On August 31st 2011, I had the opportunity to attend the keynote at Dreamforce, a conference organized by Salesforce at San Francisco. The keynote was presented by the CEO of Salesforce Mark Benihoff. I wanted to pen down my thoughts on the experience. Here they are.
Emphasis on Social
Every conference has a theme associated with it. Recent and trending topics include the Cloud, Mobile applications, Green energy etc. This year, for Salesforce it was “Social”. And “Social” it was all the way. While the word social was quoted so often that it was repetitive to the point of being slightly annoying, one could clearly see why it really matters today and how it has the potential to change businesses and consumers alike.
Impressive product demos
All this talk of social being the next big thing and how it is a game changer does not matter much if there is no execution. And true to that, the product demos showcased several several important ways of integrating publicly available information about people into Salesforce. I was thoroughly impressed with what they showed! Here is a brief summary about each one of them.
Integration with database.com and data.com: If you are a running a business and if you manage your customer information using Salesforce, thanks to the integration with database.com and data.com, now you can pull up information about your customers from different social networks (if they are made publicly available). This is particularly useful for businesses if they are on a call with a customer about whom they do not have much information and if they quickly want to see what the person they are talking to has been posting to the public recently.
Chatter for enterprise: Chatter is primarily a messaging platform and was Salesforce’s first initiative into social media. They have extended that to enable enterprises to create their own Facebook-like pages where their employees can post stuff, comment and interact with other employees in a controlled and private environment. Even the layout and presentation is very similar to Facebook. They have also added the ability to invite and include external people into such conversations. This is a big deal for enterprises managing all their customer information from within Salesforce, as their employees now have a single place to discuss about their day to day operations.
Tweets, Facebook posts and apps within Salesforce: Not only can businesses have Facebook-like pages, they can now directly post and respond to tweets and Facebook wall-posts from within Salesforce. If a customer installs a company-provided app into their Facebook account, that shows up too. Such information about users and customer behavior is very valuable to businesses that really care about keeping their customers happy.
Facetime integration: Yes, you read that right. Customer support representatives can now initate Facetime calls from a Salesforce web page to a Mac, iPhone, iPad or an iPod touch and talk directly to customers having an issue. Thanks to the video chatting capabilities in mobile devices today, they can quickly see what the problem is, help them resolve it and if necessary send relevant information to them immediately by email. Appropriate use of wonderful technology*.
Salesforce + Toyota = Like: There was one demo featuring a Toyota Prius and how it could be social too (kind of wacky if you think about it). The demo was to control and get information from the car to an iPhone using the wireless network. The demo didnt go well, but I think there are some interesting possibilities in this space if we allow our machines and devices to report their status back to us. There were screenshots about cars reporting their battery-status, fuel ecomony, geo-location and other interesting and valuable information back to Salesforce. I see a lot of potential here.
touch.salesforce.com: This part of the demo was what I was most excited about. Salesforce demonstrated their newly developed application that runs on (almost) all touch-based phones and tablets including the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The app uses HTML5 to bring about a native experience to access all objects within Salesforce on a touch-screen. From my observation, I suppose the user experience will be pretty smooth on these devices**.
Dreamforce was not just all product demos. In what was quite a striking difference from regular conference keynotes, Mark Bienhoff, often got down from the stage and greeted the attendees while he was delivering the keynote. I thought that was a subtle indication of how today’s companies have no choice but to treat social as an important ingredient to their success. He also took time in between the product demos, during the keynote, to interview several key people from different companies. Some of them include: Burberry’s CEO Angela Ahrendts, CTO of Coca Cola Alan Boehme, music personalities and many more. All of them spoke about how they think being-social is important and relevant for today’s businesses.
Update: Eric Schmidt at Dreamforce 2011
This was my second Dreamforce conference in two years and it was a nice experience to be present where the next-big thing in enterprise software and computing were being discussed. As many have put it, for enterprises “Going social” is key, and “Social is here to stay”. I must also add “Watch what you say online. You never know who is watching”.
* How is it that they are able to invoke a native application from within a web browser? But it was indeed a pretty cool demo.
** I wonder why do they have to mention HTML5 when they were developing native apps. Thoughts?