Salesforce Japan! Feature Piece on the Economy, Culture and Community

Did you know that Japan is the 2nd largest Salesforce Economy? It’s an incredible fact that not many people would be able to quote, if asked. Japan itself is a diverse country, characterised by its contrasting buzzing metropolises and serene remote areas; this alone captivates the foreign visitor, and I hope, will interest the Salesforceben reader, too.

Inspired by a recent trip to Japan, I decided to explore this thriving and intriguing regional market – its Economy*, Customers, Culture and Community.  

*un-boring version!

Salesforce Economy – 経済

Classified as a region in its own right, Salesforce Japan is considered separate from the APAC Salesforce grouping, and there’s good reason for this. Aside from Japan’s unique way of doing business, the market value has ballooned, making Japan the 2nd largest Salesforce Economy globally, according to the IDC.

The same report showed that Japan is expected to create almost $110,000,000,000 in business revenue (2017-2022), 13% of the global total! The ecosystem, as a whole, will become a valuable driving force; for every $ earned directly by Salesforce, the wider ecosystem will contribute 6x that value.

You can find Salesforce in 4 locations across this prospering island economy: Tokyo (HQ), Osaka, Nagoya, and Shirahama. Customer data is stored in-country, and Salesforce even opened a second data center in Kobe in April 2017 support the unprecedented regional growth.

Trailhead sticker spotted in a bar in Roppongi, Tokyo, one Friday night!

Customers on the Platform – お客様事例

The Japanese economy is characterised infamous corporations, many long-standing zaibatsu (family-controlled vertical dominators) we know as household names around the world. The Japanese certainly know the art of operating businesses at scale!    

Japan Post serves 100+ million banking customers and delivers a staggering 16+ billion pieces of mail each year using Salesforce. Winning this customer caused quite a stir (announcement video), as the world’s largest financial institution by assets (at the time of signing), and was once the nation’s largest employer. Sompo Holdings, an insurance holdings company listed on the Nikkei 225, is another flagship Salesforce customer. You can find a whole host of well-known corporations on the Salesforce Japan customer stories page.

Aside from the ‘big names’, Salesforce Japan has been successful in the SMB market, too. They often reference Jinya-inn, a very traditional inn that has been in business since 1918. It’s a nice mix of traditional Japanese values and modern technology.

The Salesforce Tech Stack these customers have are spread diverse across the platform. An appetite for other Salesforce ‘Clouds’ is mounting, for example, Pardot for Japanese was released in Spring ‘18 – the only other language to be offered aside from English. Whether releases like this signal actual trends is up for debate, although I believe they are driven by demand.

 

Culture & Community – コミュニティ

Salesforce Japan has been recognized as #1 in the ‘Best Place to Work’ list in 2018 by Vokers, and #4 in the ‘Great Place to Work‘ list by the Great Place to Work Institute.

The Salesforce value of ‘Ohana’ finds a natural place in Japan. The Japanese have many values woven into the fabric of working culture, where colleagues are typically considered as close as family.

 

While writing this feature, I wanted to hear more about the day-to-day heroes in the story of Salesforce Japan. Who makes the ecosystem tick by, and who is making waves?

I got in touch with Akiko Bannai, who manages the Customer Success Program at Salesforce’s Tokyo-based HQ. A Salesforce employee since 2004 (!), she has witnessed the fast-paced growth at Salesforce Japan first-hand, especially as her role also includes managing the Salesforce community, she said: “There are about 40 community groups separated by products and themes (30 end-user groups, 3 Admin groups, and 5 Developer groups). The leaders are very enthusiastic, proactive and supportive – and I can see how these community activities have a huge impact on customer adoption, success, and Salesforce careers.”

Let’s dig into who some of these enthusiastic leaders are.

Trailblazer Profile 1: Sadahiro Suzuki (NTT TechnoCross, MVP)

What do you do?

I am a “Salesforce Evangelist” at NTT TechnoCross, managing all Salesforce business including Salesforce Admin, managing the Salesforce Technical Team, and as a Solution Architect. My CRM career started from EC website implementation, and I have managed CRM system projects ever since.

What motivates you as a community leader?

I am heavily involved in the Admin User Group. In these groups, there are people from all different backgrounds and industries. By helping solve the challenges that they face, I have made new discoveries that I would not have ever encountered in my ordinary workplace. A proactive cycle of development and growth in the Japanese Salesforce community is what motivates me as a community leader!

Trailblazer Profile 2: Keiko Niimi (USE, MVP)

What do you do?

I work in the HR department, in charge of new graduate recruits in my company, USE (a Salesforce customer since 2002). We use Salesforce for SFA and Recruitment Management, and I am the system admin for both orgs! My journey with Salesforce started in 2012. Back then, I felt limited by my knowledge of implementation and problem solving – until I discovered User Group community…I am now the leader of four user groups!

What motivates you as a community leader?

My journey with Salesforce lead me to develop my career in a way I could have never envisioned. What I am capable of is not only systematic, but I am able to develop my career with a holistic insight into managing a business; most Salesforce Admins have originated from the Sales Team or has worked as a Sales leader.  

Traditionally (and still commonly), a system admin in Japan will belong to the IT System Department of a company, or they will be an external resource belonging to a System Integration vendor (SI Partner). The necessity of a Salesforce Admin is not recognized as it should be, and therefore, I rarely see companies advertising a position for them. When I do, the salary is that of an average system admin, despite the extra responsibilities a Salesforce Admin has on the business side.

My goal is to make changes to this status quo and elevate the level of recognition towards system admins in Japan. For this reason, too, I will continue to actively participate in community activities.

Trailblazer Profile 3: Shun Kosaka (Accenture, MVP)

What do you do?

I work at Accenture Japan as a Salesforce developer and consultant. Over the years I’ve been committed to re-engineering business process for Salesforce clients in various industries, particularly related to the customer service area so I have a lot of experience in Service Cloud, and customer center integration.

What motivates you as a community leader?

Salesforce is a handy platform so you can often realize the requirements without the technical background. For the people who start their career or want to grow within the Salesforce ecosystem, it’s important to be curious about other industry-wide technologies. I really like learning, helping people and solving problems. So I feel happy and motivated when I find my advice is helpful for others in trailblazer community or other community events!

Summary – 終わり

We’ve come to the end of this feature piece on Salesforce Japan, a thriving and intriguing regional market! This feature has covered Salesforce Japan’s Economy*, Customers, Culture and Community – but only on the surface., undoubtedly, there are many other wonderful things to discover about Japan and its Salesforce community.

If I ever get the opportunity to go back to Japan, I would be there in a heartbeat, no questions asked – and I hope you would too!

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