The biggest impression of a newcomer to Dreamforce – epic. 170,000 attendees, 2000 sessions. First, you have to get used to this high concentration of people wearing the same badges, enormous lines, huge crowds everywhere. Then, you get accustomed to the extremely intense agenda, and how to manage to get from one session to another given the size of the Dreamforce campus – several hotels and buildings of a convention center. I couldn’t help thinking that only my deliberate marathon training and endurance allowed me handling that schedule, social and informational tsunami.
At some point, you start liking it. You start planning ahead getting to 7-8 sessions per day, you are grabbing a lunch or snack on your way from A to B, charging a phone in the corners, and even finding time to relax on the artificial grass in the Dreampark. The journey is very intense and overwhelming, but it is worth it.
Never before I had such a complete and in-depth understanding of Salesforce, never experienced its vibe and culture, never realized the power and flexibility. Mostly importantly, I didn’t perceive Salesforce as a top-notch innovative company having community and family values, with a strong focus on “giving back”, social and non-profit initiatives.
Einstein AI – next level of CRM Intelligence
The major announcement and focal attention of the entire event were Einstein, artificial intelligence platform integrated with Salesforce system. Everything and everywhere was about Einstein – keynote sessions, demos, a whole section of the exhibition floor with on-going presentations, installations and all possible ways to engage attendees. Salesforce leaders claimed the title of “the World’s smartest CRM”, as Einstein can process data from all the components and integrated technology. Not only it can identify a tricky issue or problem, but it can also prescribe a solution or recommendation based on existing experience, and the preciseness will only grow since new data arrive. Thus social media campaigns, customer service, predictive scoring, content marketing – all those needs are promised to be taken to an entirely different level of quality and effectiveness. As they put it, Einstein “is infused in every app backend and put into business context”.
There was a brilliant idea of “AI democratization”, making it available and accessible to everyone, not just data scientists. Every business is unique, said Einstein creators, and there are not enough data scientists in the world to build a model for every case – only machine learning can do that. “We built AI to build AI”, explained Shubha Nabar, Salesforce Director of Data Science.
Another big focus was made on Lightning – a new User Interface of Salesforce. Not only it provides the modern feel and looks, but it also allows organizing data streams, configuring your user experience in a most convenient and useful way.
There were many other announcements and introduction – Commerce cloud, IoT cloud, project management tool Quip, solutions for small and medium business. Overall, Salesforce wants to be everything and serve all possible business and technology needs. Besides Dreamforce was putting together all sides of business journey – marketing, sales, customer community, and customer service. Though there were separate sessions and keynotes, the speakers were always combining and merging those areas.
They had a lot of discussions of business transformation, of ways to become digital masters. Dreamforce experts don’t believe in incremental growth, in small steps – it does not give you a competitive edge. Every company needs to be a technology company, no matter what its end product is.
Celebrity speakers and thought leaders
Dreamforce had a line of celebrities – Marc Benioff, Melinda Gates, Robin Roberts, Mary Barra, Tony Robbins and many others, and on a top of that – a concert of U2 in the Cloud Palace (with a quite epic commuting back). Sometimes I was even surprised to find out that there were my favorite speakers (e.g. Scott Brinker), and I was not even aware of that.
Diversity and women equality
Diversity and especially women in tech theme was very strong. First, you noticed women – creators of Einstein and other innovations, who were put into the spotlight at the keynotes and sessions. Then there was Women & Equality Summit, followed up by a special session on women in tech. My favorite quote: “Diversity is when everyone is invited to a prom, inclusion is when everyone is invited to dance”.
Charity and non-profit cause
Social responsibility, charity, and fundraising were another “big thing” at Dreamforce. The company is partnering with RED, a non-profit organization fighting HIV, and there was ongoing fundraising campaign. The was a whole section of agenda called “Giving back”, which included many sessions, activities, Forbes Philanthropy Summit.
Well-being and mindfulness
Another component of Dreamforce was about well-being – sessions on mindful eating, life-work balance, stress release, etc. A group of Buddhist monks was invited to teach meditation during the event.
As for my favorite keynotes and sessions, I had plenty of them. I can group them by the topics and ideas I learned:
- Marketing Cloud and Pardot. Marketing cloud and Pardot were discussed as a solution for seamless integration with CRM, total visibility and transparency for Sales and Marketing on a par with ease of use and intuitive interface. Pardot presented a Journey Builder – a visual and detailed algorithm of interactions with a customer and the entire route based on the response.
- Wave Analytics platform. It can combine and process data from multiple resources.
- Analytics, marketing and sales operations
– Stats that proves that salespeople are the single largest lead source
– Tips on marketing and sales alignment, an idea that “sales is your best research team – be with them!” (the name of the session speaks for itself: “When Sales Meets Marketing: a Love Story”).
-Scoring might differ for existing customer (up- and cross-sell) and prospects.
- Data quality and data providers
-Data providers are different, e.g. HG Data had information on installed technologies, Bombora tracks buying signals, MCH owns data on certain verticals. Combining and leveraging those resources, and especially using Wave to visualize data, might provide tremendous advantage and deep insights
-“Data quality and data governance are a team sport. You can’t send emails and requests around forever”.
It is hard to summarize Dreamforce, as there were so many themes, topics, solutions, sides, and perspectives. It was a huge generous fair of innovation, technology, charity, reunion, rock concert, meditation training, networking, and inspiration. I can also see it as Olympic Games, where Salesforce, an Olympus giant, tried to demonstrate leadership in every market and niche, compete and win any possible game. Well, it went very well.
Articles and resources on Dreamforce 16:
The post was originally published on Oct 19, 2016: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dreamforce-16-olympic-games-crm-giant-helen-abramova-mba