The 2014 CRM Influential Leaders

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become one of the world's most important organizations," Steve Papermaster, chairman and CEO of the Powershift Group, a venture capital and consultancy firm, says.

Papermaster met Ma in Shanghai several years ago, when Papermaster was serving on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during George W. Bush's two terms. During their conversation, Ma expressed a fascination with business models, showing interest in ones that were particularly unusual. "Looking at Alibaba, it's a combination of Amazon, Google, Paypal, and Ebay mixed into one. It's not like anything else that's out there. TaoBao, Alibaba's consumer marketplace, is no match for Ebay, for example. TaoBao controls seventy percent of the e-commerce in China," Papermaster says.

Alibaba is currently valued between $150 billion and $250 billion and is gearing up to file for an IPO in the U.S. The company is expected to seek between $15 billion and $20 billion, and if it exceeds the $19.1 billion raised by Visa in 2008, as it plans to, the valuation will mark the largest IPO in U.S. history. Alibaba's IPO is going to cast a long shadow, Papermaster says, and will position it as "the first truly global technology company."

A growing presence in the U.S. will force even deeper comparisons with Amazon and Google, which will reveal that Alibaba is much more conservatively run than its competitors, Papermaster predicts. "When Chinese companies post such high profits, people start questioning their integrity, but there's no question with Alibaba," he says, noting the company's valuation is not overinflated.

Part of the reason for the company's success is its management. "Alibaba is very well managed, and that's something that Ma has always been committed to," Papermaster says.

Though Ma is no longer the CEO, he remains a strong force at Alibaba as chairman, and the culture he has created continues to permeate the company's every wall. "Ma has always been a global thinker, and that's the kind of mindset he has passed on to the rest of the executive team. Alibaba is going to rock the stock market," Papermaster says, "as well as the global economy at large."

Ray Wang, Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman, Constellation Research
The Always-On Analyst

Ray Wang is no stranger to CRM magazine's Influential Leader award, previously receiving it in 2010 for his work at Altimeter Group. Since then, he has embarked on a new quest and founded Constellation Research, now a three-year-old company, which has redefined the analyst business and attracted plenty of talent in the process.

"I see someone who wants to develop an analyst model that goes beyond creating a shortlist. It's more like being the trusted advisor for companies who have to make these unwieldy decisions that are difficult," says Natalie Petouhoff, who joined Constellation as a vice president and principal analyst in January. "Ray is so well-respected and loved in the industry because he has a broad view of what people are up against, and helps them see where they can't see."

Since Constellation's founding, he's attracted many talented analysts and a long list of clients. "You have to give him kudos for building a successful and influential research organization in three years. That's a significant achievement," says Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, who also serves on the company's board of advisors. Constellation attempts to toe the line between the benefits of being part of a larger team and the rewards of being a solo analyst. Its model is set up to take a stand against ethical lapses such as pay-for-play, while allowing high-performing analysts to share in equally high rewards.

"Ray's dream really is to have an organization that isn't biased, and to give people a lot of value for their money. He's...truly committed to the advancement of technology and the corporations who are using it," Petouhoff says.

Constellation Research, as its name suggests, also has a strong focus on being a research organization, not just an advisory organization. Companies deploying technologies and seeking change management come to Constellation, while vendors constitute the majority of clients for many analysts.

Besides being a leader and founder, Wang is known for his broad expertise, which runs from CRM to ERP to social media to gamification. He's a go-to person when it comes to just about any topic, but Greenberg notes that he also has deep expertise in nitty-gritty areas such as contracts. "When it comes to working out pricing and agreements, he's done so well he's become known as the expert, as opposed to an expert," Greenberg says.

Wang's presence on Twitter is also legendary. He has tweeted 132,000 times as of this printing, and has more than 50,000 followers. "He's Mister Multitask and Mister Twitter," notes Laurie McCabe, partner at SMB Group. "We always joke [that] we don't know if Ray is at an event or just watching it on a livestream, because he's tweeting as much as the people who are there."

"He might be in Cleveland but tweeting a conference in San Francisco and hopping on a plane to Singapore," half-jokes Greenberg, noting that analysts also suspect he "has five or six clones."

However busy Wang is, people respect him most not for his ability to produce, but for what he produces. "Ray is unique in his vision of what an analyst firm should do, and dedicated to making that happen," Petouhoff says.

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