I prefer going to vendor analyst summits over user conferences. I always feel like I am intruding on customer time at conferences. Salesforce hosted an analyst summit last week. Here are my scores:
The venue was to say the least memorable. The Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco was considered the most opulent in the world when it opened in 1875. The big earthquake in 1906 caused extensive damage and a replacement was opened in 1909. The earthquake in 1989 ended with a 2 year retrofit. The Garden Court with its spectacular Austrian chandeliers and the iconic Pied Piper bar have survived and still evoke the old time luxury.
How do I know about the history? We had an earthquake during the summit. Analysts were abuzz and tweeting at 2.40 am! This Florida boy turned on Foreigner’s “Feels like the First Time” and read up on the hotel’s history and thanked the retrofit for keeping us safe. See what I mean by memorable?
They also brought forward the Trailhead motifs and badges and presentation templates from Dreamforce. The energy of Trailblazers and MVPs and the enthusiasm around making Salesforce a fun learning experience contributed to a positive vibe.
Executive Access: A
A well-done summit allows you plenty of access to vendor executives. This one reminded me Salesforce has a formidable team which has skyrocketed it to over $ 1o billion in revenue. CEO Marc Benioff missed this event, but co-founder Parker Harris fielded architectural, security, data center questions with his usual openness. Peter Schwartz, SVP Strategic Planning, who cut his teeth doing long-term scenario planning at Shell, played futurist talking trends around artificial intelligence, genetics and automobiles. I enjoyed catching up with Tony Prophet who has appeared in two of my books, with Bruce Richardson I used to run into all the time when he was an AMR and I was at Gartner, and John Wookey, a development executive and Polly Sumner, a sales executive I have long respected from their time at SAP and Oracle.
Plenty of executive access. They had a couple of customers and AWS represented. Would have liked a bit more customer and partner presence but overall well done
Product roadmaps: B
I enjoyed spending time with Ketan Karkhanis, GM learning about Analytics Cloud and getting updates on the Sales and other functional Clouds. I liked the fact that the hype around AI and Einstein was a bit subdued. The chart below represents well the reach of Salesforce.
I loved a demo which showed how 20th Century Fox uses the Salesforce platform to manage its movie releases – management of trailers and other promotional assets.
And yet, I expect more from a team which is so talented and has been at it for two decades. In my book, The New Polymath, Marc Benioff was quoted as saying “Every time someone buys a server, a switch or a data center, I have failed” The reality is 8 years later, clouds have only penetrated 20% of the enterprise apps world when you add in industry applications and geographic reach. Its mostly CRM, HCM, some financials.
During the summit I heard from several analysts I was trying to push Salesforce to get into ERP functionality. Not at all, they have plenty of partners aiming at that. But every industry has “books of record” – utility billing, retail merchandising, electronic patient records, insurance claims processing etc – that clouds have not targeted. There is so much white space for Salesforce and its partners. Salesforce likes to point out 80% of objects on their platform are custom developed, that 300b rows (out of 1.2T) access non-Salesforce data. I wish they would take push themselves and their partners much deeper into verticals. Parker Harris did point out Marc Benioff would love to do more and more, but his job was to keep Salesforce focused. Well, I am with Marc on this. I expect much more from the leading cloud apps vendor.
Customer Economics : C
Customers have been rewarding Salesforce (and other cloud vendors) with multi-year contracts. The expectation in return is Six Sigma and CMM Level 5 continuous improvements. AWS has delivered 50+ price cuts over the last decade. Cloud application vendors have not. In the discussion around data centers there was focus on security, and balancing across multiple infrastructures, data residence and Kubernetes, but zero on economics. Similarly, there was nothing on keeping tabs on services partners. If anything, I cringe every time Salesforce brags about it is helping create millions of new jobs or takes credit for hoping to generate $ 859bn in GDP impact by 2022. Not with the limited functional road map as currently spelled out by Salesforce. And those jobs end up hurting the TCO and ROI of Salesforce.
So, overall an enjoyable summit. And yes, a memorable summit now that I am back on terra firma. I have decided I quite like the advance notice I get with our hurricanes in Florida 🙂
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)