BOSTON — Salesforce executive Keith Block told an audience here in 2014 that his company would be "passing SAP as the largest enterprise applications company in the world."

Two years later, it's clear he was wrong: SAP's yearly revenue of $23.7 billion is significantly higher than Salesforce, with revenue of more than $6.7 billion

But still, there's no denying the growth of the world's largest CRM company. Block, president and chief operating officer at 20,000-employee, 17-year-old San Francisco-based Salesforce, delivered a keynote in his hometown yesterday — the same city and venue where he earlier made that bold prediction.

No More Infrastructure

Block was in town for the Salesforce World Tour Boston at the Hynes Convention Center. A Salesforce official said about 7,000 people attended the event, one of 13 tour stops this year.

Block said the company is moving toward a culture of innovation vs. infrastructure and "multi-tenant cloud computing."

Salesforce has an "imperative to focus on innovation," Block told the crowd. "That," he said, "is our future."

To put Salesforce's revenue growth in perspective, in early 2012 they had visions of surpassing $3 billion. In Boston, Block said the company will move past the $8 billion mark in 2017.

"Disrupt or be disrupted," Block said during his keynote. "We've stepped into the age of the customer. We need to unshackle ourselves from legacy technology and innovate like we've never been able to innovate."

Belief in the Cloud

One analyst backed that disruption claim. Laurie McCabe, an IT analyst and co-founder of Northborough, Mass.-based SMB Group, said Salesforce has been able to achieve this growth because it pioneered Software-as-a-Service/cloud.

"That's a very disruptive business model to the industry," McCabe told CMSWire, "but one that provides very big value. It's faster, easier and gives customers better access to innovation."

Salesforce stood its ground when the "traditional" software vendors — Seibel, Oracle, SAP, etc. — once said companies would never use cloud, McCabe added.

Of course, most software companies are now cloud believers, and Salesforce is naturally in that boat. Salesforce "got through the bust of the dotcom bubble," when the great recession hit many companies. 

Learning Opportunities

"They had to turn to the cloud as they just couldn't afford a big CAPEX to do it in-house," McCabe said. "Once people tried it, they realize they like the cloud model and Salesforce's solution and service. So they have become advocates and now Salesforce is mainstream."

Inside Products

Salesforce did not release product updates at its tour yesterday, but McCabe said she's impressed with Salesforce Trailhead, which helps Salesforce developers and administrators learn about Salesforce. 

"Trailhead is not that well known," she said, "but it gives customers a great way to learn and get up to speed on Salesforce. User adoption is key and this really helps."

Salesforce also touted today offline synchronization capabilities for sales agents on the road in addition to mobile plug-ins to monitors for a desktop on-the-go experience through its Salesforce Lightning for Continuum offering. The Salesforce1 Mobile App on Windows 10 enables a phone to provide a desktop-like experience.

In January, Salesforce announced that its App Cloud was updated with Heroku Enterprise. It brought in new capabilities like “Private Spaces,” which allows companies to take advantage of the elasticity, computation and experiences that the Salesforce Cloud, with its infrastructure cloud, delivers.

Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist for Salesforce, is a 12-year Salesforce customer who joined the company last year after a gig as CMO of Extreme Networks. He said Salesforce has fostered a culture of innovation and provides customer intelligence beyond mundane systems of record.

"Salesforce is always six or seven steps ahead," Afshar told CMSWire. 

"We introduced Chatter in 2010 and were so far ahead of other companies. Most companies in our space think of systems of record. Then they graduate to systems of engagement. Make sure you make your 500 calls a day. Really, it's a spray and pray mentality. But smart companies graduate to a system of intelligence. Taking data gleaned from insights that lead to rapid decisions and actions that add value to your customer. That's the cycle. And then, rinse and repeat because customer expectations change so fast."