There are plenty of reasons to head to Dreamforce: the expo floor, the certifications, the seemingly endless networking and, of course, the parties. But each year, the biggest draw is talks salesforce.com CEO and cloud computing forerunner Marc Benioff gives.
The opening morning address on Wednesday is where Benioff often sets the tone and theme for the entire conference, in many cases with a wacky flourish. It gives a glimpse into the products and features salesforce.com will unveil throughout the week. This year’s event is all about bridging the social divide between socially savvy customers and employees and the campaigns that lag behind, according to Benioff.
Benioff started his presentation by declaring that Salesforce.com was “born cloud” but reborn “social” – and that he planned to show how customers using Salesforce could become a social enterprise.
While employees and customers are flocking to social media, Benioff noted, companies have lagged behind. “There’s a social divide,” he said. And that divide needs a bridge: The social enterprise.
This is a buzz term you’re likely to hear a lot. According to Benioff, building a social enterprise requires a three-step formula: 1. The company database. Companies, Benioff said, you need to not just collect social data on our customers, but learn from it by building buyer profiles. 2. It requires building a social network for employees. It would be about including all levels of the employee network the company employs. 3. The final step was about bringing the customer into the social network.
In other words, it was about building applications that help connect to other applications (data management companies, social networks, etc.) and hardware (iPads, Google Android, etc.), connecting employees within the app and then bringing in customers to address their needs.
- Right around this point, Benioff announced that as of today that everyone could access Database.com, and that it also included a Data Residency option. This meant you could choose what data you keep in Salesforce.com’s data center or store sensitive data in the company’s own data center.
- He then introduced a slew of Chatter updates, the biggest probably being Chatter Now. It would be able to tell you what employees are doing within the Salesforce.com platform, what they were opening and doing, making it possible to instant message with them and share your computer with those employees. Salesforce.com also added the ability to instantly approve various functions, making Chatter into a workforce flow tool.
- Salesforce.com’s CMO Kraig Swensrud called Chatter “your Facebook feed” for your worklife. With the updates you can pose questions to the workforce without spamming everyone, chat with staff who have the answers you have and share files within your organization as easily as you would share a photo on Facebook. They also added a private customer functionality, allowing companies to bring in selected customers into private groups within the Chatter application while firewalling off the rest of the internal communication taking place in the app.
- Next was the introduction of Data.com, which provides the ability to access to data management tools. That meant the end of the Jigsaw brand, which Salesforce.com bought last year. Through partnerships with data management companies, companies can pull in customer data with just one click, Swensrud demonstrated.
- Benioff talked next about how the rapid change in next generation hardware was impacting software. He unveiled Touch.Salesforce.com, which meant that all of the application would run natively on mobile hardware using HTML. In essence, the application would work like a touchscreen iPad application. Kraig Swensrud returned to the stage and introduced how Salesforce analytics and dashboards would be made social. The sales force could collaborate on deals using Chatter, and do it from mobile devices.
- Benioff talked about how much of customer service is now taking place on Twitter, and used Bank of America as an example. “This is the modern (bank) branch,” he noted. He introduced Service Cloud with Chatter Service, which makes it possible for a service agent to access every platform a customer is using including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. It also incorporates Chatter so customer agents can collaborate on escalated cases and create a troubleshooting community, rather than a static page. They demoed how the application makes it possible to do “face time”, connecting through video so agents can help customers address issues instantly.
- Benioff’s last touch point was on developing the customer social network. This is where he first addressed Salesforce.com’s acquisition of Radian6, one of the best known social media monitoring tools. The combination of Radian6 and Heroku is what makes up the “marketing cloud,” Benioff said. With the Radian6 integration, Salesforce.com users can monitor what customers are saying about a business on the social Web and respond directly from the app. Additionally, with Heroku, brands can build apps for the platforms customers are using to have those conversations.
Benioff finished the presentation by stating how the social enterprise will be industry agnostic: various brands can consume customer social data and respond to them according to their preferences. The key takeaway from the opening address was that Salesforce.com was focusing on using social as a collaboration tool – not just enabling employees and customers to collaborate within the application, but also by connecting the application to the many varied platforms and businesses already hosted in the cloud.
(Disclosure: Eloqua and salesforce.com have a variety of customer/vendor, sponsorship and other arrangements between the two companies.)