Lessons on Salesforce’s Road to Complete Customer MFA Adoption

What follows is a take on what I learned as Salesforce moved to require all of its customers to use MFA. There’s plenty more left on the cutting room floor but it will definitely give you a flavor for the experience. If you don’t want to read all this you can check out the version I delivered at Identiverse 2022.


Thank you.

It is an honor and a privilege to be here on the first day of Identiverse. I want to thank Andi and the entire program team for allowing me to speak to you today.

This talk is an unusual one for me. I have had the pleasure and privilege to be here on stage before. But in all the times that i have spoken to you, I have been wearing my IDPro hat. I have never had the opportunity to represent my day job and talk about what my amazing team does. So today I am here to talk to you as a Salesforce employee.

And because of that you’re going to note a different look and feel for this presentation. Very different. I get to use the corporate template and I am leaning in hard to that.

Salesforce is a very different kind of company and that shows in up many different ways. Including the fact that, yes, there’s a squirrel-like thing on this slide. That’s Astro – they are one of our mascots. Let’s just get one thing out of the way up front – yes, they have their own backstories and different pronouns; no, they do not all wear pants. Let’s move on.

So the reason why I am here today is to talk to you about Salesforce’s journey towards complete customer adoption of MFA. There are 2 key words in this: Customer and Journey.

‘Customer’ is a key word here because the journey we are on is to drive our customers’ users to use MFA. This is not going to be a talk about how we enable our workforce to use MFA. Parenthetically we did that a few years ago and got ~95% of all employees enrolled in MFA in under 48 hours. Different talk another time. We are focused on raising the security posture of our customers with their help.

Journey is the other key word here. The reason why I want to focus on the Journey is because I believe there is something for everyone to take away and apply in their own situations. And I want to tell this Journey as a way of sharing the lessons I have learned, my team has learned, to help avoid the mistakes we made along the way.

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Memories of Kim Cameron

Reification. I learned that word from Kim. In the immediate next breath he said from the stage that he was told not everyone knew what reify meant and that he would use a more approachable word: “thingify.” And therein I learned another lesson from Kim about how to present to an audience.

My memories of Kim come in three phases: Kim as Legend, Kim as Colleague, and Kim as Human, and with each phase came new things to learn.

My first memories of Kim were of Kim as Legend. I think the very first was from IIW 1 (or maybe 2 – the one in Berkeley) at which he presented InfoCard. He owned the stage; he owned the subject matter. He continued to own the stage and the subject matter for years…sometimes the subject matter was more concrete, like InfoCard, and sometimes it was more abstract, like the metaverse. But regardless, it was enthralling.

At some point something changed… Kim was no longer an unapproachable Legend. He was someone with whom I could talk, disagree, and more directly question. In this phase of Kim as Colleague, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask him private follow-up questions to his presentation. Leaving aside my “OMG he’s talking to me” feelings, I was blown away by his willingness to go into depth of his thought process with someone who didn’t work with him. He was more than willing to be challenged and to discuss the thorny problems in our world.

Somewhere in the midst of the Kim as Colleague phase something changed yet again and it is in this third phase, Kim as Human, where I have my most precious memories of him. Through meeting some of his family, being welcomed into his home, and sharing meals, I got to know Kim as the warm, curious, eager-to-laugh person that he was. There was seemingly always a glint in his eye indicating his willingness to cause a little trouble. 

The last in-person memory I have of him was just before the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. I happened to be lucky enough to be invited to an OpenID Foundation event at which Kim was speaking. He talked about his vision for the future and identity’s role therein. At the end of his presentation, I and others helped him down the steep stairs off of the stage. I held onto one of his hands as we helped him down. His hand was warm.

The Only Two Skills That Matter: Clarity of Communications and Empathy

I meant to write a post describing how I build presentations, but I realized that I can’t do that without writing this one first.

I had the honor of working with Drue Reeves when I was at Burton and Gartner. Drue was my chief of research and as an agenda manager we worked closely in shaping what and how our teams would research. More importantly we got to define the kind of analysts we hired. We talked about all the kinds of skills an analyst should have. We’d list out all sorts of technical certifications, evidence of experience, and the like. But in the end, that list always reduced down to two things. If you have them, you can be successful in all your endeavors. The two most important skills someone needs to be successful in what they do are:

  • Clarity in communications
  • Empathy

Continue reading The Only Two Skills That Matter: Clarity of Communications and Empathy

Thoughts from the last 10 years

Our modern era split into two parts on September 11th. In the last ten years, like the World Trade Center,  some of our shared concepts about our world have fallen. Collapsed is the notion that the world “over there” has no impact on our own soil. In sad heap is the idea that we can apply kinetic force again ideological force. Fallen is the naiveté that we know how to manage the institutions that have fueled America’s growth, whose complexity and interconnectedness have increased geometrically.

There is an idea that has not fallen and has grown in strength and in implication – the idea that we can be completely safe. This farcical idea is literally destroying our country. This myth bankrupting our nation. This myth is breeding ideologues. The fantasy of complete safety has robbed us our dignity. It has decreased our operational efficiency.

This country is behaving like a child, afraid of the dark, insisting to turn on every light in the house. There isn’t a boogeyman under every bed, in every closet. The dark isn’t inherently dangerous. The dark contains the unknown and the undiscovered; it is in the dark that our future rests. It is only through bravery of admitting that we cannot be completely safe, through the decision to not be scared of the dark, that we can progress economically and emotionally.

Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither
Ben Franklin actually wrote, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." I give the National Park Service a lot of credit for leaving this graffiti up on a bridge in Rock Creek Park. Besides, if Ben Franklin said it, is it really graffiti?