So the 2013 edition of Dreamforce is over and it's time to look at the key takeaways from this 5 day mega event. Needless to say that everything Dreamforce is BIG - attendees numbers, space used, concerts held, bands playing, prizes (1 M$!) etc - which makes Dreamforce the dream event for any CMO. I am sure any marketing professional not working at Salesforce would wish they could spend similar on their customer event. And Salesforce is under pressure to keep outdoing itself - as the hype is a substantial ingredient with Dreamforce.
But let's cut through the hype and let's look what ultimately matters, the technology behind the announcements.
Despite A Litany Of Annual Trendy Themes, Customer and Developers Still Matter Most
At the end of the day, Salesforce remains a CRM company. However, it's good to see, that salesforce remains focused on customers. Customer orientation has been important at Dreamforce.
Two years ago it was all about consumers and their journey towards social and why companies needed to respond by turning themselves into social enterprises. Salesforce was there to help them (e.g. listening to customers with the Radian6 acquisition).
Last year the message was around becoming a customer company - and in order to become that, Salesforce needed to get stronger on marketing segmentation and automation and acquired Exact Target.
Now it's all about enabling the combination of social, marketing and connected devices, that Salesforce labelled as the internet of customers. But for that you need a new platform, and there we have this years key announcement with Salesforce1.
Equally present was Salesforce's heavy courting of developers. Every keynote and briefing at Dreamforce began by mentioning the importance of the developer and how Salesforce wants to become a (even more) developer friendly vendor. We understand Salesforce fully here, but wonder if the average Dreamforce atttendee cares to worry about how happy its developers are. However, most Salesforce customers don't have developers on their payroll.
More importantly, Salesforce cares about administrators and the simplification of their daily life by maintaining and configuring Salesforce products. Consequently, this is how Salesforce has architected Salesforce1 (more below) - system administrators are going to be key for Salesforce1's success.
Giving the Salesforce administrator the room to administer and enable the mobile platform is a key move - and equally a nice career addition.
If you take the Dreamforce hype away - Salesforce1 is basically the delivery of the product formerly known as Touch, in a certainly revamped and improved form. Under the common mobile first banner, Salesforce is now delivering a unified user experience on iOS and Android devices. Customers no longer need to switch between your e.g. classic salesforce mobile app and the mobile Chatter app. And had you deployed Touch - no more switching to these apps on mobile devices, too.
So certainly a welcome and good move by Salesforce. And definitively a major feat on the engineering side to bring all these platforms together and being able to extend bothforce.com and Heroku built apps on the Salesforce1 supported devices.
And Salesforce equally deserves credit to make Salesforce1 a platform - where 3rd party content and applications can run on. Certainly the right path to success if you want to own the mobile user experience and make that more user friendly. Being able to deploy the Salesforce1 mobile applications consistently and declaratively is a pretty unique feature.
And could it be more than that? Let's look what it could be...
Salesforce1's big potential
To make its apps better consumable for mobile - Salesforce had to make its APIs more granular. Salesforce claims a tenfold increase in number of APIs. And with that Salesforce1 apps become more nimble and more powerful to deploy. And it becomes easier for ISVs to add their own APIs and build highly differentiated mobile apps.
If Salesforce takes all this and makes it the backbone for its next generation applications - those that run in the desktop browsers - then we would see a significant opportunity here. Salesforce would be able to re-invent not only the mobile experience - but provide a platform for highly consumable and compose-able business applications - across different delivery channels.
For that Salesforce will have to strengthen its application server capabilities - or a similar function of those. And whatever that platform will be - Salesforce1 - it will have to be a good integration platform for 3rd party content. The good news here is, that Salesforce has done a lot here already - to both allow ISVs and customers to access 3rd party content in the backend.
Advice for Salesforce customers
This is good news for Salesforce customers - mobile users get more modern application to work with. The backend gets better at getting 3rd party data accessed and exposed on the mobile side, certainly a good capability. But analyse how much of your CRM processes can be run on a mobile platform, if there are gaps, press Salesforce on completing those soon. And evaluate alternative platforms for your Internet of Things plans - before you commit to Salesforce for them. Your CRM application vendor is a natural proxy for them - but so is your ERP vendor.
Advice for Salesforce partners
This is also good news for Salesforce partners - it will be easier to build more powerful mobile apps. Look at the gaps in the Salesforce automation portfolio both from a horizontal and vertical perspective to chart your product plans. For services partners we see the mobile business shrinking, as Salesforce smartly has put more productivity in the admin console. With the declarative capabilities of Salesforce1, the market of re-building mobile apps out of a need created by the technical disconnect of the browser and the mobile platform will keep shrinking.
Advice for Salesforce competitors
The days are over when competitors could poke at Salesforce about pitching a social enterprise - as long as you used two separate apps on the mobile device. Salesforce raised the stakes with Salesforce1 with its ability to push functionality including customizations consistently to mobile platforms, which will become quickly a table stake. Focus on the more pedestrian browser UI of Salesforce instead. And if the Salesforce pitch on the internet of customers will show signs of success - then you better have a strategy on how to embrace the Internet of Things soon, too.
Advice for Salesforce
A good move by Salesforce, that deserves credit for a much improved mobile experience coupled with a solid platform approach with a good eye on developing the vital ecosystem for platform success. Salesforce1 will have to grow quickly to become the overall Salesforce platform - for delivery across all user interaction channels. And it will have to beef up on the integration side quickly, to really become a contender in the Internet of Things arena. Another missing key ingredient for overall success are BigData and (true) Analytics capabilities. Topics for next year and Dreamforce 2014?
Another Dreamforce with a lot of superlatives, a great conference for the Salesforce ecosystem. Great presentations, great speakers and a lot of pressure for Salesforce to top that next year - once again. I am certain Salesforce will succeed with that.
How it will succeed on the Salesforce1 side will be something we will keenly watch - for now its a much improved mobile experience and platform - that has the potential to become much more - benefiting customers, partners and Salesforce. The next 12 months will tell...
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