My Dinner with Marc

Steve Hamm

Well, it wasn't just me. Marc Benioff, the jovial CEO of, arranged a dinner for 10 at the ultra-trendy Per Se restaurant in the Time Warner building in Manhattan. This was the usual mix of company executives, journalists, and customers. The interesting angle of the night was that Benioff, an off-beat CEO if there ever was one, has landed another serious adult executive for his team. He's John Freeland, currently the head of Accenture's CRM practice. Freeland, a 26-year Accenture veteran, will run professional services, support, and partner relations when he starts in a couple of weeks. I'll get into Freeland's plans later, but first, a zinger from quotemeister Benioff:

"Oracle. It's the rest home for old software programs."

Freeland joined Accenture fresh out of biz school and learned to program in Cobol at Accenture boot camp. He has been through the mainframe, distributed, and Internet eras of computing, and believes the wave of consolidation in enterprise software paints a false picture of a staid and static industry. "There's another wave of change coming," he says.

Freeland is betting his career that's software-as-service model will turn the computing world upside down. The way he sees things,'s new --a marketplace for building and sharing Web services--has a shot at being one one of the powerful platforms in computing's next era. Consulting companies such as Accenture don't want to build technology platforms, he says. They want to build intellectual property to run on top of them. So he sees a powerful symbiosis between and the world's consulting giants.

He'll have a lot to do with whether that dream comes true. In his new role, he has much of the responsiblity for building a healthy ecosystem of companies around App Exchange. For the exchange to work, it will need to be stocked with hundreds of high-quality programs in relatively short order. At Accenture, Freeland pared down the number of CRM software companies the firm would work with. Now he's got to welcome all comers--and, doubtless, prod a few along.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.