Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Salesforce Dreamforce: The Inspiration for Organized Chaos

Technology / Strategy

When was the last time you were truly inspired? Was it when Steve Jobs delivered his commencement speech at Stanford? Was it when Barack Obama made his inaugural address to the nation? Or maybe when you heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech for the first time? I can count on one hand the number of times I have truly been inspired to make a change, go down an uncertain path, or even pursue the unachievable. The reality of our fast-moving world is that great is not good enough anymore, and good is quite bad. To capture the attention of the masses, there needs to be something so moving, so groundbreaking that it causes legitimate pause and strikes at the core of our roots.

There was a bit more to Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual conference, this year than the usual technology announcements. It wasn’t because of the 171,000 registered attendees or the 10 million people watching the event live online or even the fact that there were over 2,700 sessions happening across the 4-day event. It was because of the messages that were being delivered, particularly the message that was delivered during Mr. Marc Benioff’s keynote. Typically, Salesforce’s executive teams conduct a roadshow around the country performing their planned keynotes in front of smaller audiences to understand the reaction of the crowd and adjust the message so it is perfect by the time they get to the big stage at Dreamforce. However, this year, when Marc spoke at Dreamforce – the entire message was unrehearsed, from the heart, and most importantly inspirational.

He spoke about us understanding what it meant to leave something better in our places. He connected that message to the children in today’s community and how our public school systems need help (resources, funding, etc.) to provide the necessary platform for success for these children. He even went so far as instructing his entire leadership team to “own” helping a school by providing them with whatever resources are needed 24/7. Rather than getting up on stage and talking about the tremendous amount of success Salesforce has seen in the past year, he chatted about how we, as people, could be doing better for our community, for children, and for each other. This Salesforce technology that has now grown beyond the simple CRM capabilities is meant to bridge that gap. To this end, he introduced Philanthropy Cloud. This new product now allows organizations to ultimately drive donations to various non-profit organizations around the world and promote a larger community effort. Many details were not shared about the Philanthropy Cloud, but it certainly shows their commitment to truly making this effort or idea a reality.

Additional takeaways from Salesforce Dreamforce 2018 include:

  1. Salesforce is connecting the customer experience.
    1. The real “lightbulb” moment for those in attendance this year was the introduction (or re-introduction) of a new platform/program called Customer 360. This is somewhat more focused towards the “administrators” of the Salesforce ecosystem allowing them to now connect multiple Salesforce clouds together. They will also be able to connect to many of their legacy systems through API calls which will allow Salesforce to act as the “hub-and-spoke” of the technical architecture. A lot of this “connection” is being powered by the Integration Cloud (also known as Mulesoft which Salesforce acquired for $6.5 billion). Organizations will now be able to bridge the gap and understand the full end-to-end experience being followed by their customers while adjusting areas that could improve the customer journey.

  2. Data and automation matter a lot more.
    1. Many of the sessions focused on centralizing data as a result of Customer 360’s capabilities with Mulesoft. This undoubtedly lead to an increased involvement from Einstein (the AI platform that is a part of the Saleforce product suite). Salesforce has worked to make the next version of Einstein stronger, and it now spreads across many of the clouds (marketing, service, etc.). While Einstein will partner heavily with Mulesoft, it will allow organizations to find the discrepancies in their data and clean it for a stronger understanding of the customer journey. The other announcement that was made centered around Einstein Voice. This is a new capability that enables Salesforce users to use voice to manage platform capabilities. For example, sales representatives can use their voice to ask about opportunities in their pipeline. Marketers can use Einstein Voice to learn click-through results from a recent email campaign. There is an abundance of use cases where service, sales, marketing and commerce employees can utilize Einstein Voice to do their jobs. This appears as a step towards adding more consumer-like capabilities into the Salesforce platform that will likely help improve utilization rates across employees. In terms of the use cases for AI, many organizations talked about specific tactical tasks such as forecasting customer traffic and empowering employees. In fact, employee empowerment was highlighted as a primary benefit of AI during the event keynote.

  3. Commerce Cloud is ready for the big leagues.
    1. Commerce cloud was certainly discussed more during this year’s Dreamforce than in previous years. The seamless integration (through Mulesoft) to the other clouds makes it significantly more appealing to both B2B and B2C organizations. The power of commerce was highlighted during the keynote through examples of United Way (non-profit organization), Brunello Cucinelli (luxury clothing retailer), and Marriott (worldwide leader in hospitality management). The keynotes/demos went on to show that the value proposition for commerce cloud becomes a lot more obvious when it is combined with the Service and Marketing Cloud.

  4. Salesforce is investing in strategic partners around the technology ecosystem.
    1. Salesforce announced a partnership with Apple and has expanded their relationship with Amazon Web Services this year. Again, there weren’t a lot of details behind this, but speculation suggests that this may be the groundwork for a bigger announcement in the coming years. For now, they have simply announced that the companies intend to be more integrated and collaborate more towards achieving customer success.

In the end, it was an exhausting 4 days filled with futuristic demos, groundbreaking announcements, and pie-in-the-sky visions. Organizations, both big and small, likely left the event with new ideas and inspiration. But as with any conference of this size, they’ll now face the challenge of how to make it actionable in their own world. The partners (both vendor and AppExchange) in the Salesforce ecosystem were quite revitalized by the various new opportunities that have now been created in the market at their respective clientele. If nothing else, there was one very obvious takeaway no matter what session or keynote you attended: Salesforce is showing no signs of slowing down and the best may still be yet to come. 

And that inspirational thought will be the way the organized chaos known as Dreamforce will be remembered.

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