Ten things you need to know from Dreamforce 2016: Benioff's keynote, U2, Dreampitch winner, Einstein and product news
Dreamforce, the huge, sprawling tech conference put on every year by the SaaS Customer Relationship Management (CRM) specialist Salesforce is difficult to get your arms around. There are 15 keynotes, more than 2,000 specialised sessions, a rock concert and countless auxillary events dotted throughout downtown San Francisco over the course of the week.
Here we have tried to sum up the highlights, particularly the “five transformations of enterprise software” that the company’s spokespeople touted throughout the week: intelligence, productivity, speed, mobility and connectivity.
1. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Intelligence with Einstein
This was the big pre-Dreamforce announcement, with CEO Marc Benioff teasing that Salesforce was bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into its eight cloud products before the week's festivities.
We already wrote about what customers can expect from Einstein but the little cartoon avatar could be seen throughout the week and was touched upon in every keynote. Read: What is Salesforce's AI-powered Einstein product? When can customers try Einstein and how much will it cost?
Einstein is the result of a multi-billion dollar spending spree on AI-related startups, with Salesforce bringing greater predictive and automation capabilities into its range of CRM applications.
2. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Productivity with Quip
Salesforce also announced that it was entering the employee productivity space by folding Quip - another recent acquisitions - into its suite of products.
Quip is a popular platform for collaborating within documents, spreadsheets and task lists, like Dropbox Paper or Google Docs.
Customers can now sign into Quip using their Salesforce credentials; link, access and work on documents within Salesforce and bring Salesforce data directly into documents.
3. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Speed with Lightning apps
Salesforce has extended the capabilities of its Lightning app building platform, which was the big focus at last year's Dreamforce.
There are 5.5 million custom apps already built on the platform and the new Lightning Bolt framework aims to make it even easier for non-technical users to build things like community portals or customer-facing websites.
4. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: IoT with Thunder IoT cloud
Salesforce is fully on board with the internet of things (IoT), extending its platform for managing connected devices called Thunder IoT Cloud.
Customers can connect data from their devices into Salesforce records and bring in context and customer data to make that information actionable, with triggers and alerts feeding straight to business users. Thunder is the processing engine behind IoT cloud which allows for the ingesting and processing of these big data sets.
At Dreamforce it announced new IoT profiles for better predictive maintenance alerts and a traffic monitor dashboard to show pinch points and avoid outages.
5. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Mobile enhancements for the Salesforce1 app
Salesforce has some big usage claims around its mobile app Salesforce1, claiming that it is the most used enterprise mobile app with over 1.5 million mobile active users. monthly
At Dreamforce, the company announced that brands can now customise the app for their users, and sales staff will be able to perform forecasting on the go.
6. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Benioff's keynote
Marc Benioff’s keynote address was a typical affair, starting with a Hawaiian welcome ceremony before he laid out the roadmap for Salesforce and took a back seat for his executive team to talk about their specific products, as detailed above.
In a call with investors afterwards, Benioff described the content of the keynote as the "20 billion dollar plan".
Famous attendees included Will.i.am, Nancy Pelosi and David Blaine.
7. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Marc Benioff batted away questions about a bid for Twitter
With rumours swirling through Dreamforce that Salesforce was readying a bid for the social network Twitter, Benioff responded during an investor Q&A on day three, saying: "Number one is we look at a lot of companies, we look at a lot of things and pass on almost everything."
8. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: Verticals are coming
Salesforce launched its first vertical product, Financial Services Cloud, earlier this year, providing enough time to ready a couple of good case studies during the inaugural keynote address on the Tuesday.
Chief operations officer Keith Block said that Financial Services Cloud is “just the tip of the iceberg" as the CRM vendor looks to build out more industry-specific products.
9. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: U2 turned the Dreamfest concert into a political rally
The big Wednesday-night concert was headlined by Irish rock band U2, with lead singer Bono taking the opportunity to discuss politics and his philanthropic causes.
10. Dreamforce 2016 highlights: A chatbot won the Dreampitch
A new addition to Dreamforce this year was Dreampitch, where high-profile investors Chris Sacca and Mark Cuban were joined by entrepreneur Shahrzad Rafati and will.i.am to judge startup ideas built on top of Salesforce.
The first idea was a consultant community around Salesforce projects - called CRM Market - which was savaged by the judges for the quality of the pitch.
Eventually the chatbot Claire won the contest. Claire allows fashion brands to A/B test their products via a chat interface built on Salesforce's Heroku platform and embedded in Facebook Messenger. The cofounders said it increases engagement compared to traditional consumer brand surveys and testing. The prize for Claire was some funding and a space in the new Salesforce startup incubator.
11. Listen: The UK Tech Weekly Podcast discusses Dreamforce (25:00)
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