More than 15 years ago, Salesforce made the bold claim that software was dead; in reality, Salesforce has essentially become "the cloud SAP." This is due to a number of factors, including: decaying usability, ever increasing fees, a fragmented product roadmap, a convoluted acquisition strategy, and sky high integration costs.
Does that sound familiar? Yes. It’s called SAP. Salesforce is now essentially just SAP in the cloud.
I remember when Benioff made that promise — but it's clear now that he was wrong. Software isn't dead. It's very much alive. But sadly, up until now, no one has built business software designed for people. Think about it, a true people-centric product design would be magical and delight users from all departments, be transparent in its product roadmap and pricing, be trusted by users and partners, and most importantly, just simply work for everyone.
Benioff’s miscalculation is just part of the issue. The more important and real issue with business software is that it has never been built for people. Salesforce is just one of many examples of a cloud vendor that confused the multi-tenancy shift as the final frontier of business applications, ignoring the true demands of frontline workers.
Let’s face it: In the last decade, software design has shifted towards utilizing advancements in smartphones, cloud computing, and AI. However, I believe people-centricity should be the driving force behind software development. Software companies that fail to adapt to this mindset will become obsolete and be quickly replaced by companies that balance the needs of both the enterprise and its employees. Employers and employees are demanding more and speaking out, through both their words and actions.
A recent two-year study conducted by Nucleus Research found that 51% of Salesforce customers would switch to another CRM solution if given the opportunity, citing poor usability, complex integrations, and lack of support as primary concerns. Additionally, Salesforce executives Bret Taylor (co-founder of Quip and co-creator of Google Maps) and Stuart Butterfield (founder of Slack), as well as several of their trusted advisors, recently resigned. Bret and Stuart are people-centric software designers and company builders. Alongside Mulesoft and Tableau, both Slack and Quip were acquired by Benoiff’s Salesforce.
All of these products have suffered under the Salesforce banner — including my team’s Slack experience, which has rapidly deteriorated over the past year. This is not surprising, given that Salesforce has not invested in products that are mobile-first and built with the latest breakthroughs in AI. Their M&A strategy has not been people-centric, and their partner strategy prioritizes profits over innovation, usability, and commercial transparency. But they aren’t the only ones, we are seeing this across many industries, including the Travel and Expense industry, which is one of the biggest line items for most companies.
Fortunately, T&E and other industries that use software have hope for improvement through the implementation of AI-powered business software designed for people. At Navan we view ourselves as a forerunner in the industry by defining and launching a unique software category that seamlessly addresses the demands of both businesses and individuals. Our AI-powered software is designed to exceed user expectations and enhance human connections, resulting in smoother and more efficient business operations. This has been our goal from the beginning.
Seven years ago, while software was allegedly dying, according to Benioff, we were pioneering the use of AI to personalize search results, eliminate expense reports, and broadly improve customer experience in the travel industry. Our chatbot, Ava, already handles 30% of user inquiries and is on track to solve 90% of customer support outreach by 2024. Another Navan bot automatically retrieves, itemizes, and submits hotel folios so that Navan travelers never have to check out of a hotel again. These are just two examples of how Navan makes travel easy by obsessing over people-centricity.
However, many legacy companies, like American Express Global Business Travel (AmexGBT) and Concur, have failed to keep up with the times. With just a cursory glance of the numerous complaints on social media, it is apparent that AmexGBT and Concur's antiquated software is not suitable for the current business environment and will eventually join Salesforce in the tar pits of the obsolete.
At Navan, we understand the importance of keeping up with the latest technologies and trends while also putting people at the center of our design. Unlike AmexGBT and Concur, companies that built products that focused on enterprise needs while ignoring the needs of the people using it, we believe business software should focus on the user by providing them with a magical, and well-supported experience. We don’t just talk about making travel easy — it's embedded in the DNA and fabric of our company.
Our lean mobile-first approach allows us to focus on specialized customer support for complex issues, and our teams think through every single step of the user journey to personalize and automate to the maximum. We understand that travelers have unique needs and that traveling is dynamic, so when those needs can not be met with technology alone, we leverage technology to route users automatically to the right person at Navan for immediate support.
We are leading the charge in the third generation of business software and introducing a new category: Business Software Designed for People.
In conclusion, it's clear that the success and impact of any modern business hinges on its ability to adapt to new technologies while obsessing about the needs of its users. Companies that fail to do so will become obsolete, while those that embrace change will thrive and differentiate themselves in any market condition. Vendors that put users at the center by leveraging machine learning, AI, and mobile will find themselves in the same category as Navan — Business Software Designed for People. The rest will die out.
Ariel Cohen, Navan co-founder and CEO