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Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry Hardcover – October 19, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

How did salesforce.com grow from a start-up in a rented apartment into the world's fastest growing software company in less than a decade?

For the first time, Marc Benioff, the visionary founder, chairman, and CEO of salesforce.com, tells how he and his team created and used new business, technology, and philanthropic models tailored to this time of extraordinary change. Showing how salesforce.com not only survived the dot-com implosion of 2001, but also went on to define itself as the leader of the cloud computing revolution and spark a 46 billion-dollar industry, Benioff's story will help business leaders and entrepreneurs stand out, innovate better, and grow faster in any economic climate.

In Behind the Cloud, Benioff shares the strategies that have inspired employees, turned customers into evangelists, leveraged an ecosystem of partners, and allowed innovation to flourish. Benioff shows how salesforce.com pioneered a simple idea (delivering business applications as a service over the Internet) to change the way all businesses use software applications and, ultimately, change the way the software industry works.

With Marc Benioff's candid, unconventional advice and unusual call-out lessons from the Salesforce.com Playbook—including Benioff's proprietary management tool, V2MOM—any business can go against the grain, rapidly change the game, and learn how to achieve lasting success.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Behind the Cloud

"Salesforce.com and Google share a vision for how the cloud will revolutionize computing. Behind the Cloud gives us a rare glimpse at the development of one of the most important trends in business today."—Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google

"In Behind the Cloud, Marc Benioff takes us through the ups and downs of building one of the most extraordinary businesses of our time and reveals the tactics that gave salesforce.com its amazing edge. This book will show you how to focus your vision, think differently, align your organization—and transform your business and your life." —Anthony Robbins, author, Awaken the Giant Within and Unlimited Power

"Reading this book, I laughed out loud many times as Marc told his story, a story of great ideas, thunder-stealing pranks, and a world consciousness that is at the heart of salesforce.com."—Neil Young

"Reading, but also afterwards, practicing the 111 plays described by Marc Benioff opens the door for entrepreneurial success much better than any MBA program."—Klaus Schwab, founder, World Economic Forum, and cofounder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

"Cisco and salesforce.com share a vision of how the network is the platform to transform business. In his book, Benioff outlines how salesforce.com has used cloud computing to disrupt and reshape the enterprise software space. It is clear that we are just beginning to understand the potential of networked business and the future benefits and productivity gains of the next phase of the Internet."—John Chambers, chairman and CEO, Cisco

"Behind the Cloud demonstrates what happens when companies act as good citizens. Everyone—from employees to shareholders to the community—wins. Get ready to be inspired and make a difference."—Charles Moore, executive director, Committee EncouragingCorporate Philanthropy

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470521163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470521168
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Henry on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A CEO business book which doesn't follow the tired Gilda Radner formula of `Enough of me talking about me...let's hear what others think about me!'. This is a fun to read book chock-full of no-holds-barred advice on everything a growth company faces. In short easy to read chapters, Benioff writes instructively about everything from fostering an innovative product development and marketing machine, to driving explosive sales in existent and new/emerging markets, to focusing on customers while simultaneously inspiring a culture of employee hyper-success. His chapters on giving back to the community should be standard reading at all business schools today. In short, this is a practical guide on how to grow a successful business without selling your soul to Mephistopheles. The enthusiasm infused in the writing is contagious. For those looking for MBA jargon, four quadrant charts, circles with arrows, new buzzwords, or formulaic bromides on business success brought about by `the cult of the leader', don't pick up this book. Benioff and Adler have penned an easy to read practical, no-nonsense step-by-step `how to' guidebook on building and running a great company. John Henry - Danville, CA
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Format: Hardcover
CEOs often feel the need to share their wisdom with the rest of us common mortals, and end up sharing nothing but their own sense of superiority. Marc Benioff, CEO of [...], does a wonderful job of actually sharing teachable moments along the road to creating a very successful company, and arguably a new way of doing business. He also shows how he built his company to be socially responsible from the outset.
Without the pompous cadence of the motivational speaker, Benioff and his co-author, Carlye Adler, actually manage to impart useful information for anyone looking to start their own company while remaining interesting to the casual reader. There's also a lot of information about the prevailing technology culture and insights that help those of us who don't live on the West Coast understand the special brew of technology, entrepreneurship and spirituality that make it what it is.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is open to the positive side of capitalism and disappointed by what they've experienced thus far. Marc Benioff has done more than create a great company; he's set a great example.
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Format: Hardcover
I have founded and run two small, but successful, SaaS businesses and I like to think I have acquired the scar tissue of experience. However reading the book Marc and Carlye have written has been an inspirational learning experience. It describes a journey that as a technology entrepreneur I can empathise with. But it does far more than this. It is jam packed full of ideas and approaches that I can use in my business and it encourages a mindset that I know will help me. Marc's phenomenal track record provides the authenticity that is so often lacking in business books and together the authors have ensured that each bite-sized chapter succinctly and clearly conveys its intended points.
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Format: Hardcover
There are certainly some good tips in here about building a company but, as other reviewers have pointed out, the tips' format gets a little tiring. I do like how Benioff admits some mistakes and is on occasion surprisingly candid. This is a well-written book I would have preferred some more in-depth stories rather than a series of management platitudes. Also, Benioff is right about the disruption that his company has caused--and about the naysayers back in the day.

In sum, this is a good but not great book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Marc Benioff's Behind the Cloud is a quick, interesting and informative reading about Benioff's experience, personal philosophy and a personal memoir about the formative years of [...]. This book is not a book about cloud computing, how it works, what is important to get right, how to move your company into the cloud. So you are warned.

The book is a cross between a business success story, personal basking in success and a playbook for creating new companies. The book is a piece of corporate self promotion, but it goes beyond boosterism for the company and its offering to provide some real advice and insight. It is an example of the `different way' sales and marketing that [...] has become known for.

Benioff covers all of the major areas associated with setting up and leading a company. This gives the book a comprehensive nature normally not found in a piece of corporate marketing. This difference makes the book recommended, not as a book about Cloud Computing, but as a look into the mind of a business leader and innovator.

The book is organized around 111 `plays' representing concepts and ideas behind starting a business in general and [...] in particular. These `plays' are organized into parts covering strategy, marketing, events, sales, technology, philanthropy, globalization, finance and leadership.

So recommended reading for people who want to know more about Benioff and [...] and recognize the hyperbole that is in the book. Not recommended if you want to understand how the cloud works.
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Format: Hardcover
Great insight into how the company developed and what they do. I particularly liked the V2MOM metric that they use versus 5 year plans and KPIs. Anybody doubting this should wonder what MySpace had for a 5 year plan right around 2003 and where it was not even 5 years later. Benioff was brilliant to ditch the 5 year plan model for the dated dinosaur that it was.

The whole book is about as candid as any book by a CEO could be, but there are limits. In one of the chapters about their expansion into Europe, Benioff said that they learned not to over-hire. Translation: It's tough to fire people in Europe. This sentiment comes from an ostensibly do-good California liberal who on any other day is fighting the establishment and looking out for the little guy.... ...only so long as the little guy doesn't get too expensive.

Also, there is the bit about 1,1,1, giving back to the community, and how much different they are than all the big mean companies of old. Well, yes - to a point. But don't fool yourself - a company can only give back what it earns in the first place. If you don't produce, you're outta there, period (at least in the US - see note about over hiring above.)

Benioff remarked that sometimes they will hire people that just don't have a defined role in their company and see where they best fit. Maybe then - but a quick perusal of their career pages indicates some pretty hard requirements for nearly all their positions. This place isn't about on the job training or winging it on the HR end to see what develops, and to be fair no company should be. It's just an example of a new way to market a business as social servant first, profit making enterprise second. I don't buy it, but I don't need to - the community drinks the Kool-Aid, even if Benioff himself does not.
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