More than 135,000 descended upon the streets of San Francisco last week to see Benioff and friends - Hillary Clinton, Neil Young and Will.I.Am - work up the crowd during Salesforce’s flagship conference. Now Dreamforce is over, ComputerworldUK brings you the highlights.
Salesforce’s new roadmap: introducing Wave
Wave is Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff’s foray into what is claimed to be a $38 billion dollar analytics market. The move shows an organic, and unsurprising, progression from Salesforce's cloud CRM products, and garnered the most interest from enterprise customers attending the conference.
One, Blue Bay Asset management’s business development strategy director Gerard Hutchings, told ComputerworldUK Wave was the “missing piece of the puzzle”. Blue Bay, a firm keen to get ahead in the digital stakes, is considering the analytics platform to get the most out of its Salesforce CRM, he adds.
Salesforce says that Wave will place business intelligence (BI) into the hands of the business users, rather than IT or analysts, saving time and creating more specific reports. However, long-time analytics company Information Builders says that relying on that premise alone is simply, “false business intelligence.”
Following the Wave announcement, made through Benioff’s Twitter account, Peter Walker, rival analytics provider Information Builders UK and Ireland manager, Peter Walker said: “Businesses have faced 20+ years of false BI/data analytics as there are very few people in organisations experiencing the true benefits of this technology. Businesses need to give the right tools for the right people, not just the power players to drive revenue.”
“It’s great for their customers that Salesforce is focusing on search-based analytics. There’s definite value in bringing together structured and unstructured data, on-premise and in the cloud, to solve specific business problems... that’s not an analytics strategy so much as one part of an analytics strategy.
“Salesforce is new to this, and will be playing catch-up for quite a while, and if Microsoft is any guide, they’ll probably never get the focus on it to make it a ‘preferred’ platform.
“Although Salesforce is touting this as the platform for customer-facing as well as internal applications, there’s a ton of capability they need to provide in order to make that work: data quality (customer-facing apps had better have the right data), cross-database capabilities, reporting and dashboarding, more analytics than just search-based.”
Angela Eager, Tech Market View analyst says, the platform, “is a much needed addition to the Salesforce cloud portfolio but it does not look disruptive so far.
However, she adds, “it does not pay to underestimate Salesforce.com.”
Lightning, rolling in the user-experience trend
Lightning is an upgrade to the Salesforce1 Platform - the means for companies to create apps for different devices for Saleforce’s CRM.
The HTML 5 platform is billed with speeding up app creation as well as iteration for businesses across all devices. Further, it will open opportunities up for business users, who can use a drag-and-drop interface to assemble pre-built components from the internal Salesforce development team and partners in its community. These include feed, list, chart, search and navigation components.
It will also allow “anyone” to build enterprise workflows and automate processes from email reminders and submitting pricing approval requests to employee onboarding, vendor procurement and order fulfillment.
It can be downloaded for iPhone users to trial now, but general availability along with pricing will be announced in the new year.
The Dreamforce spectacle is enough to make attendees forget they are poring over CRM software. If Neill Young and Will.I.Am announcing their own technology products (not without some disruption from a renegade steward determined to tell Will.I.Am “I believe in you” across the Moscone centre) did not have delegates distracted, Hawaiian dancing, luaus, surfboards and the Beach Boys were at hand.
A curveball of a theme for the high profile speakers centred less on knowing your customer better and more about the perils of technology.
With potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, taking to the stage to say: “Technology has put a higher premium on face-to-face meetings. To sit there, across a table, to make the effort to go where they are, to listen to them in their own culture and setting... I don't think there's any substitute for spending that time together,” you might question her passion for targeted email campaigns.
Equally, Arianna Huffington was one step from imploring everyone to throw out their various devices, including Will.I.Am’s new Puls smart watch-that-isn’t-a-watch, as she and author Eckhart Tolle discussed the importance of living in the moment. Then there was former president Al Gore discussing the pitfalls of global warming, with some Bible references thrown in.
Nevertheless, as every year, the Salesforce foundation took the focus from the software during the flagship conference. The charity, which gives directly to those in need, as well as by providing cut-price technology for charities and NGOs to do their work more effectively, often garners criticism for being a marketing ploy.
But the facts speak for themselves. Proceeds from the gala concert with guests including Bruno Mars will go to Benioff’s children’s hospital; Attendees were told to bring a can of food each to reach the “one million meals campaign” goal, and the importance of teaching STEM to children of all backgrounds was an ever-present conversation. Plus, Benioff’s company gives one percent of its equity, time and product to those in need.