The Spectacle That Is Dreamforce
October 30, 2015
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By Paul Barker
San Francisco – What began 13 years ago as a small user event for San Francisco-based CRM software vendor Salesforce, has over the years morphed into something completely different. Dreamforce, as it is called, has grown to the point where the company can now lay claim to holding the “largest software conference on earth” complete with all the trappings you would expect from an organization that currently has a market cap north of US$50 billion.
At Dreamforce 2015 held last month, Stevie Wonder played prior to chairman and CEO Marc Benioff’s lengthy keynote speech, the Foo Fighters, The Killers and Gary Clark Jr. played during a benefit concert that raised an estimated US$10 million for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, and the “largest book drive in history” also took place for students K-Grade12.
By the end of the event, one million books had been collected for students in San Francisco and anywhere else on earth including “newly constructed schools in Nepal.”
There were a multitude of product announcements before and during the show as well as topics ranging from wearables in the enterprise to “misplaced optimism” among SMBs. Deals got done and new initiatives were launched.
On the product front, the company introduced its next generation of Salesforce Analytics Cloud. It said “new Wave Actions will enable Salesforce users to take actions directly at the point of insight from within any Wave Analytics dashboard. In addition, Salesforce will deliver Wave visualizations across the Customer Success Platform.
“For example, after getting real-time operational insights into current closed deals and performance against quota, a sales manager would turn to a Wave Analytics dashboard to do a full pipeline analysis and determine whether she needs to reset forecasts or identify which deals need to be accelerated to hit key targets.”
On-premise analytics software and niche visualization tools, the company said in a release, “deliver static, outdated reports and often have complicated graphical interfaces with steep learning curves — separating business users from the insights they need.”
Two weeks prior to Dreamforce, Salesforce announced what it called the next generation of Service Cloud — Service Cloud Lightning Console.
“Today’s consumers are more connected than ever before, across mobile phones, wearables and other devices,” it said in a release. “In fact, by 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices. For companies, it means they need to deliver a seamless experience to these ultra-connected consumers during each and every interaction, across every channel.
“For service agents to be able to support new channels and make sense of all the data being generated, they need new, smarter solutions that allow them to better respond to customers. However, companies struggle to deliver on these expectations because legacy technologies are disconnected from products and new channels, and agents aren’t equipped with the tools they need to deliver answers quickly.”
For Vivek Kundra, vice president of emerging markets for Salesforce and the former CIO of the U.S. government, the cloud is the critical technology piece and Dreamforce a pivotal event.
“You get to sit down with customers who are conceptualizing the future,” he said. “As an example, CIOs from a number of major U.S. cities were in attendance. Among the topics discussed was what does a connected city mean? How do we build that? How do we make our infrastructure intelligent so that the parking meter can talk to a person about red lights, green lights, traffic volumes?
“You get to meet these amazing entrepreneurs who serve very much like the artist who is painting the future. At the end of the day, it’s about customers and putting them at the centre of the universe. Frankly, they are showing us the future in areas such as cloud, mobile, social and data science and IoT.”
The core responsibility of Cindy Bolt, senior vice president, manufacturing and consumer goods industries with Salesforce, revolves around the oil, manufacturing and energy sectors. While each of them view front office technology, slightly different, she says, the one “thing they have in common is that they are all looking at the transformation of that front office.
“I talked to one customer during a lunch who, said, ‘we have been collecting all of this data and we have to figure out how to monetize it.’ How we make it a value-added service is a common conversation I have been having over the last few days.”
Organizations, added Bolt, are asking for systems of engagement: “The clear direction when it comes to transforming manufacturing is how do you tighten the relationship with your customer.”
Doug Wotherspoon is not involved in Bolt’s space, far from it in fact, but he certainly can relate to that sentiment. The vice president of international and strategic priorities at Algonquin College in Ottawa, bypassed his IT department completely and created his own recruiting application based on the Salesforce software platform.
“In Canada, the 17-25 year old target market, which is our key market, is actually going to be in decline for the next 15 years,” he says. “You factor that with a decline in funding from the government and you have a recipe for disaster.
“We have had to start thinking about how we go about doing business differently and become more efficient. The best place to look at is the industries and organizations that are doing it well using the most modern of technologies.
According to Wotherspoon, CRM and cloud technology are the “only things that are going to allow me to innovate in this really tight market. I am not going to get new people. If I get the technology platform I can reorganize and re-think.
“When we did marketing and recruitment, we did not get any support from the college other than permission to do it. We used our own money and within three months had our own CRM system implemented. We have been able to create so many efficiencies from that we used the money we saved from that and the people who were re-purposed to build the team out.
“We used to have brochures for what at the time was 240 programs – it’s now up to 270. That’s two people whose only job was to data enter and mail. Nobody comes to Algonquin because of the way we lick the envelopes — it just doesn’t happen. On top of that there are massive inefficiencies.
“We had recruiters going out across the country and the province who would be on the road for up to a month. They would be collecting all these hand-written lead cards and it could be upward of two months before a potential student would receive any type of information.
Now, as a result of a Salesforce app on an IPad, two hours after a presentation, students receive an alert.
Meanwhile at a Canadian media panel discussion at Dreamforce, the company released survey results that explore the attitudes and experiences of more than 500 Canadian small businesses (SMBs) regarding expansion of their businesses into the U.S. and other global markets.
According to the survey, 81% of Canadian SMB owners have considered expanding their company beyond the Canadian border, and almost half (49%) said they are likely to expand in the future. Upwards of 51% of those who are very/somewhat likely to do so, plan to do so in the next 11 months.
Alternately, 70% plan to do so sometime within the next two years, with the most desirable market being the U.S./Mexico.
The survey shows that 40% of small businesses who plan to expand across borders do not believe they require any funding, and many intend to use existing Canadian revenue (30%), personal savings (39%), or bank loans (36%) to fund growth.
Showing remarkable confidence, Saleforce said, only 15% of these SMBs are concerned about finding new customers, 10% are concerned about customer retention and 6% are concerned about running their business remotely.
When it comes to how SMB owners feel about future growth, the general attitude is optimism, indicating that they’re not only eyeing international expansion, but exhibiting pride about their global prospects.
The company also wondered if all this optimism is misplaced?
According to the survey, almost a third (30%) of businesses with expansion plans agree that information on expanding beyond Canadian borders is conflicting, and one in five (19%) respondents doubt they have the proper tools and resources to expand.
The survey revealed that 84% per cent of SMB owners that plan to expand do not use a customer relationship management solution, and more than a third (37%) do not use a digital marketing platform, custom mobile application, a data analytics tool, a sales tracking/lead generation tool or accounting software.
While the survey shows that Canadian small business owners are eager about international expansion, it’s clear that many are lacking the knowledge and necessary technology to achieve this growth, Salesforce said.
The company added that to be “successful in today’s ever-expanding and changing global economy, it’s important that Canadian small business owners develop a detailed plan and use the right business tools. Being hungry and aggressive can take entrepreneurs a long way, but without relevant and timely insight into their business and target markets, small business owners with an eye towards expansion could be setting themselves up for disappointment.
“In the year ahead, smart entrepreneurs will be wise to utilize all the technology and expertise available to them before looking to expand. While it’s true that international markets provide endless opportunities for Canadian small businesses, only those armed with the proper knowledge and tools will grow and thrive.
“The Canadian economy has been built on the backs of driven, savvy and determined entrepreneurs. Industry Canada indicates that small and medium-sized enterprises (fewer than 500 employees) make up 99% of business in Canada and employ 64%t of workers in the private sector.
“As borders shrink and global markets open, all eyes are on the success of these Canadian entrepreneurs – but international success can be tricky. Traditionally faced with legal, financial and governmental challenges, the road can be long and bumpy.”
Just how influential the company has become was evident late this week with the release of a white paper conducted by IDC, which concluded that Salesforce, its ecosystem of partners and customers will create more than 1 million jobs and add US$272 billion to local economies in the next four years as a result of cloud computing.
“Cloud computing generates these benefits primarily from permitting and increase in IT innovation, which in turn supports business innovation leading to accelerated development schedules, faster project completion, shorter time to market for new products and lower operational costs,” IDC noted.
In Canada, IDC is projecting 11,517 direct jobs will be created and the contribution to the country’s GDP will be an estimated US$3.5 billion.