Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff may have an affinity for Hawaiian culture, but it’s a Japanese phrase which holds the most weight when it comes to making big decisions at the $93 billion tech company.
That phrase is shoshin, Japanese for a “beginner’s mind,” and a tenet of Zen Buddhism. Shoshin refers to an attitude of open-mindedness and endless possibility which many people have when they first start a project or learn something new.
The idea is to never get stuck doing something one way just because it was done that way in the past.
In a call with investors Tuesday after its blockbuster quarterly earnings report, Benioff and chief product officer Bret Taylor both referenced the concept when asked whether Salesforce is committed to exclusively offering its software via the cloud.
“We’re not attached to any sort of religious dogma around the cloud,” Benioff said. “We’re going to do what’s best for our customers and for our company.”
When Salesforce was founded in 1999, it was one of the first companies to offer cloud-based software, and one of the first to fully embrace the notion of Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS. Under the SaaS model, a company doesn’t need to run software on its own servers, instead accessing it via the internet.
Salesforce’s run as a cloud-only company lasted until May when it acquired MuleSoft for $6.8 billion. With the deal, Salesforce got MuleSoft’s on-premise offering — a version of its services that can be installed on a company’s own servers. It’s the exact opposite of the cloud model.
While MuleSoft will stay as is, and keep the on-premise offering, both Benioff and Taylor reassured investors that it’s not a sign of things to come. Salesforce doesn’t plan to move its legacy products to a hybrid-cloud model, which uses a combination of the public cloud and private servers, the executives said.
The executives highlighted the convenience that cloud brings for customers, especially at a company like Salesforce where the service is updated three times a year.
But with shoshin front of mind, they stopped short of saying Salesforce is definitively a cloud-only company.
Salesforce is on the cloud, Taylor said, “because it means we can deliver innovation to our customers faster,” but ultimately that could change if customers’ needs evolve to require on-premise services.
“We’ll continue to have that beginners mind,” Taylor said.