a talent factory. What is the vision for Greece and how does Salesforce want to support the country?

Greece has embarked on a remarkable digital transformation journey, underpinned by a strong commitment from the government to invest in speeding up the digitization of the public and private sectors and boosting Greece’s digital readiness.

Industries across Greece are looking to digitize, and Salesforce is partnering with organizations across the region as a trusted adviser to support them in accelerating their efforts. Our presence extends across the communications and media, manufacturing, energy and financial services industries.

I recognize the importance of Greece as a growing technology hub for entrepreneurs, and the opportunity this brings to develop exciting new digital talent. As Salesforce continues to grow, we will continue to invest in supporting our customers and partners in the region. According to research by IDC, Salesforce’s local ecosystem of customers and partners in Greece is expected to create over 6,300 new jobs and almost US$2 billion in business revenues by 2026. By ensuring that people are equipped with the right skills for the jobs of tomorrow, we can be confident of success in the digital economy. Looking ahead, we’re excited by the prospect of becoming one of the key contributors towards Greece’s digital transformation, helping businesses and governments recover, and to building a newly resilient and sustainable economy and society.

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