My Thoughts On Salesforce Dreamforce 2014

October 17 2014 10:45:55 PM Add/Read Comments [19]
If you've never attended Salesforce.com's annual Dreamforce conference the first thing you need to know is that no single blog post or video recap can properly express the enormity of this event. It's huge. Gigantic. Enormous. For a week more than 100,000 people descend upon every street, hotel, restaurant, art gallery, museum and even movie theatre for blocks around San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center to participate in the spectacle. The event is part technology conference, part fund-raiser and part entertainment. There were talks/performances by Hilary Clinton, will.i.am, Cake, Bruno Mars, MC Hammer, Anthony Robins and many more. On the philanthropy front Dreamforce generated significant contributions to both fighting hunger and improving children's literacy. And by the way, they also managed to squeeze in almost 1500 sessions about Salesforce.com products.

While there were dozens of announcements about products and partnerships, I'm going to focus on 3 things:
- The collaboration products: Chatter, Files and Communities
- The introduction of Salesforce Analytics Cloud, or Wave
- The introduction of Salesforce Lightning, the umbrella name for Salesforce.com's new UI, APIs and visual application developer tools


Collaboration Products: Chatter, Files and Communities

Unfortunately, there was not a lot of major news on the collaboration tools front. While that disappoints me from a product perspective, I'm actually OK with it from a messaging standpoint. While just a few years ago the entire theme of Dreamforce focused on "Social enterprise", today that is unnecessary as a stand-alone message, as Salesforce.com has successfully integrated the collaborative features of Chatter and Files into the various Salesforce.com applications (Sales, Marketing, Support and Community). Now rather than having to specifically discuss "being social", Salesforce.com can instead focus on the business use-case each of their applications while weaving in the benefits that collaboration features provide.

Last year I wrote Salesforce Chatter: The Collaborative Foundation of Salesforce1. At that time I pointed out some of the deficiencies of the Chatter family, none of which have yet to be addressed:
- No long form content creation - While Chatter does allow for posts in the activity stream, it currently lacks any formal document creation tools. The lack of an integrated document editor means people have to switch to another tool (blog, wiki or word processor), changing contexts to create content. In 2012 Salesforce.com acquired online collaborative editor Stypi, but the closest thing we've seen to that is the very simple Notes application avilable in the mobile client of Salesforce1.

- No integrated web-conferencing or video chat - Chatter does provide integrated instant messaging based on Salesforce.com’s 2011 acquisition of DimDim, but the company still has not delivered native web-conferencing features. With the slew of "next generation" web-conferencing services out there (ex: BlueJeans, Fuze, Glance, UberConference) Salesforce.com has plenty of acquisition targets to choose from.

- Chatter does not have a native video library capability. To use video within Chatter, you need to purchase a partner product such as Vidyard.

One significant announcement (which actually came a few weeks before Dreamforce) was the re-branding of Chatter Communities to Salesforce Community Cloud, thus elevating external customer forums to a similar marketing level as Salesforce.com's Sales, Marketing and Service applications. The Community cloud offers: customisation options enabling customers to configure the user experience to match their corporate theme, mobile access, automatic tagging of posts and dashboards for reporting community activity.


Salesforce Files was enhanced with Files Connect, which enables companies to aggregate access to files from multiple sources including Google and Microsoft drives in a single place. Salesforce Files is well integrated with the various Salesforce.com applications, but unfortunately there is no stand-alone or consumer service similar to Box, DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive or other cloud file-storage services.



While on the topic of collaboration tools, below are the slides from the presentation I gave at Dreamforce on the future of collaboration tools, focusing on the areas of context, sentiment and intelligence.




Salesforce Lightning

At Dreamforce 2013 Salesforce.com introduced us to their new application development platform, Salesforce1. This year they added to this with a visual application development tool aimed at allowing business professionals to build their own applications via drag and drop. The people that build these types of applications are often referred to as Citizen Developers. The concept of drag and drop application development has been around for many years. There are dozens of tools that allow this, and as the Build Your Own Application (BYOA) movement grows new options are popping up all the time.

On the surface it may sound like a good idea to allow business professionals to build their own applications, but in most cases application development requires both technical and design skills that business professionals do not possess. For example it's not enough to just know how to drag-and-drop components onto a canvas, developers need to understand user experience and user interface principles in order to make a successful application. That said, business professionals typically understand the details of their business process better than coders. So the best bet is to allow these two groups to work together, perhaps starting with a prototype built via drag and drop which is then finished by a skilled coder.




Salesforce Analytics Cloud (Wave)

Perhaps the worse kept secret before Dreamforce was that they would be introducing a new analytics application. Once the news was out and people could see Wave, many people in the industry got into heated discussions on the differences in reporting, analytics and business intelligence. Rather than continue those debates here, I am just going to comment on Wave with respect to collaboration.

I was pleased to see that even in the first release, sharing reports via Chatter is available. That means people can create a report in Wave, then share it with their colleagues in a post in the Chatter stream, enabling open discussion about the information. This is much more effective than the common practice of creating a spreadsheet or slidedeck and emailing it around to a team. Unfortunately, at this time Wave only provides reports on the Sales, Marketing and Service clouds; meaning reports are not available yet on the usage of Chatter, Files or Communities. I was told these are on the roadmap.




For More Information

For detailed thoughts on Salesforce.com's new reporting (Wave) and application development (Lightning) applications, please watch the following video that my colleagues Holger Mueller, Natalie Petouhoff and I recorded:










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