We had the opportunity to attend the analyst meeting of Salesforce, held January 3rd till 5th nicely located at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. Despite the early time, Salesforce got an impressive range of influencers to the event, even travelling as far as Europe. And it was well worth it, as it was the most comprehensive insight into Salesforce I have experienced in my 3.5+ years covering the vendor.


So, take a look at my musings on the event here (pardon for the bad lighting, but I really liked the skyline and you know my face ...):
(if the video doesn’t show up, check here)

No time to watch – here is the one slide condensation (if the slide doesn’t show up, check here):
Want to read on? Here you go: Always tough to pick the takeaways – but here are my Top 3:

Platform Focus is CRM – Salesforce has a substantial PaaS business under the Salesforce App Cloud brand name. Like every traditional application vendor, it has the challenge to position itself as apps vs platform overall (this is more platform at the moment per Parker Harris) and add-on / extend PaaS vs all-purpose PaaS. The interesting insight courtesy of Adam Seligman was that now Salesforce sees itself as PaaS around customer, basically for CRM. 

On the IaaS side of the platform (where Salesforce announced its partnership with AWS – read here), Salesforce is on track to run all its products on AWS in Montreal as announced. As Harris shared, the Oracle portion of the stack will also run on AWS (but on Oracle), though not in RAC mode. A very important step for Salesforce to reduce its CAPEX into infrastructure, a key move for data privacy and residency and last but least for performance of the applications. 
Salesforce Constellation Research Holger Mueller Enterprise Software Musings
Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris with Bruce Richardson
Meta -Tenancy – A lot of confusion (still) exists around multi-tenancy – but Salesforce was not shy to introduce another tenancy term – Meta-Tenancy. With that Salesforce means the process of de-coupling products, exposing more services and allow an overall more composite (remember mesh?) application architecture. It allows Salesforce to e.g. centralize what the vendor runs under ‘trust’ (Security, Single Sign-On etc.) – all very important given the fact that Salesforce runs on a heterogenous system landscape. And that trend will not slow down, given e.g. that Salesforce acquired vendors at the rate of $4B last year. Moving to a more composite, layered, shared service architecture makes a of sense here. 
Salesforce Constellation Research Holger Mueller Enterprise Software Musings
5 Transformers of Enterprise Software per Salesforce
Platform perspective is key for Einstein – The most prominent service of recent time for Salesforce has been and remains Einstein, its AI ambition. So far Salesforce has largely brought together existing offerings, but also shared a roadmap of capabilities coming in the next 12 months related to Einstein. But the vendor understands that there is only a limited number of data scientists, so enabling business users on a platform level will be key. Good to see that understanding, 2017 will be interesting to follow how Salesforce will deliver these capabilities. 
Salesforce Constellation Research Holger Mueller Enterprise Software Musings
5 Gentlemen, 6 Clouds
(ltr Blitzer - Sales & Service, Tippets - Marketing, Karkhanis - Analytics, Micucci - Social, Seligman - App)


A good event for Salesforce, good to see the roadmaps for all the different Salesforce products, which were all reasonable, we think attainable and realistic and most importantly deliver value for Salesforce customers. On the differentiation side, we are not so sure if Salesforce has hit the mark, but that would require more detailed product roadmap / plan analysis than a 2 day analyst meeting can deliver. What is clear is that for the first-time Salesforce is offering a strategic path to rid itself of its in-house infrastructure. As founder Parker Harris correctly observed, IaaS was not around when Salesforce was started… but by now it is best practice for a SaaS (and PaaS) provider to be based on an IaaS and leave the heavy lifting (and investing) to the IaaS players. My back of a napkin calculation is that if Salesforce could stop all in-house infrastructure spending immediately, it would be a profitable company… but of course that process will take a few years (if Salesforce really pulls the switch), and I expect Salesforce to invest the infrastructure savings into product capability (as the rest of the industry does). It was also good to see the talent of the Salesforce product bench – we spoke generally with development leaders removed by one or two organization levels from the CEO, many coming from acquired entities and presenting their products in a positive, competent and appealing way. Product talent matter and it is good to see that Salesforce has it.

On the concern side, Salesforce needs to rev up its development speed. As an example, we are seeing Lightning slides and products moving to Lightning now since more than three (?) years. And though Salesforce sits on a massive system, it is probably challenging the record for the lengthiest UX conversion overall, certainly in the CRM industry. But to be fair – these things always take time, and with the competition not delivering superior product either, it is good for Salesforce to focus on platform capabilities, synergies and its internal TCO to operate all of Salesforce applications.

Overall time well spent, the best insight into Salesforce in my analyst career, lots of exciting and value creating capabilities in the bag for 2017. Stay tuned. 
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