Archive for November 2013

And Tell You of My Dreamforce

With apologies to Blondieā€¦

 

Dreamforce was bigger than ever this year. Salesforce.com claimed an impressive 135k registrations this year. It’s unlikely that all of those registrations actually turned into bodies on the show floor, especially the free expo and keynote registrations. I can, however, personally attest to the nearly overwhelming crowds. I think this says something about the reach of the company and the considerable cult of personality around founder and CEO, Marc Benioff. He may well be the true heir to Steve Jobs.

Despite the scale of Dreamforce, there were really only had a handful of themes and one big announcement that were hammered home relentlessly throughout the show.

  • The big announcement was the launch of Salesforce1. Hinted at over the past several months, Salesforce1 is a complete redesign of the mobile experience and the Salesforce platform complete with new and expanded APIs for all the Saleforce.com services. Besides introducing a unified and elegant design, Salesforce1 enables lightweight integration of Salesforce.com’s applications and partner applications based on the Force.com platform. This is an extension of the trend toward integration of applications through social conversations, RESTful APIs, and other lightweight methods as opposed to backend integrations.
  • Salesforce1, while exciting to development partners, was quite frightening to integration and solution provider partners who make a living helping customers with more heavyweight, backend integrations. It was not clear to them how this would affect their business. Some partners I spoke with were worried that much of their high margin work they do would dry up. I’m not yet convinced that this is really a business problem as much as channel communication problem.
  • Salesforce.com also rolled out a new concept called “The Internet of Customers”. The basic gist was that Salesforce.com objects can be embedded in all types of devices to enable new ways to market to, sell to, and service customers. The idea of embedding Service Cloud objects into cars and medical devices to facilitate opening trouble tickets or getting immediate assistance is an especially compelling concept. It places the service in the context of the device. Most of us would love to have our car open up a service call with our dealer when we get an ambiguous service engine light. The “Internet of Customers” term is silly. Many of the people I spoke with who didn’t work for Salesforce.com were rolling their eyes at it. The idea it represents though is innovative and forward looking. I can’t wait to set it widely executed.
  • Other announcements were more modest.
    • Salesforce.com finally released that long awaited Salesforce Files product which is basically an enterprise grade Dropbox. Files’ ability to search and synch with SharePoint as well as desktops was especially well thought out.
    • The updated integration with the Pardot marketing automaton application which came with the ExactTarget acquisition, was also quite slick. I especially like how it gives sales professionals the ability to use nurturing campaigns to keep touches going through otherwise fallow periods of the sales cycle without begging marketing to do it.
  • The real blockbuster news for me was on the business side. Marc Benioff got cheers from the press, analyst, and financial community when he announced that the company has achieved its first $1B quarter and was on track for $5B next year while maintaining a 36% growth rate. Pretty impressive.
  • Mr. Benioff also told the analyst and press community that the idea of B2B and B2C marketing and sales was outdated. Instead, we should think in terms of B to Customer. That makes infinite sense. Why push customer into little buckets when it’s about building relationships? We are all consumers even when we act in the name of our businesses. The distinctions are getting too murky for such constraining terminology.
  • Finally, Salesforce.com’s and Mr. Benioff’s personal commitment to philanthropy and social justice was evident not only in the fundraisers but the constant promotion of causes, not-for-profits, and NGOs. His discussion about gender bias in the workplace and society with Facebook COO and bestselling author Sheryl Sandberg was a highlight for many attendees. I found myself texting quotes to my teenage daughter throughout Ms. Sandberg’s and Mr. Benioff’s discussion. Unfortunately, the warm and fuzzy was diminished by the inclusion of Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, both of whom have been in the news lately because of issues of labor justice (Yahoo’s work-from-home policy changes and QPR, Whole Foods stance against unions which CEO Mackey has compared to herpes). Ms. Mayer who also sits on the board of Walmart – not exactly a paragon of labor virtue – actually attracted protesters. People I know in the Bay Area talk about how genuine Salesforce and Mr. Benioff are with their giving. I don’t doubt their sincerity. Mr. Benioff’s conversation with Ms. Sandberg also left me with the impression that he has a heartfelt desire to create a more just workplace. I just have to wonder at the choice of two executives whose reputations are not as stellar.

If nothing else, Dreamforce gives the impression of a company that truly wants to connect with its customers and help them connect with their customers while doing good in the world. I’ve never seen executives who gained as much energy from being with customers as the Salesforce executives. That alone was worth attending.

Dreamforce Dreaming

When I head out to a conference, I try to keep an open mind and not get too absorbed in my own point of view. It’s the best way to be amazed and surprised. That’s not to say that there aren’t some expectations. Or maybe not so much expectations as hopes.

What I hope to hear at Dreamforce 2013 next week in San Francisco is actually pretty modest. Salesforce.com has been growing, improving, and acquiring at a hectic pace over the past few years. For that reason, I don’t expect to hear a blockbuster announcement. Instead here’s what I’m hoping for:

  • Integration. Salesforce.com has acquired lots of companies and is slowly integrating them. The expansive vision for the company is hampered by slow integration, especially between Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud components. I especially want to see ExactTarget better integrated into Sales Cloud and Chatter.
  • The new file sharing (formerly ChatterBox, now simply Files) in Chatter. Chatter’s file sharing was primitive and customer were more interested in using DropBox, Box, or even Sharepoint for sharing files. . If Chatter is to be the go-to for the whole company and not just sales and service, they needed file sharing with sync. Files was announced awhile back but I want to see it in action.
  • A focused platform strategy.
    Everything at Salesforce.com is a platform. So how does that help the customer instead of third party developers? Tell me why I care that Chatter or any part of the Salesforce.com universe is a platform.
  • On that note, some kind of merging of Force.com and Heroku would be nice. I’m not expected that but it would make sense. I know, they are different platforms but there’s no reason for that other than to segregate developers of Salesfoce.com apps from general developers. Why can’t we all just get along?
  • Evidence that the Workday and Oracle partnerships matter. I want to see them walk the walk here. How? Real demonstrations of integrated products with real customer testimonials about the value of these partnerships. Not projections or early stage explorations.
  • Some reasonable explanation of the Do.com shutdown. Talk about the elephant in the room. Salesforce.com shuts down a major SMB software offering with no explanation? It’s not that Do.com was all that important in the grand scheme of things; it’s what it represents. Might they shutter Pardot? Decide that Service Cloud is not different enough to maintain as a separate solutions? Probably not but the silence around Do.com raises questions and allows the mind to imagine all types of scenarios.

 

So you see, I’m not looking for something new so much as the tying up of loose ends. Salesforce.com has so many moving parts right now; a little order would be satisfying. My guess is that there will be a lot of talk about mobile, about social everywhere, about lead generation (which is playing to the Salesforce.com audience), and maybe some “future of marketing” kind of talk. Likely there will be a bit of multi-channel marketing chatter (small pun intended). I expect the ExactTarget executives will be paraded around as the new kids on the block are want to be. What I don’t expect (but you never know) is another acquisition, major executive change, or other blockbuster bit of news. Salesforce.com has had a busy year. This is the Dreamforce where everyone gets to catch their breath.

Oh, and I expect to go see Blondie and Green Day at the gala. I mean, it’s Blondie! And Green Day. I’d best bring my leather jacket.