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Unpacking Marc Benioff’s latest obsession: metadata

Unpacking Marc Benioff’s latest obsession: metadata


Director of Product Strategy

Last Updated:

September 6, 2022

Exploring Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff's, new focus on metadata and its implications for the future of the Salesforce ecosystem.

For over a decade, I've been deeply entrenched in the Salesforce ecosystem, witnessing its evolution firsthand. Listening to Salesforce’s quarterly earnings calls has been a staple in my routine, offering insights that helped shape our business strategy. 

However, the latest earnings call left me surprised. There was a significant shift in focus, and no, it’s not AI.

Marc Benioff’s ‘metadata’ earnings call

In a deep dive into past earnings call transcripts, I found the term “metadata” had only been mentioned five times since 2018. But in this year’s call, it was mentioned a staggering 26 times. 

Conversely, AI has been mentioned by Marc in every call over the same period and is growing in frequency.

Graph showing the increase in metadata mentions

What could have sparked this sudden fixation on metadata? Is it indicative of a strategic shift within Salesforce’s vision or an emergent trend we should be honing in on

But, let’s back up for a moment. What is metadata? 

What is metadata?

Metadata, often described as ‘data about data’, is the cornerstone of many technological advancements, including AI, machine learning, and data analytics. It plays a crucial role in platform performance, security and compliance, data governance, scalability, and more.  

With the exponential growth of data and the need for organizations to harness its full potential, metadata has emerged as a critical component of success. It empowers data-driven decision-making and helps unlock new avenues for growth and innovation. 

Marc Benioff's shift in focus: Why the new interest in metadata?

Benioff’s newfound focus on metadata carries significant implications, not only for Salesforce but for the broader tech ecosystem. As the leader of the world’s largest CRM platform, when his attention shifts, businesses across the world follow suit. 
So why the sudden shift? A few factors come to mind:

  • Cyber security and compliance landscape: As data privacy regulations become more stringent, businesses must ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of their data assets, including metadata, to meet compliance requirements and mitigate risks.
  • AI and machine learning: The rise of AI has highlighted the significance of metadata in training and validating models. Metadata provides essential context and insights into the data used to build AI models, enabling organizations to understand the limitations, biases, and quality of their algorithms. 
  • An aging Salesforce ecosystem: The Salesforce platform has been around for 20+ years and organizations worldwide are grappling with aging, complex, tech-debt-riddled orgs. Today more than ever, businesses need agile and adaptable systems to meet constantly evolving business requirements. Metadata management is key to ensuring their platforms remain aligned with the business’s evolving strategies and needs. 

Metadata vs. AI: a symbiotic relationship

AI has undoubtedly been instrumental in Salesforce's continued success, with the growth of Einstein and the recent launch of Einstein 1. However, the recent earnings call suggests that Benioff recognizes the critical role metadata plays in training and deploying trusted AI solutions. 

Metadata and AI are not mutually exclusive, they are symbiotic. Metadata provides the foundation for AI, ensuring data quality and transparency. Conversely, AI relies on accurate metadata to avoid the pitfalls of bad data. 

However, AI gets all the hype. Looking at the Google Trends results for the search term ‘metadata’ shows not much change over the last 20 years. However, there is a small noticeable rising trend from 2020 to the present day. When you compare AI as a search term to metadata, it dwarfs metadata, especially given the general public's interest in generative AI. 

The stark contrast between the Google Trends plots, with explosive growth in AI search, vs. Marc Benioff’s recent interest in metadata signals that we may be hearing a lot more about metadata.

Why metadata is important in 2024

As we venture further into 2024, understanding and leveraging metadata will be essential for staying ahead of the curve. Whether it’s optimizing system performance, enabling data-driven decision-making, or ensuring regulatory compliance, metadata holds the key.

At Hubbl Diagnostics, we live and breathe metadata. In fact, we designed our platform from the ground up to run machine learning against aggregated metadata analysis and provide unparalleled insights for businesses operating in the cloud. Get started for free here

Marc Benioff’s embrace of metadata makes one thing clear: metadata is no longer just a footnote, but a fundamental pillar of success.

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