This is arguably one of the most difficult posts I write each year. Not because it’s a post with tough love (though there will be some of that), but because the scope, scale and implications for the market and for Salesforce make Dreamforce so difficult to analyze.
While I’d like to say I’m prescient or absolutely certain of my conclusions or even that I am someone who has an inkling every now and then, I’m not really sure I’m that person. I do however, have a point of view, called so acronymically and elegantly by Ray Wang “My POV”. My particular POV can be taken or left accordingly, but I will say what I have to say – and it will be interesting. Of that much I am certain.
The substance of this post is going to be the direction that Salesforce seems to be taking, the things that are happening to Salesforce that they don’t control that they would be even better off if they did, and the things I think they need to do to gain that control. But before I get into the substance, I’m going to provide you with the world famous (or, at least in my head, famous) Conference Scorecard. There is one change in this I want to announce first, though. I’ve decided that I’m actually going to use CRM Watchlist as a brand name, not just a contest. So this is now the CRM Watchlist Conference Scorecard.
CRM Watchlist Salesforce Dreamforce 2015 Conference Scorecard (whew!)
This is one conference that bears explanation because it is no longer a conference. It is no longer an event. Dreamforce has become a destination of enormous magnitude. It moved USA Today to write two articles on the opening of Dreamforce – one of which compares its dynamism to the recent lackluster launch efforts of Apple. While I agree the Apple launches have become formulaic, to their defense, it is a launch with an invited gathering of attendees, media, analysts etc. It is small and deliberately so. It is a product launch.
Dreamforce is a showcase to the world of Salesforce as a company in all its glory and with all the chicken feathers. Because of the unique combination of seriously important technology that enable large institutions and Hollywood/Vegas style entertainment, in combination with the sheer size – Dreamforce plays a unique role in the world of technology – as does its producer – Salesforce. They are hot and sexy and yet, enterprise scaled and the warrior to beat, even though they are smaller than most of their opponents.
|Keynotes (Content)||B||The overarching content of the keynotes was good, not earth shaking but all in all was important stuff – re-establishing Salesforce as the company for the Connected Customer (more on this later in the analysis). The meta messages were very strong, but the underlying narrative that proved those bigger messages was not consistent in the main keynote on day 2, though at times the story was there. Unfortunately, much of the narrative seemed lost in the desire to go cloud by cloud (more on that later) on what Salesforce was doing – and, while the pieces were there with the strong announcements around Lightning and the not-quite as strong announcements on Thunder, it was up to the audience to find those pieces rather than it being made obvious.|
|Keynotes (Presentation)||B-||The presentation – all those things that surround the keynote to enhance the value and the message – left something to be desired. Apparently (what I heard, not a statement of absolute certainty), because the conference’s first day was the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), Marc didn’t speak – entirely understandable. However, the tone and focus of a conference – most conferences – is set by the keynote of the CEO. Because he was unable to speak on day one, it was a mistake to start the second day of the conference with an interview with Uber’s CEO, which succeeded because Marc Benioff is a brilliant interviewer, not because of the interview, which was uncomfortable to say the least, and out of place. The keynote should have been in the AM to get the crowd revved and excited, to set the tone for everything coming from then on. While it was a brilliant – truly brilliant – piece of theatre to have Stevie Wonder do a set and then introduce Marc – there was far too much shtick this year. I love theatre and I love having fun and I love this conference – truly my favorite conference – but there is a time and place and a limit on how much can be theatrical and how much has to be simply substantial. Salesforce had a lot to talk about but the surrounding noise with the superhero suit, the relentless stream of incredulity, and the misplaced sound effects obscured it. That said, they still managed to get all they had to say said in the individual keynotes – the ones that went cloud by cloud on subsequent days, which were much more straightforward and customer-focused, though I heard from several observers, rather too dry. The huge positive was the somewhat risky organization of the days into themes. For example, “Women Leadership Day” (Thursday) and “Mindfulness Day’ (Friday) This was an unusual turn but in this case, it worked very well and the interest and excitement of the attendees was obvious around it. Smart and different. Another innovation.|
|Tracks/General Sessions||A-||There was a bit of variance in the level of engagement. The best of the sessions had strong interactive involvement of the presenters/panelists. In one reported to me, when several of the audience reported having problems reaching groups at Salesforce, the Salesforce execs volunteered to be their advocates. THAT kind of interaction. The material was generally germane to the subject. There was, as is the audience’s bent, too many pix being taken to capture the moment, rather than people paying attention to the subject – something I heard from a lot of my respondents actually – but that is the audience’s fault, not Salesforce’s – though it would be good to take note of that. There was true subject matter expertise whether the session was technical or strategic or a thought leadership “trends” kind of sessions. The sessions were for the most part, well attended, with one or two lagging. The only downside is that the sheer volume of sessions made it difficult, even with the app, at times to focus on what you wanted to attend.|
|Analyst/Press Relations||A+||Salesforce has what I now have to say is the best AR team in the entire industry. This isn’t to say that other AR teams don’t have great people. They do. But the level of knowledge, attention, the consistent rhythms established by the team just simply work. At this year’s Dreamforce there were 200 analysts and a little more than that number of journalists and yet, each analyst and journalist got personal attention – and there was clear knowledge of those individual interests. Thus, what made the effort at this conference incredible was the ability to provide that personalized attention to nearly 500 people. But there is another factor. The people who work under SVP of Market Strategy, the amazing John Taschek, are wonderful, warm human beings, who not only are immensely capable at their job, but genuinely seem to like the people they deal with – and it shows. I don’t know another AR team where I would just want to, outside of business, hang out with so many members of the team for nothing more than just their company (again, there are always individuals on other teams I would like to hang out with. Just not as many).|
|Food (VIP)||B-||This was pretty straightforwardly ordinary – the usual wraps/half sandwiches etc. It was edible and filling. There was coffee and tea and soft drinks and water. That’s about it. The parties had hors d’oeuvres that were slightly better quality and pretty much what you expect at these things. Nothing else to say, really. Nondescript, but no one starved.|
|Food (General Session)||B-||The reviews of the food were mixed. Some things were fine, some things tasted like cardboard (multiple people with versions of this). No water stations. Of course, you have to give them points for simply dealing with the scale of this event. But this is one of those places where scale might actually get in the way – though not an important one. Luckily, if you wanted to get fed by Salesforce, you were fed by Salesforce – and that’s good enough when it comes to 150,000 people.|
|Exhibition Hall||B+||This was a mixed bag but on the whole a lot better than last year. Its strengths – more than adequate pathways to walk w/o massive crowding in both expo halls; some beautiful booths highlighting the show. According to several of the smaller vendors they had considerably more leads this year on day one than the entire show last year. The downsides were, especially in the Customer Expo, it was extremely difficult to find the booths you were looking for with no overhead lane markers, and a very poorly done map in the guide; there were only a few water stations near the Salesforce part of the pavilion – and they were hard to find according to attendees. There were no food stations (see SAP Sapphire for the best ever on this) anyway – though understandable due to scale. The smaller booths were relegated to the far back parts of both halls and squeezed so tightly together you could confuse the personnel of one company for another if you didn’t have 20/20 vision. But all in all a HUGE improvement over last year, especially in Expo Hall traffic flows. Two interesting notes: First, a number of partners didn’t bother to get booths and rented places near Moscone Center (though some did both) where they felt that given the cost of the booth and the number of them, it wasn’t a good investment. Second, see below on the ecosystem discussion for something that Salesforce could have done in the Expo Hall that Microsoft did at Convergence (scale wouldn’t matter here) that would have positively reinforced the relationship between Salesforce and some of its most important partners.|
|Crowd Engagement||A||They are back! Except for a tiny bit of unengaged people in a few tracks here and there – something that would randomly occur when there are 1500+ tracks, the crowd was fully engaged – the crowd was involved. The excitement was palpable, the entire Salesforce team and the hired third party staff were involved with the crowds, the desire to just be in the moment there was right there then. In other words, people, get this, in the moment! I was truly impressed with the love that actually exists for the company – something only reproduced by Apple really – when it comes to the Technology software/hardware industry. This is the only enterprise software company that has fanboys (and fangirls). They showed it big time with their highly engaged presence at the conference.|
|Ambiance||A-||This is a catchall category that involves not just the general environment emotionally, but the traffic control, the check-in process and how well the logistics and mechanics are run so that it all feels smooooooth. To continue the theme, the improvement from last year was just palpable. Last year, traffic flow and control was a disaster and it almost jumped the shark really. This year, except for a glitch when the keynote was let out and no one could get into the building at all unless they were “Ambassadors” (this is the second year in a row that this happened – and needs to be fixed for next year), the traffic was handled rather brilliantly. The overflows for the speeches were set up well in hotel rooms with large screens to watch and on the lawns/streets of SF with giant screens. The lunch flows were regulated; check-in was a breeze with a quick digital/QR code driven process at the Moscone Center and the Marriott Marquis, the street flows went smoothly and the environment in general was pretty easy-going and definitely happy.|
|OVERALL||B+||As I already said, this is BY FAR the most difficult show to figure out because it’s gone from being an event to being a true destination – or as we in the 60s used to say “a happening.” However, despite the overplayed kitschy part of it, Dreamforce is a seminal event and probably the one conference most attuned to the markets and the trends affecting those markets – both now and a few years ahead. What Salesforce has done is make Dreamforce into something bigger than a conference – and it works well that way – with the level of enthusiasm and inspiration of the attendees off the charts. But what comes with this is the scale that ultimately creates a unique set of problems – including how to measure success of the event itself – which is only measurable against itself, not any other one. But, unlike last year, where there were nearly “jump the shark” level issues, this year it was clear that Salesforce was ironing out what they had to, to make this a true destination level event. The keynotes theatrics are fine up to a point, and next year it needs to be dialed back to that point – ending at Stevie Wonder so to speak, but all in all, Salesforce continues to be a unique constellation in the tech galaxy.|
Okay (he wipes his hands clean). On to the bigger things – the strategy, the company direction and what was great and not so much. But first things first.
Every now and then, I get moved to single out someone (or occasionally, several someones) who I think is underappreciated for what he/she does. This one is going to be a big surprise and I’m not going to take a lot of time but it’s actually Parker Harris, who, as anyone who knows Salesforce knows, is a co-founder of Salesforce. Yes, he makes a big appearance at Dreamforce every year (usually lately in a superhero outfit that has got to stop happening) and goes through what Salesforce is doing. In 2014, he gave the best keynote at the conference around case studies with 3M and Coca Cola. He is co-founder.
Now, to be transparent, I don’t know him very well at all. I’ve had a total of maybe one or two brief interactions with him since I started covering Salesforce in 2001. But I know the value he brings to the company. He has had the misfortune and great fortune to be overshadowed by the biggest presence in the business technology industry – Marc Benioff. But everyone is pretty much overshadowed by Marc. It’s the nature of that huge personality that Marc is. However, regardless of that lower public profile, let me just say one thing, without Parker Harris being there every day, the company doesn’t work. I will reiterate it. Without Parker Harris, Salesforce doesn’t work. He makes things run every day and he needs to be recognized more frequently for that. He is clearly an articulate bright guy and his public presence is always very engaging but it is the magic of making stuff happen that is what he does best. So, a shout out to Parker Harris – well done, sir.
What’s Goin’ On…The Stratospheric View
One of the things that always puzzles me about this inordinately successful company is how much they don’t think about ecosystems. I’ll explain later how that resonates in the market and the impact It has, but for the moment, I also have to point out the irony in that deficiency.
What is ironic is that they have an organic ecosystem that has hurricane (small “h”) force power roiling around them. It is arguably the largest natural business ecosystem I’ve seen – at the least when it comes to the technology world, and possibly even more than that. Yet, and here’s the irony, because Salesforce doesn’t think ecosystem they tend to underutilize the assets they have.
Think of a hurricane – a self-organizing force of nature that has an eye in the center. Salesforce is the eye and the organized “arms” are the companies that are anxious to be involved or already involved, often at their own expense entirely. Their organic ecosystem is huge. I can’t say I’ve done the work that Vinnie Mirchandani has in his books on the SAP global ecosystem – I haven’t. But what I do know is that almost every new, innovative company (or not so innovative company) looks to Salesforce as their first integration point. That is because they see the force that the hurricane has and want to ride that force. Plus, where Salesforce shines, they make the integration easy and convenient and not that expensive, by making their API open to almost anyone.
But this is also where the Salesforce conundrum always kicks in. They have a dynamic roiling ecosystem of companies and people who want nothing better out of their corporate existences to do well via Salesforce – and to thus provide benefit to Salesforce. But Salesforce doesn’t think in ecosystems, they think in clouds, and app exchanges and things. They lose much of the potential benefit of this unique organic self-organized system that’s grown up around them. Imagine if they could direct its power, rather than just sit in the eye of it.
Here are some of what happens when Salesforce isn’t thinking about an ecosystem and here is how they could be thinking if they were:
|Everything is a cloud – IOT Cloud, App Cloud, Analytics Cloud, Community Cloud, Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and [future] Cloud, Financial Services Cloud, Health Services Cloud.||As Esteban Kolsky, rightfully points out, there is only one cloud – and, to oversimplify a bit, it’s a delivery system. In an ecosystem, companies provide a cohesive offering in the domain that they chose to participate in. So for example, the App Cloud remains the Salesforce Customer Success Platform. There is no IOT Cloud, because the IOT work permeates the entire ecosystem – it’s a considerably more advanced level that integrates with the sales, marketing, customer service capabilities, for example.|
|The Salesforce Customer Success Platform is relabeled the App Cloud||A platform is the technology layer that provides the ecosystem with a common set of tools, standards, and programs that can help drive its entirety. It is not a commoditized cloud – nor does it need to become one.|
|Pardot is shoved into the Sales Cloud – using only a small percentage of its capabilities around demand generation. Everything at Salesforce is put into a cloud – one way or the other.||Even though Pardot started life in the mid-market and larger small business marketing automation world, it now represents, particularly through its Engage product a glue that rests between marketing and sales to help align them. To give you an example, Microsoft recognized the value of customer journey management platform Thunderhead as a “glue” that permeates their entire Dynamics system. They didn’t relegate it to a slot somewhere. It’s a holistic narrative rather than a set of siloes story. The benefit to both Microsoft and Thunderhead has been significant in joint GTM work.|
|Salesforce has an App Exchange for partners that it calls an ecosystem. It is a marketplace. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a great thing but it isn’t an ecosystem.||A true ecosystem would define the key go-to-market partners who will be those who provide what Salesforce doesn’t natively provide when it comes to a complete picture of the requirements of contemporary Salesforce customers. Salesforce would do more than place a few on the price list. The AppExchange would not be called an ecosystem but a marketplace.|
|TACTIC: On conference Expo Floor, partners were relegated to their specific areas, Salesforce had its own “eye of the Expo Center” location.||TACTIC: Do what Microsoft did at Convergence 2015, highlight specific partners INSIDE the “eye” so that they can exhibit in the Salesforce area – not only around and outside. That indicates good thinking – “these partners are mission-critical to our ecosystem.”|
What makes this mildly exasperating is that the power that is sitting there for Salesforce to harness on their drive to be a whatever billions of dollars in revenue company faster than anyone else in history is ENORMOUS. But it involves a reassessment of their partner network, a change in their narrative to some extent, and some general rethinking their framework. A good first step would be to stop calling their platform the app cloud and recognize that in fact, it is the technology underpinning of all that they produce – it runs across everything and is not contained in a cloud. The change in the name (and the willingness to do it) would be an indicator in the change in mindset that it portends. It was doing fine as the Customer Success Platform – and with that name, was very much in sync with the market and its voracious demands.
Look, Salesforce, whether they start thinking in ecosystems or not, will continue to be successful. What I say is hardly going to matter when it comes to that. They will continue to grow, not just because they have highly competent executives, pay very well for the talent they recruit, recruit out of the box and see great results from that (see John Taschek’s team such as Bruce Richardson, former analyst, now Chief Enterprise Strategist or Vala Afshar, former CMO, Extreme Networks, now Chief Digital Evangelist, or the man, John Taschek, himself – arguably the most influential computer columnist of the 1990s – and the best writer – now SVP, Strategy), and they have products that tend to be at some level attuned to the market trends that matter.
So you have Lightning – “Everyman’s development tools” (my term for it), Charlie Isaacs’ Connected customer IoT and co-created products, Pardot Engage – truly misnamed but dead on valuable tool needed to enable some of the most important facets of the alignment of sales and marketing that is going on in high volume in the business world. Their base products, the sales marketing and customer service clouds – are solid, rich entries that not only compete – but arguably lead their categories – though I’m NOT saying they are necessarily the best in their categories. I’m not saying they’re not either, he says coyly. They are foresighted too – the creation of the Health and Financial Services “Clouds” are a huge and supremely important step when it comes to vertical industries that happen to be mission critical in the life of humans and something that tech companies need to be doing more of – especially the Health Cloud. But more on that shortly.
So, what we are seeing here then is a company that is doing incredibly well, one of the fastest growing companies in the technology world – especially one this size – and yet, could be doing much, much more with a change in their thinking. The change has huge implications of course, for the partners, for the customers and for the staff, but it’s all within the purview of Salesforce and with the exception of perhaps how the partner network would, ahem, work, it isn’t all that disruptive – meaning it won’t force Salesforce to grind to a halt while a reassessment and reorganization go on.
We’ll see where they take this. Right now the two ecosystem thinkers in the big boy pants universe of technology are Microsoft and SAP – and with SAP’s overshadowed announcement during Dreamforce, they will become, in time, a more formidable competitor with Salesforce, with Microsoft already on the rise.
The hurricane is in your house Salesforce – you can contain and direct it or it can just blow the roof off. Your call.
Okay, some random thoughts on what I saw at Dreamforce that I thought was either strategically important or tactically significant.
The strategic and tactically significant
Let’s make this random.
Connected Customer as a meta message again – In 2013, Salesforce put forward what arguably might have been the most well-tailored and appropriate messaging for a specific company that I’ve seen. In brief, it went like this. There is an Internet of Things – but behind the Internet of Things is an Internet of Customers. Connected customers. Last year, despite their presentation of supporting evidence of this theme, it was barely touched on in the messaging.
This year, since I harp on this so frequently, it was a true pleasure to see Salesforce begin the real meaty part of the conference – the afternoon of Day 2 – with the Internet of Customers and the Connected Customer as the focus of their messaging again. This is arguably the best of all possible (marketing) for Salesforce because the theme aligns with their vision, their actual practice (see the superb work of Charlie Isaacs, CTO of the Customer Connection, with, duh, Salesforce customers…and partners), their product portfolio (despite its organization) and their corporate culture. So to put this front and center again…nirvana. The perfect meta message. However, what they didn’t do was back it up throughout the conference. It kind of stood alone instead of being marbled throughout the entire keynote. Still, it was there often enough to make it the best big picture they’ve had since…they had it before.
Salesforce – Microsoft alliance for realz – There has been a lot of back and forth when it comes to whether or not the Microsoft/Salesforce alliance is real or just a temporary “move” as the Salesforce – Oracle and the Salesforce – Infor alliances seem to have been. This one, children, is for realz. First, the alliance is realistic in that it recognizes that both companies are forces to be reckoned with, and while both have competing products (e.g. SFA, customer service), they complement each other far more than compete. Plus, the strategies are different but they can align.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has stated more than once that Microsoft’s strategy “is to build best-in-class platforms and productivity services for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.” Marc Benioff has no beef with that. In fact, the alliance that the two have is centered around Salesforce’s integration with Office 365 and Azure as infrastructure. What makes it particularly interesting is that Microsoft is using Office 365 as a hub for unified communications, something that they can excel at with the 13 products they have that can comprise this unified desktop (in a manner of speaking).
The alliance opens the door for the two companies – cooperating around the areas that they can to provide a pretty much complete solution on the front end and the infrastructure that needs to support it, to any company in almost any industry.
The other reason that this makes sense is that the story is being told that Satya and Marc actually get along very well. I have ZERO proof of that, having ZERO interaction with either of them, but the story goes that way – and its analyst gossip, which, while it is gossip, is true far more often than not. One person I have met is the Salesforce SVP in charge of nothing else but the Microsoft alliance – and thus – it’s an indicator that the resources are being invested to make this thing work.
Satya’s presence at Dreamforce did send a significant signal to the market. So there is something going that not only could be mutually beneficial, but if it manages to stay legitimate, could be a great example to the market on how to develop big boy strategic alliances and a table setter for Salesforce, helping them move to change their outlook toward an ecosystem-centric approach, something they need to do.
Lightning Strikes Once – in the right place – A few weeks ago, I was asked by Direct Marketing News’ excellent journalist, Al Urbanski, about the Salesforce Lightning announcement. Here’s how I characterized it at the time:
“What I like about what I read, since I haven’t seen it in action yet, it is built so that regular people, not just sophisticated programmers and developers, can build everything they need to accomplish whatever their corporate and personal goals are…. They promise what is an important component of true customer engagement in the omnichannel world we live in–consistent experience across all devices. So they are hitting the right spots and are the first to apparently deliver customization tools for personalized applications that lead to stronger engagement.”
Well, I have gone to the mountain top and I have seen it – and it pretty well is what I expected, I’m happy to say, despite my own overuse of buzz words. I managed to not only see the stage demos, but watch demos (incognito) at the Salesforce kiosks on the show floor and Lightning, it seems, is built to deliver on its promises. First, the overarching thing is it is close to a real product though judging from the lack of prominence on the Salesforce website, not entirely real yet (though, to be fair, that’s a speculative comment). However, I spoke with a couple of folks who are using Lightning and, while my evidence is sparse and anecdotal, those who have used Lightning seem very happy with “the Lightning Experience.”
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about – Lightning is a new development framework, with a new user interface and new user experience that makes it the “for the rest of us” when it comes to the ability to build what we need to build. If you’d like to see what I mean, see this discussion of Lightning applied to sales person engagement and experience.
The Health Cloud – This may turn out to be Salesforce’s most important announcement – for several reasons. First, for years, Salesforce, despite all its pronouncements, lagged severely behind when it came to verticalization. Their partners were very good at it – lucky for the mother ship. For example, one of their new partners, getting a lot of visibility and rightfully so, Vlocity, led by Siebel industries veteran David Schmaier, is devoted to nothing but verticalizing Salesforce and with the management team they have assembled, has a damned good chance – at least on the surface since I’ve not done a deep dive yet – of being highly successful.
But Salesforce itself, with its bold pronouncements (we’re going to hire 1000 for Public Sector, etc.) still lags behind SAP and Microsoft when it comes to their penetration into these industry markets. Interestingly, they are suited well to a group that I call “emotional verticals” – i.e. those industry markets that individuals (either in a B2C world or B2B), have an emotional investment. Among them would be sports and entertainment, retail, media, financial services, high tech, and, almost the most significant, healthcare and wellness. Note my emphasis on wellness – self managed, and/or preventative care via health measures like exercise, nutrition and the like. The combination of these two into a single “emotional vertical” is a massive opportunity for companies’ like Salesforce.
Think of it this way. Two studies kind of highlight the point. First, Gartner projects that healthcare IT spending globally will decline to roughly $105 billion this year. Decline 2.7%. Yet, its roughly 4X the size of the CRM technology industry despite declining. Additionally, depending on who you believe, and there are many doing this projection, the projected spend on all health services (which doesn’t include wellness services/devices etc) was $7.6 trillion in 2013, projected to $9.5 trillion by 2018. Again, not including wellness. Global wellness is another $3.4 trillion. Suffice to say, this is a HUGE market.
Salesforce announced at Dreamforce, the existence of the Financial Services Cloud and to me, more importantly, the Health Cloud. While it is laudable that they are going to jump into the former, everyone else is already there in spades, albeit not necessarily in the same way. But it is a mature vertical that has had historic and deep participation from the technology world. Highly targeted.
Conversely, health services has a few companies making forays into the area that are customer-facing companies (e.g NexJ, Cegedim among others), but all in all this is ripe territory. If Salesforce can deliver a “Connected Customer” like experience and level of engagement for patients and tie them to improvements in both the physician-patient relationship, to the relationship between health services organizations like hospitals, private practices, clinics, labs, medical device providers, pharmaceutical companies and can provide the wellness and self-management services for that connected customer via their IoT work, and say, the Service Cloud, you are talking about a company that will have its next $1 billion business. That’s a lot of work and I’m only scratching the surface, but Salesforce has, at least, placed itself on the competitive map in one of the most important vertical “industries” out there – fraught with promise and possibility to both save lives and make money. If you look at their current offering, its focused around the health care provider – patient relationship. What makes it particularly interesting it is tailored toward patient engagement and control of the health conversation. This might be a big deal. Salesforce is in the game, now they have to score.
There were several other announcements and there are some noticeable lacks –
1. The integration of RelateIQ predictive intelligence into especially the Sales Cloud for best next action (thank you Pitney Bowes for the grammatical fix here), something that is fast becoming de rigueur in sales offerings. It is now called SalesforceIQ and is integrated into other offerings as well.
2. Their renewed commitment to small business as reflected in new small business products among them SalesforceIQ for small business.
3. One that is really important, but underrated, the use of Trailhead for training ( see this link to get the deets). This is a brilliant training model for both deep and fast education in a technology.
4. One remaining puzzling BIG deficiency is the under emphasis on the Community Cloud. While like all the clouds it certainly had its keynote, it got very little love in the main keynote which would be where its “coming out party” should have been. At the moment, the Community Cloud is the least visible product that Salesforce offers – and given its importance – and given that it’s not just Chatter anymore, Toto – and given that customer service and knowledge management’s future relies on communities – it’s time that Salesforce gives them some love.
5. Another area still lagging is analytics. While the emphasis on visualization is actually valuable and useful as well as being cool, it isn’t anywhere near sufficient. Right now they have to compete with the big boys like SAP, IBM, Oracle, and Adobe. While you can try and dismiss them with “well they are the last generation of analytics” or “they are cumbersome” or whatever, you would be making a big mistake. They are as aware of the changes in the world as Salesforce or any of you making that judgment and they are addressing them – with varying degrees of success. But Salesforce messaging is really just getting around the “lighter” nature of their analytics offering (though it is getting better) with the “analytics for everyone” and putting up this quote from Forbes on their website “…the UI is intuitive and colorful. It looks more like what you would see from a killer app like Uber.” As much as coolness and style are important (I’ve been saying that since 2006. See PGreenblog post Pardon Me, Is That Laptop a REAL Louis Vuitton?) to technology choice, I don’t think I’d emphasize the Uber-app -like quality of the UI before I’d emphasize what the analytics can do. Though, don’t get me wrong, “for the rest of us” does have appeal. But it’s not the primary reason to be buying the Analytics Cloud. Work needs to get done that gives a user insight, not a great UI. That aids the work, it doesn’t do the work.
Okay. So what can we make of all this?
Salesforce has a force of nature that it could command when it comes to enterprise technology. There exists a hurricane force, self-organizing ecosystem of customers, partners and interested parties that has far more potential power than any other enterprise technology company’s ecosystem. But in order for Salesforce to be more than just the eye at its center — and to be the organizer of this self-organizing body — they have to rethink their own way of dealing with it – which I’m not 100% certain they are ready to do – or even know how to do.
Even without this happening, they are still doing the good to great things that successful companies do. They are becoming innovative again – something that had been lagging the last few years, with their intelligent alignment with market trends e.g. the connected customer, Lightning, the vertical clouds, the internet of things, and I can go go, but won’t. They have reached unmatched scale and excitement about the innovations in their efforts. The result? They are accelerating their pace and moving forward at unmatched speed. Dreamforce 2015 was a good indicator of that.
But is it enough?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Okay, that’s about it. I think this inordinate number of words is enough out of my mouth. I truly do. So I’m shutting up. Until next time, amigos and amigas, chicos and chicas
Oh, one last thing. Remember, there is still time to apply for the 2016 CRM Watchlist. If you are interested in finding out more about it, read this and then send me an email requesting the registration form. My email is email@example.com. You have until the end of the month, October 31, 2015, to register. That’s it. After that, the questionnaires for the registrants are due on December 11, 2015 at 6pm Pacific Time.
That’s now really it. Later, gator.
(Cross-posted @ ZDNet | Social CRM: The Conversation)