The Real Future of the Cloud

June 2, 2011 Appirio

Narinder Singh

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
~Dr. Seuss

Appirio and Silver Lining
We do an annual employee survey here at Appirio, and the most highly rated part consistently centers around our people, their co-workers. It’s a group that’s self-described to be passionate and unified in wanting to dramatically change the world of IT and business through cloud computing. An unexpected but welcome corollary is they’re just as passionate about changing the world.

That passion to change the world is often an understated part of their personas, one that you often learn about in a roundabout way – their work with an impoverished school, a commitment to being foster parents, a passion for fighting diseases that affect children, starting their own local non-profits in their minimal free time along with many, many others. They quietly support causes and people that are making the world better.

As a result, when we began to formalize the Appirio Silver Lining program almost two years ago, it was met with widespread support and excitement. The ideas flowed for what we could do with our talents, the people and causes we could support, and the ideas for how we could weave this program into the fabric of Appirio’s culture. We kicked off the initiative in January of 2010, using part of our annual company offsite to put 150 highly competitive people to work cleaning up a nature preserve. We continued our philanthropy efforts throughout the year at local food banks, working with the Special Olympics, contributing our professional talents to Architecture for Humanity, organizing Light the Night walks and much more.

This year we decided to focus on children, the real “Future of the Cloud”. Every year, Appirio gives each employee 8 hours of paid volunteer time off to assist the causes they choose. This year, we supplemented that with a community service day on April 8th, where the entire company simultaneously took one day to give back to nearly 40 different causes across the world. All these efforts focused on helping our youth, whether that was making blankets for traumatized children, volunteering at underprivileged schools, building houses for families or providing technical expertise to global organizations who help families.

Our Inspiration to Be Public with Silver Lining
No one has ever accused Appirio’s commercial business from being shy, but with Silver Lining, we initially thought it would reflect our own employees approach to giving back in relative anonymity, else we feared it might look or feel less genuine.

Yet, much of our inspiration for Silver Lining came from salesforce.com. One of the most inspiring business memories I have was the first time I ever went to a salesforce.com event (before starting Appirio) and watching Marc Benioff take time from the big announcement of the day to highlight the Salesforce.com Foundation and their commitment to giving back. He brought up a particular non-profit executive director who had turned away from a lucrative business career to dedicate all of his efforts to making the world better. It was the kind of thing that left you both inspired and feeling a little guilty you weren’t doing more yourself.

But what left me absolutely awestruck was that this was just part of how salesforce.com did business. Every single major salesforce.com event replays this commitment to the world and the people that are trying to change it. Every year at least one Dreamforce keynote is dedicated exclusively to making the world better. I distinctly remember one off hand comment Marc once made to a small group after an event that “I wish our competitors would more aggressively copy that part of our business.”

One of the most inspiring parts of Salesforce’s efforts to give back is the attention they bring to the importance of giving back as both individuals and companies. It’s clear this isn’t about looking like they are doing the right thing, it’s about inspiring every company to do their part to advance more than their corporate profits – and it’s inspired us in many ways.

Appirio and Dreamforce 2011 – The USCF Benioff Children’s Hospital
It is this context -combined with the dramatic year we have seen the world experience – that caused us to approach Dreamforce differently this year. We are proud to be a Gold Sponsor of Dreamforce, but we are beyond thrilled and humbled to be a “Rock Idol” sponsor for the concert benefit that last year raised $3M for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

The commitment is our second largest investment in sponsoring an event in 2011 (the first being Dreamforce itself). It comes from the same pool of resources we use to invest in growing our commercial business and like all investments has an impact on profitability. But this and our general expansion of Silver Lining is already one of the things we are most proud of as a company and as individuals. It’s a reflection of the kind of company we strive to be.

One of the things businesses excel at is competing. What if for once, we competed on something whose output gave back more than dollars for our balance sheet? What if our employees, our customers, and our communities evaluated our worthiness based partly on giving back? It’s a competition we would be glad to face every day. We’d even be excited to see others surpassing and inspiring us to do more. It’s with that motivation we proudly and publicly support a Dreamforce event that has always focused on giving back more.

If you are reading this blog from the U.S., you are likely amongst the top 10 percent of the world’s wealthiest and most fortunate. You have enough to eat every day, a place to sleep and the time and energy to pursue things that aren’t vital to your survival, but make you happy. You expect your family will be safe and free. Your children can go to school, get basic medical care, and have hope that with hard work they can have an even better future. It’s a blessing and a responsibility to have such fortune.

There are a world of people who have dedicated their whole lives to giving back to those who don’t have all of these luxuries. We have worked with everyday heroes at organizations like the American Red Cross, Project Linus, Architecture for Humanity, JDRF, the Second Harvest Food Bank, Empact Africa, PlayWorks, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Aspiranet and the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital – and there are thousands of more like them. It is their commitment that inspires us to do our part.

It is upon us to live up to the responsibility of our good fortune and take small steps that hold ourselves and the organizations we work for accountable to do more to help. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

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