The campground for business reopened for the first time since the pandemic in September welcoming business leaders, MVPs, Trailblazers, developers and yes, even us analysts back to the familiar embrace of the forest. Truth be told I was expecting more of a “first day of camp” excitement vibe running through the crowd. Instead, what I felt was an intense desire to get back to the work of running a business on Salesforce.

That’s not to say the feeling wasn’t celebratory…it’s simply to say that the Salesforce community was ready to get back to it. As the theme of Dreamforce 2022 stated: it was a family reunion. And this family WORKS. The pared down footprint allowed the community to rally and gather, but also allowed for a more focused experience where live attendees could really dive into areas of interest, get knee deep into demos and have more time with subject matter experts in core solutions across the Salesforce portfolio. Thanks to the ongoing content being streamed on Salesforce+, virtual attendees were pulled into the campground with special features and behind the scenes views exclusive to the audience at home. (If you missed it, of course, you can still check out Dreamforce 2022 on Salesforce+.)

One thing that was exactly as expected was the opening keynote from the familiar Hawaiian blessing to the star-studded special guests (let’s just get this out of the way…Nobody but NOBODY will ever say no to a Lenny Kravitz moment to start the day.) What stood out was the dynamic between the co-CEOs, Marc Benioff with his larger-than-life exuberance and Bret Taylor with his pragmatic, steadying presence.

In 2020, I tweeted that I was exceedingly concerned that Marc Benioff needed a hug. He was there, standing alone in Salesforce Park looking glum and repeatedly saying “this isn’t the Dreamforce we wanted” with no audience and only Bret to keep him company. If he needed a hug, he got it in 2022, walking around the stage celebrating the growth of Salesforce while even taking a moment to deliver kudos to SAP on reaching their 50th anniversary.

The keynote exemplified the balance that the co-CEOs seem to bring to the overarching leadership of Salesforce itself: dreams of massive, unfettered innovation and the steady pragmatic knowledge that takes those dreams and turns them into reality. The ultimate display of this partnership was when Benioff playfully slapped bunny ears on himself to joyously herald the entry of Genie to the Salesforce fold. Without missing a beat, laughing and rolling with the fun, Taylor proceeded to interview the digital leader of Ford Motors about their capacity to transform their driver and customer experience with Salesforce. Nothing to see here folks…just another day at the office. Moments later, Taylor had his own bunny ears, willing to join the fun to the thrill of the MVPs sitting one section away. Yes, there is a playfulness. But through the entire keynote, you didn’t just see the co-respect of these co-CEOs, you could feel it.

Now to the meat of Dreamforce: the announcements. Genie was the big magical reveal. Salesforce more directly calls this data service a hyperscale real-time data platform. Genie extends the power of traditionally siloed Marketing CDP to the entirety of the customer experience (CX) front line. Intended as a shared service across all clouds, Genie, as one would expect from a CDP, unifies and harmonizes a broad and complex array of customer data into a persistent record of a customer, available to power personalization and focused, relevant engagement regardless of function.

This is, as I have often argued, the true value of a CDP. There is a reason the CDP is NOT called a Marketing Data Platform…its value will never be fully realized if relegated to being a marketing toy for marketing things.

Genie focuses on what can be learned about the customer and shares that with any user. Think of this as bi-directional context: based on the context of the Salesforce user (eg: Marketing Cloud, Sales Cloud or Service Cloud user) Genie unearths and uplevels insights, automated actions and engagement optimization recommendations specific to the context of a customer or customer segment. It takes the context of the customer and binds that to the context of the business user to make…well…magic.

What elicited cheers from the Dreamforce audience was Genie’s capacity to help normalize and harmonize data…cleaning up the pathways that turn random stacks of data into individual, more comprehensive and complete customer records. The reality of customer records is that for every one customer, there are 900+ systems that collect data from or about that customer. So instead of Liz…you have Lizx900. Personalization occurs by accident in this scenario. Thanks to Genie’s capacity to reconcile data and identifiers, the haze and exhaust surrounding a persona turns crystal clear and becomes a person that can be engaged with regardless of where that person has engaged.

This is just the beginning of the Genie journey. Yes, Genie is battle-tested…both by Salesforce using Genie to run Dreamforce and as the CDP unleashed in the Marketing cloud use case since October 2020. Genie is generally available today, applied within the specific clouds (as in Service Genie, Sales Genie and Marketing Genie) but expect to see those use case applications start to evolve into cross cloud opportunities.

While Genie was Dreamforce’s big clap of thunder, I couldn’t help but lean in and take note of some of the “smaller” yet equally important announcements including the updates and upgrades coming to Slack. It would be hard to argue that the demand for collaboration tools has quieted in the last year. In fact, leaders are daring their teams and their tech to enable and empower collaboration in new and more visual ways. This is what makes Slack’s new features in Slack huddles a welcome addition. While huddles have always simulated that group meeting concept of popping into a conference room for a quick meeting at the office into the digital HQ by including groups to spontaneously huddle, react, send an Astley or 10, white board, take notes and share screens, now you can include video into that mix while staying in one familiar place where ever that physical place might be. Once that meeting is over, the newly launched canvas becomes the digital surface that captures all of the output and resulting actions and notes that came out of that huddle.

If canvas feels familiar…it should for Salesforce’s Quip faithful. Quip has been fully integrated with Slack giving you an interactive content repository and space for background, key information, content and notes.

It wouldn’t be a Dreamforce wrap up without making mention of Einstein. While the little fellow didn’t make too many virtual pop ins, you could sense that unlike previous years where Einstein was talked about almost like an application that turned on or off….2022 was the year that Einstein started being spoken about as a unifying shared service…a service that was now being unleashed into a massive new pool of data being harmonized thanks to Genie. This eclectic pair are poised to truly reshape how intelligence is gathered and served across the Salesforce ecosystem. Also watch for a LOT more with the combination of Genie, Einstein and flow. This won't just be a matter of more AI or even about AI having access to more data. This is about automating a broad array of possible actions (and reactions) based on the insights and understanding of that data.

Yes. It was nice to head back to camp. But it was even better to see just how energized and ready to work all the campers were. Dare I say it…everyone was ready for a little magic…and with products in GA and teams ready to run…Dreamforce delivered.