Dreamforce 2016 was as action packed as expected. To close this one out, I’ll recap the announcements and dig deeper into a few subjects that I mentioned in my 1st post. Salesforce Einstein was the big topic of course, but there were several other interesting announcements and even a few surprises. Before getting into the other announcements though, here is some more detail on Einstein and AI.
Einstein is an AI platform and a set of AI enabled features embedded into other applications. As a “product”, the platform it is not sold independently, but operates inside the overall App Cloud Platform and thus can be surfaced in any application built on the platform. AI isn’t new of course, and Einstein takes advantage of a lot of the consumer side work done previously, for example Amazon – predictive recommendations, Apple – natural language processing (NLP), Google – deep learning and Facebook – machine learning. Applying AI to enterprise problems provides two basic approaches, 1. Providing relevant data to the person or team that needs it, when it is needed and with the proper context, and 2. Automating simple routine daily tasks that take time away from more value add activities. Both of these approaches take advantage to the rapidly growing mass of structured and unstructured data that can be accessed by companies. This is important for several reasons, but maybe the most compelling is to reduce somewhat, the reliance on scarce data scientists by performing some of the modeling work through AI.
Salesforce Einstein, at a high level is built to, 1. Capture real-time data, 2. Learn through predictive analytics, NLP and machine and deep learning, and 3. Connect with customers by providing a “better” customer experience (CX). Embedded inside the Salesforce App Cloud platform Einstein has access to a broad set of customer data, both transactional and data sources from online sources through listening and through data integrations/partnerships. Using that data Einstein, according to Salesforce, is designed to: discover insights, predict outcomes to support better decision making, recommend the next best actions to maximize interactions and automate tasks to allow employees to focus on the customer. To capture the diverse data set needed to support the embedded AI, Einstein connects to many sources, here are a few:
• CRM: account, contact, lead, opportunity and custom objects
• Calendar: salesforce calendar, google calendar, iCal
• Email: salesforce inbox, gmail, yahoo mail, Apple mail
• Social: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others
There are many ways to apply Einstein inside the current portfolio of Salesforce Clouds. Here are a few that were shown during the conference:
• Sales Cloud – guide reps to the best leads and opportunities
• Service Cloud – Proactive service by helping customers find their own answers and recommending the correct content to agents
• Marketing Cloud – help marketers build predictive journeys, offering up the right content at the right time based on prospect behaviors
• Commerce Cloud – personalized shopping experiences by recommending products and offers that are relevant
• Community Cloud – personalize experiences by recommending content and people to answer specific questions
• Analytics Cloud – automate and prioritize insights
• IoT Cloud – automate recommendations from the “best” sensors and predict events
• App Cloud Platform – build intelligent apps
The Salesforce UX tool Lightning, which has been around for a couple of years, is the core of a few announcements this year. Last year at Dreamforce the Lightning framework added some community templates to help improve the Community Cloud UX. This year those template concept was extended in a product called Lightning Bolt Framework to enable Salesforce ISV partners to built Bolt solutions that have business logic and workflow built in. In support of these ISV’s Salesforce also announced a Lightning Bolt section of the AppExchange, showcasing partner solutions built using Lightning Bolt. The announcement was summed up as extending the experience, providing the capability to build Lightning UX on the Apps Cloud and starting to build out an ecosystem around the Lightning tool.
Salesforce has had a very active year in acquisitions, including several important pieces of the Einstein offering, but one acquisition that was announced in august, Quip, generated a lot of buzz. Quip is a mobile first (with desktop and web clients as well) productivity tool that provides teams with conversational documents, or said another way, the ability to collaborate on content across a team, having conversations without email. It was seen as a competitive move against Microsoft Office, perhaps in retaliation of Microsoft aggressively pushing its own Dynamics CRM. It’s probably good to note that Salesforce and Microsoft are in the frenemy category at this point. It could also be seen as a competitive move against Alphabet / Google. Competing against both companies is good I guess, but the real strength of Quip to me, is in the team collaboration capabilities, and, after playing around with it a little, I’d say, at least for content centric teams, it is a viable alternative to tools like Slack. At Dreamforce the app was an integral part of the mobile strategy for the event, and of course getting people using it has the potential to boost the adoption quickly.
Quip isn’t the only new conversation tool though, Salesforce LiveMessage was announced, rebranded from the September acquisition of HeyWire. It fits well into the Service Cloud umbrella for now, and is a communication platform that integrates a variety of other tools as well as tightly integrated with the agent console. The app is mobile on the customer side of course, and helps the agents manage multiple conversations, keep good records of the conversation for later and provides additional capabilities like automated outbound messaging.
The Commerce Cloud, which I mentioned in the 1st Dreamforce post, was a big focus this year. The offering, which is rebranded Demandware and unifies all Salesforce commerce offering, provides an integrated experience across online and store, with Einstein built in to provide personalization. This smarter commerce capability with Einstein greatly enhances the CX by providing relevant offers and recommendations in a highly personalized (or is that individualized) manner.
Salesforce provides custom mobile apps for its customers through the Salesforce1 platform, and has for a few years. Custom mobile apps are extremely important to the CX strategy in many companies, particularly consumer focused industries. The one (big) limitation with Salesforce1 has been the ability to white label the apps, providing consistent branding and experiences across mobile an web. Most companies that provide these types of apps want to control the branded experience. Now they can with the new My Salesforce1, which provides the much needed ability to build white labeled mobile apps.
During Dreamforce this year the “trailhead”, “trailblazer” themes continued as a backdrop for planning each individual’s experiences. I took a look at two specific trails, the SMB trail and the dedicated area for developers (DevOps) that took up all of Moscone West exhibition area. The SMB trail included a SMB “Lodge” that provided individual stations for customers to meet with sales engineers and ask questions. I spent some time there and was very impressed with the idea. The sessions, which were designed to provide assistance and mutual learning seem quite valuable, at least from the general feedback. There were some account executives and marketing people in the background, but were there as observers to learn more about the problems that the SMB customers are facing.
This year for developers on the Salesforce App Cloud and underlying development platforms of Force and Heroku, there was a full schedule of activities and opportunities to interact and learn. From a role perspective Salesforce had stations set up for developers, admins, and even CIO’s and IT executives. Everything was very hands on, and many participants built apps or functionality with Salesforce assistance.
No story about Dreamforce would be complete without also mentioning the strong presence of several charities and the inclusion of them in the Main Stage keynotes. It’s well known that Salesforce and its founders are big supporters of giving back, and have had a 1:1:1 policy since the company was founded. This year will.i.am joined Marc Benioff on the stage and talked about education, its dire need and impact, and a program to adopt a school. His foundation, i.am.angel, provides scholarships and created the i.am.STEAM program to encourage elementary and high school students to become involved in tech, engineering, math and sciences. The charity organization Red was present through the conference and Red CEO Deborah Dugan joined Marc on stage during his keynote to talk about the global fight against AIDs.