20 minutes with Salesforce.com's Dr Steve Garnett

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan February 2, 2014
A catch-up chat with Steve Garnett - on SAP's cloud strategy, on Larry Ellison's rhetoric and on public sector cloud computing.

Steve Garnett

As EMEA chairman, Dr Steve Garnett is one of the longest-serving executives in Europe for Salesforce.com, but we first encountered one another longer ago than I suspect either of us would care to remember in his roles at  Oracle and later at Siebel.

I had the chance to catch up with him late last week for a quick ‘chewing the fat’ session on a variety of topics.

We started by touching on the excellent article by Bruce Cleveland, former head of Siebel’s product division, entitled Lessons from the death of a tech Goliatin which he makes the case that that ‘David and Goliath’ meme that has grown up around the demise of Siebel and the rise of Salesforce.com is not as straightforward as some might like it to be.

While Garnett had yet to read the article itself, his recollection from watching the end days of Siebel from his new role at Salesforce.com was:

"It goes back to that legacy approach of up-front licences. The end users just didn’t enjoy it. They didn’t enjoy using the software. Siebel made the mistake of making it overly complicated and overly expensive.

"Sales professionals didn’t like to use the software and when that happens you’re in trouble. You never met a happy Siebel customer."

On SAP’s cloud strategy

(and specifically some recent comments made by CEO Bill McDermott.)

"There’s no innovation, no love there. We’ve very proud that we’re voted top on the Forbes Innovation List. The last time I looked SAP was somewhere around 72 I think. There’s just no love for cloud out there with the customers where it matters.

"We’ve got a lot of customers who were with SAP and still are for back office stuff but have chosen not to continue their love in the front office.

"I know Bill McDermott quite well personally and I suspect there’s frustration there. I’m amazed that he recently said that SAP is 20 times more profitable than Salesforce.com. That seems to me to be more of the old legacy way of over-charging your customers, gouging them."

On that Oracle detente

(and Larry Ellison’s comment last week that Salesforce.com uses Oracle itself but sells something else to its customers.)

Tom Siebel

"Larry’s always very good at trying to imply things. We use some Oracle technology at the base of our stack. We’re not an Oracle reseller. Do we use Oracle database technology? - yes. Do we sell it? - no.

"Customers aren’t interested in databases. We’ve built a huge cloud infrastructure on top of some Oracle technology. Oracle does great database technology. But when it comes to technology that gets you close to your customers, they don’t do that."

On the potential for public sector cloud

(and specifically the progress of the UK government's G-Cloud program)

'We think it’s great and it’s moving in the right direction. You need to ask ‘is this the right thing for the British taxpayer?’ and it absolutely is.

"The world’s moved on and the government has recognised that it needs to do that as well. From my interactions with the Cabinet Office, their support for this and the drive towards the new world is excellent.

"Now, is it moving fast enough? - no. But it is moving and there is top-down pressure to computing in the new world way.

"They are trying to bring in more SMBs across lots of different areas which is good. I’m not sure you can engineer a solution to the problem [of more SMB inclusion] entirely - and I’m not just saying that because we’re a bigger company."

On the plans for a European Union Cloud Computing strategy

(And specifically whether the NSA scandal has proved any kind of inhibitor in Europe.)

"We have people on staff now who are experts in European laws and everything around data privacy and data sovereignty, whose job it is to get involved in the whole policy drafting process.

"We are involved in lobbying and making sure that the government doesn’t go off on some kind of tangent over this.

"On the NSA point, I’ve haven’t had any customer really challenging me over that stuff. I’m not detecting resistance."


diginomica is a media partner of Think Cloud for Government on 25th March in London at which the G-Cloud program and the European Union's cloud computing plans will share the limelight. Delegate passes are free of charge for qualified public sector professionals.  

Disclosure: at time of writing, Oracle, Salesforce.com and SAP are premium partners of diginomica.