Dreamforce has always been about many things happening at once — a three-ring circus in a good way. There are announcements about applications, platforms, philanthropy, entertainment and, importantly, parties. This year there was all of that and then some I was a guest with a ringside seat.
Since most of the product announcements came out over the last few weeks some of us were wondering what there would be to talk about but in retrospect that worry wasn’t worth the effort, there was plenty. Beginning in Indianapolis a few weeks ago with the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud event and continuing with the announcements of Sales Cloud1 and Service Cloud1last week we had a good sense that Salesforce was doubling down on core products to make them more at home in the mobile and social environment of modern business.
Perhaps the worst kept secret of the event was the company’s announcement of Wave, its analytics cloud and it was a minor controversy among the chattering class. Wave tries to leapfrog ahead of conventional analytics and business intelligence for the obvious reasons that those other technologies are based on old, legacy, set piece paradigms for the most part and therefore less suitable for handheld business.
Salesforce wanted to deliver analytics to the hands of people on the front lines who need information to make good decisions in the moment of truth and I think the company’s first offering does that. Wave is not only graphical to an extreme but also somewhat animated if by animation you mean being able to change presentation styles on the fly. Two things I like about the UI — first, it enables the user to switch from a bar graph to a pie or donut chart with a finger point. Second, it’s zippy, the graphics are live meaning, for instance, that you can turn a donut chart like a dial to get to the segment you want to drill into. It’s also intuitive and I think any reasonably smart person (i.e. someone who can draw a breath and a paycheck) can easily think up questions to ask of the data and get a usable answer.
The snarking class is asking if the product is ready for prime time but this is stuff I’ve heard for 15 years. Salesforce has developed a reputation for not talking about things they can’t deliver so I am a believer when they tell me they have some very large companies involved with the product.
With Wave Salesforce appears to have built out its platform, which now includes clouds for sales, marketing, service, app development, social, mobile, and analytics. So with all of that you can in theory build an application that will run everywhere from the desktop to the handheld, in multiple operating systems and browsers.
Of course there will be new versions and improvements but to me this now signals the closing of the frontier and the opening of the market to settlement and expansion. In practical terms, I hope this speeds up the adoption of more process oriented business — as opposed to a more conventional transaction orientation. In other words, I think the biggest changes are ahead of us. Vendors want transactions but customers expect process and the newest technology at last enables vendors to meet customers half way.
It was one thing when the company could point to standard CRM plus a mobile browser capability but quite another now that a vendor can capture its customers’ data, analyze it, and offer up next best actions in a wide variety of situations. With this capability, we turn a corner from ad hoc business designed to capture a single transaction to a kind of customer science that operates inside of customer moments of truth. When I say science I mean it literally, not as a metaphor. Customer science will someday be seen as a specialty part of sociology, I am sure.
The difference between the old order and science is not only striking but the science is so much more efficient and adept at developing and maintaining the customer relationship that I doubt we’ll see very much of the old approach to business in a few years. This is a tipping point enabled by big data, analytics, and a lot of technology and it is amazing to me that so few software vendors have understood the moment they inhabit.
I can accept that the above might sound confusing or perhaps even tantalizing. In either case I write about it in more detail in my new book. My buddy and former CMO at Salesforce, Cary Fulbright, tells me I am not making a shameless plug for the book if I don’t reveal the title so let’s leave it there. But watch this space.
Finally, it has to be said that Dreamforce might someday be referenced as the show that ate San Francisco if this year’s numbers are any indication. There were 145,000 registrations and I am told 5 million online viewers. Having all those people in the Moscone neighborhood presented challenges such as when using the sidewalks. But the crush also brought into close proximity an abundance of like-minded people who at times seemed to think as one. I liked the mind meld but can do with fewer humans — however, for a few days it was tolerable especially when considering the upside.