If you work in or are interested in enterprise technology, next week is one of the biggest of the year. More than 100,000 people will gather in downtown San Francisco for Salesforce’s annual conference, Dreamforce, which has grown into the most significant celebration of enterprise cloud computing in the world. Unlike most technology conferences, which are drab and vaguely depressing, Dreamforce 2013 is all about possibilities and inspiration. So, what can we expect next week?
The 5 Big Trends We’ll Hear About
Marc Benioff and Salesforce are masters of seeing where the puck is going (sometimes too far ahead) and positioning Salesforce and its offerings in the context of broader industry shifts. This year, there are 5 main trends that will figure prominently throughout the conference:
- Mobile-first: this one is hardly news, but with an increasingly mobile workforce, and increasingly powerful and capable computers in our pockets, there’s no question that we live in a mobile-first world. Salesforce will announce a number of things including a new unified Chatter-focused interface and mobile app that align with this vision of the world.
- “Appification” of everything: Technology has moved from being “plumbing” that only a few people were concerned with to becoming a core to how a companies differentiate themselves from their competitors. Whether it's Babolat making tennis rackets that record your swings or Google using data science to figure out how many interviews are optimal, everyone in every business is technologist now. Salesforce will embrace this with a renewed focus on the platform, mobile and developer outreach.
- Devices, sensors and the Internet of things: As sensors get cheaper, there are more and more connected devices collecting and transmitting data. There are also new devices like Google Glass that are changing how we interact with applications. Salesforce will highlight how their platform supports connected devices and will also showcase how they’re making it possible to build apps for any device using the Salesforce Platform.
- Transactions to engagement: The last generation of technology, including the first generation of the internet was all about transaction-efficiency. Whether it was opportunity management or support cases, the objective of technology was always to make the transaction more efficient and shorter. With the growth of social and mobile, we’re now in an era of engagement. A successful partnership, customer or employee relationship isn’t just about doing the basics painlessly, it’s about engaging each of these stakeholders better than the competition. Salesforce’s launch of customer, partner and company communities are part of this trend.
- Everyone is a customer: The final trend we’ll hear about is that everyone that a business touches is now a customer and should treated as one. Companies in the past spent a lot of time focused on their buyers and not as much on employees. In a service-based economy, employees are just as critical to success as customers, as are partners, so everyone that a business engages with needs to be treated like a customer. Salesforce will extend some of their customer-facing technologies and bring them within the enterprise. Examples include their Company Communities social intranet platform and a private version of their AppExchange.
5 Product Announcements We Expect
Of course, it wouldn’t be Dreamforce without a series of exciting product announcements and inspirational customer stories. We expect to hear the following on the product front:
- Chatter as Main Interface: Salesforce recently introduced a new mobile Chatter application that makes it possible to perform many of the main functions of Salesforce within the Chatter interface. We expect an extension of this concept and a single unified interface for Salesforce across all devices that puts Chatter front-and-center.
- Chatter as a Platform: With the shift to making Chatter the main interface, Salesforce is making the main publisher in Chatter more extensible with customizable fields, actions and “canvas” or the ability to show other apps in the Chatter feed and publisher. We’ll see and hear a lot about Chatter as the front-end to most apps in an enterprise using these new capabilities.
- Customer, Partner and Company Communities: Salesforce is replacing customer and partner portals with a new brandable and social portal. Communities adds Chatter and collaboration around cases, leads, opportunities, etc. to portals. Communities was introduced earlier but Salesforce will showcase customer success stories and broader capabilities around communities. Salesforce is also likely to introduce a version of their company communities platform that adds new functionality around cases, knowledgebase, social intelligence and content rating for employees.
- ExactTarget Marketing Cloud: Salesforce will reposition Marketing Cloud away from the pure social vision of Radian6/Buddy to a more traditional email/marketing automation-centric view with ExactTarget at the core of the marketing cloud.
- Platform and Developer-focus: Salesforce is putting more muscle and investment around both Force.com and Heroku, including tapping industry veteran Tod Nielsen to run Heroku. From a platform perspective, they are aggressively API-enabling every part of their application so that literally any part of Salesforce can be a platform for new apps. To take advantage of all the new capabilities, Salesforce will be looking to attract developers to their platforms with $1M hackathon.
Our 5 Takeaways on Where Salesforce is Headed
So what does all this mean? Here’s our take:
- Chatter is moving from product to interface. Chatter is becoming the primary the face of Salesforce. It has also evolved into a platform, with a highly customizable publisher and Canvas to seamlessly surface other applications. At this point, Chatter is inseparable from Salesforce and the platform.
- Service Cloud/Marketing Cloud will soon overshadow Sales cloud. Service cloud is already one of the fastest-growing parts of Salesforce. Customer service is going through a fundamental transition from being a transactional cost-center to becoming a strategic asset that’s focused on customer engagement. Salesforce’s customer communities are a step in the direction of this new vision of service that’s more about engagement than case deflection. In the future, we expect Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud to get closer to each other and become a single customer interaction platform that spans the customer lifecycle from awareness to advocacy.
- Mobile is all about Chatter. With the launch of the new Chatter mobile app and what we expect to be announced next week, the Chatter app will be the center of the mobile experience. Chatter mobile is also now a great springboard for companies who want to create customized mobile experiences without building an app from scratch. We've most likely seen the last of Salesforce Touch and the model of interacting with all of Salesforce on a tablet.
- Communities (platform and developer) are more important than ever to Salesforce. While Salesforce has been amazingly successful as a CRM application vendor, their potential as a platform is even greater. With the technology they’ve assembled and their focus on building most of those capabilities into their platform, Salesforce has the potential to become a customer interaction platform - not just for external customers but for employees as well. But with every industry and function getting “appified,” Salesforce cannot invest in all these apps themselves. Salesforce has recently shown signs of focusing on their core areas of strength and divesting some side-bets. We expect Salesforce to continue to focus their apps portfolio while increasing their investment in their developer and ISV partner ecosystem. Their $1M hackathon signals an intent to tap into development talent a lot more than they have in the past to drive innovation and perhaps incubate the next Veeva.
- Every part of Salesforce will become a platform. Related to Salesforce’s desire to focus on driving innovation through their developer and ISV communities, Salesforce will make every part of their application into a platform that can be customized. They’re also API-enabling every part of their application to become a true customer interaction platform that developers can rely on to create the next-generation of enterprise apps.
We’re certainly excited about what we’re going to see next week. Did we miss anything? What are you excited to see next week at Dreamforce 2013?