Software Development
Philly Tech Week

On combating resistance as a technology lead

If you're trying to make change at your company, here's a piece of advice from the VP of strategic research for Salesforce.

Peter Coffee is a tech conference veteran and a staple of Dreamforce, the user conference for Salesforce. (Photo by
Let’s say you’re the one at your company who has to convince a boss to make an investment in technology.

Too often technical leads get this wrong, says Peter Coffee, the Salesforce VP of strategic research.

“Technologists show up with a basket of cute little kittens to business leaders with a cat allergy,” Coffee said to an audience of Salesforce users earlier this month. This was just a bit part of the keynote he gave at PhillyForce, the popular local user conference that took place for the seventh year as part of Philly Tech Week 2019 presented by Comcast. But bit part or not, the perspective felt important and has been ringing in my ears ever since.

“We need to create a climate that welcomes change or we are wasting our time and theirs,” he said. To do that, the innovative among us need to work hard on empathy. To make great change inside organizations requires persistence, a perspective shift and a bit of courage. But it can have profound impact — and it’s lots of fun.

Of the chance to still be at the very beginning of an information age and involved in the first wave of many new technologies, he said: “What we know is still a novelty for the rest of the world.”

Coffee is a familiar face at tech conferences around the world, including the popular Dreamforce event, which is the publicly traded software giant Salesforce’s user conference. Locally, too, Coffee has been tapped several times by the Phorum conference organized by membership group PACT. He’s part futurist and part platform evangelist, talking about the rate of business change and technology’s impact on society. He remarked on the strong growth of Philadelphia’s tech community through the years he’s visited, and specifically on PhillyForce, which is organized locally by volunteers.

This year Patrick Mulhern and Svatka Simpson took charge, with the support of a committee. This annual event grows out of a regular meetup of the same name. Hundreds took part in the day-long event at World Cafe Live.

To the audience of developers and marketers and data miners, Coffee reminded that the future of sales marketing is “trail mix,” in which you “train your customers with learning that has value and puts the terms in your language.”

You have to do the same to make change inside companies. What should you say when you get a meeting with the boss and want to convert them to your way of thinking?

“We have to articulate the world has changed,” Coffee said. “What you did worked for the past but the facts have changed.”

Companies: Salesforce / World Cafe Live

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