We had the opportunity to attend Salesforce's Dreamforce conference, held from September 25th till 28th in San Francisco. It was the usual 'zoo' of marketing spend and attendees all over San Francisco. Salesforce claimed over 170k in person attendees, at least on Tuesday it did not feel like that. But certainly, this is the yearly come together of the Salesforce ecosystem. 




Prefer to watch – here is my event video … (if the video doesn't' show up – check here)

Here is the 1 slide condensation (if the slide doesn't show up, check here):
Want to read on? Here you go:

Salesforce and Apple partner. At first glance, enterprises love it when market leaders' partner, especially when they are joint customers. With Salesforce committing to build iOS specific apps, taking advantage of iPhone features, moving closer to Swift – is a big favor to Apple. The concern for CIOs is – Salesforce is creating two classes of mobile users. The concern for developer is that Salesforce has sacrificed a key benefit of its Lightning platform – the develop once, deploy everywhere value proposition. That weighs hard on admins, single developers and small development shops. All for the value of a ritzy partnership announcement? Let's hope that a similar announcement for the #1 OS – Android – is coming soon, supporting both mobile OS in an equal way. Let's not forget the world runs on Android and that's where Salesforce has the most growth potential. 

Apple and Salesforce partnership - Constellation Research Holger Mueller
Apple and Salesforce partnership

Customer 360 – never gets old. Quite a surprise, as Customer360 is a 20+ year old CRM promise, to enable CRM users to see all that matters to be successful. To some point gutsy by Salesforce, as the long-time customers in attendance at DreamForce rightfully may expect this to be their real modus operandi today. But Salesforce had to acquire MuleSoft for that… and we will see how much of a difference it will make. If Salesforce can make Customer 360 real – that will be a huge value for its install base. To do so, Salesforce needs to address some DNA changes in MuleSoft, which primarily served coders, but Salesforce needs support for the admins, which means low-code if not no-code. 

Salesforce Customer 360 - Holger Mueller Constellation Research
Salesforce Customer 360

Einstein AI. A cross platform (good – much better than the Apple announcement) conversational assistant is coming in 2019. Cross platform (Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri mentioned – Cortana notably but not surprisingly absent) support is important, the challenges to get the voice corpus for the dynamic customer and contact name space right – are massive. Will be interesting to see how this will work – the benefits to CRM users will be substantial. It also means that neural networks are the tool of choice, the analyst track talk by Robert Socher was all about neural networks (in contrast to last year, where neural networks where just one of many analytical algorithms…). But deployment, runtime, platforms and deep learning questions were all skirted in a Q&A. 

Einstein Voice - The most prominent member of the Einstein family at Dreamforce Holger Mueller Constellaton Rsearch
Einstein Voice - The most prominent member of the Einstein family at Dreamforce

AWS and Salesforce partner. 2 years ago, the key IaaS partner was AWS, now it was Google, now it's back to show progress with AWS – making connections safe, using e.g. the AWS Call Center product (begs for questions) and more. This is where the real work is happening, as Salesforce is trying (still) to move of its old, Oracle based infrastructure, towards the public cloud for its core SalesCloud, ServiceCloud and all Apex based offerings.

AWS and Salesforce partnership - Holger Mueller Constellation Research
AWS and Salesforce partnership
Source: Salesforce Keynote


It was the usual mega event for Salesforce, it's partners and its users. Attendees were optimistic and looking forward on innovation to come in 2019. Good to see the shift towards more neural network-based AI, which at the moment is clearly the AI technology of choice. Good to keep Einstein's voice efforts cross platform. But details were not shared – where does Salesforce plan to build all these models, where does the data have to be, etc. Good to see what MuleSoft is ultimately about, pulling off Customer 360 – if Salesforce managed to implement this architecture (and get customer to pay for it) – it may justify the princely cost of MuleSoft. To be fair – that is little of concern for Salesforce users, who they want to see value coming form their vendor overall, across the product suite.

On the concern side, the logistical challenges for a conference are massive and Moscone being under construction does not help. The problem is, that the conference is getting too big and the format needs a refresh. That may also be the whole Trailhead concept from an exhibition theme, I am sure it was not left unnoticed by Salesforce marketeers. The Apple partnership is not balanced – Apple is the big winner, Salesforce a little and CIOs and developers loose, as mentioned above. It's high time for Benioff and his team to show some customer empathy and use Salesforce on an Android device – for a few weeks. That will make sure Salesforce has eyes and ears on record for where likely the majority of its mobile users are. And no word on Salesforce re-platform efforts towards AWS (hence a lot of partner announcements) and Google (zilch…) – which is the real story on what keeps Salesforce developers busy. This was the opportunity to share an update, some kind of roadmap, but it did not happen…

But overall Dreamforce is an impressive event, customers are happy, partners a little less, as they keep draining their marketing budgets for the event – and seem to get less of a return year after year. Salesforce is better advised for partners to spend their precious marketing $s at their and other events – than at Dreamforce. The selected showcase customer concept in keynotes is very well executed, Salesforce leads with it across all events this year, beyond the keynotes, e.g. with bill boards all over San Francisco. The celebration of end users and admins as Trailblazer coupled with the Trailblazer Learning (kudos to Salesforce for calling it now what it is) community is one of the efforts in the industry. Salesforce now needs some compelling CRM thought leadership in the 21st century CRM best practices ensure its lead not only from a market share, but also a thought leadership perspective.

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