Another Dreamforce conference has come and gone – and 2012’s has been called everything from “a circus” (Forbes) to the “South by Southwest for the Enterprise” (by Constellation analyst R. Ray Wang.) It was just that – a festival of the senses with software strewn across all points of conversation.
With close to 90,000 people attending (both onsite and virtually) it was busy, it was big, and it was bold in broadcasting that Salesforce.com was “the” company to help all other companies “connect (particularly in social) with their customers.” As chairman and CEO Marc Benioff said, “We’re going to open a door [to the future] and we’re all going to walk through it.” Or, in Benioff’s case, walk on-and-off center stage – too many times to count – to let customers share their social business stories.
But it wasn’t all strobe lights, bass, and surprise celeb guests – we saw Salesforce.com announce some major upgrades to the Salesforce Platform and services, including: Chatter Communities, which will enable companies to build private social networks for customers, partners, and employees; Heroku Enterprise for Java to run Java apps in the cloud; Force.com Canvas to run any application to run within Salesforce’s UI; Salesforce Identity, which will provide a single, social-like log-in across enterprise applications; and Salesforce Touch, which enables enterprises to develop native, HTML5, and hybrid apps, then deploy them to mobile devices.
I was truly impressed by Chatter Communities’ powering multiple companies in their customer service journeys. When I used to hear “Chatter,” I’d think, “internal collaboration” or “standard activity feed,” but seeing a demo of how airline Virgin America uses Chatter for employee collaboration and new Chatter Communities for Service to reach customers when they’re at the gate or in-flight (think route-tracker and pinging flyers about delays from the ground,) it’s clear that collaboration is being used far beyond the walls of the enterprise, and moving into sales and service areas, even.
If there were two words to sum up all of Dreamforce ’12, it would be “customer stories.” And not just any customers – Salesforce.com has got one formidable roster. Think online menswear company Bonobos (which uses Sales Cloud and Desk.com.) Commonwealth Bank (which uses Salesforce.com CRM, Service Cloud, Buddy Media, and Radian6, now being rolled into Marketing Cloud.) Activision uses Chatter Communities for Service. General Electric uses Chatter and other Salesforce.com products to power what the company calls, a “collaboration between man and machine,” connecting next-gen aircraft with engineers, customers, and partners. And, Buddy Valastro, cakemaker extraordinaire and reality TV star of The Cake Boss, uses Radian6.
Then, of course, there were some running themes throughout the conference, the top ones being social media, mobile, and HTML5, as well as a few below that showed up in vendor and partner news and announcements during the show:
- Gamification- Buzzword or not, all things “gamification” is where vendors are staking their claims. We saw behavior platform Badgeville launch Badgeville for Salesforce.com through the AppExchange. On-demand sales compensation management company Xactly will include gamification features for its Xactly Xpress product in its winter 2012 release. Elements like non-cash contests, leader boards, badges and alerts are socially shareable through a built in integration with Salesforce Chatter. According to Xactly Express product manager Andy Drogo, “I think we’re really complementary in this space. Badgeville is doing some really cool things. Bunchball is another phenomenal player in this space. Even Rypple… they’re all using the same type of mechanics, and the same type of approach, but they’re solving different problems.” In both the Badgeville and Xactly instances, gamification is being put toward encouraging sales reps to use their CRM or sales comp systems. So is the case for ePrize, an engagement and loyalty promotions software developer, which has helped the Detroit Pistons and Comcast, gamify sales processes. See feature “Game On!” for more gamification strategies in the business and consumer realm.
- Integration, integration, integration-If companies weren’t integrating specific feature sets with Salesforce.com, chances are they were integrating their entire solution with the software company. Reachable brought “proximity selling” to Salesforce.com users, which helps reps build out customer contacts based on enterprise social graphs. Esignature company DocuSign released the latest version of DocuSign for Salesforce, which includes a new “sign now” feature for quick, internal sign-offs. Backupify launched Backupify for Salesforce, an enterprise cloud application data backup solution for accounts, leads, contacts, and Chatter Messages. SaneBox, an email management startup, integrated with Salesforce.com to prioritize messages from Salesforce.com leads and contacts in sales reps’ inboxes. Cloud-based technology provider, OpenQ, which provides social compliance solutions for the healthcare and life sciences industries, launched the OpenQ Safeguard application for the AppExchange. And HCM giant Workday announced plans to layer Chatter into its solutions.
Walking away from Dreamforce, I can honestly say I’m not surprised the company’s on target to hit $3 billion in revenue in FY 2013 (although performances by MC Hammer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers might have put a dent in that.) All in all, it’ll be interesting to see these new products rolled out in future releases, and to see how the stories of early adopters inspire other companies to develop a use case and justification for social in their organization. But, perhaps, more interestingly, we’ll see what Larry Ellison and his Oracle roll out at OpenWorld in just two weeks in the same spot where Salesforce just had its curtain call.