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Observations from Dreamforce 2012

September 20, 2012
Luke Burns

I was at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference yesterday with 95,000 of my closest friends. Seriously, that’s how many people registered for this event. It’s an impressive display of organizational prowess and the Salesforce team puts on a great show. The keynote yesterday morning featured lots of slick videos and loud music. It also included appearances by Tony Robbins, The Cake Boss and MC Hammer (and the evening was capped off by the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Thankfully the keynote also included some thoughts on technology. Here are some of my quick takeaways:

  1. Predictably, the main theme was the convergence of cloud, mobility and social. Building upon its launch in 2010, Chatter played a central role throughout, as it is the key capability empowering Salesforce’s next generation enterprise. This year Salesforce heavily pushed using Chatter to collaborate with people outside the organization (partners, customers, etc.). They even went so far as to include machines in the Chatter networks. They highlighted some work done with GE where they created social networks around GE jet engines (linking engineers, service reps, sales reps and the end customer with machine generated data from the jet engine). Pretty interesting.
  2. The Salesforce team announced Marketing Cloud, which combines many of the capabilities acquired from their recent purchases of Radian6 and Buddy Media. It appeared to be a pretty comprehensive set of capabilities to monitor, react and proactively engage the social media sphere. This has been an area with lots of startup activity over the last several years, but it feels like the industry gorillas are starting to get their act together here with compelling, comprehensive offerings. This sector might be heading for a shakeout.
  3. Salesforce announced their Dropbox killer, Chatterbox. Just like Dropbox, users can select files to share to the cloud and these files will automatically sync to all relevant devices. The documents can then be shared socially through the Chatter platform and again automatically synced as the files are updated. This is another important step for Salesforce as they continue to push to become the primary IT system for enterprises – it not only threatens startups like Box and Dropbox, but is squarely aimed at Sharepoint.
  4. Another consistent theme was to work towards better integration across capabilities. This was highlighted with the Salesforce products (there are now six separate capabilities) but perhaps even more importantly it was highlighted with the developer community building apps for the App Exchange. I think there have been some growing pains here as customers have struggled to share data between Salesforce silos. Customers need relevant data to flow seamlessly from one application to the next and as the number of applications on the Salesforce platform has exploded, this interoperability problem has blossomed. It won’t be an easy problem to fix.

Predictably, the impact of the “cloud computing industry event of the year” was felt by our Ascent Index, which tracks industry buzz across a multitude of social channels. On Tuesday, the opening day of Dreamforce, the Index surged to a monthly high in mentions of “cloud computing” with more than 4,400 mentions. Yesterday’s total of 3,900 mentions also scored well above the September average of 3,100. It will be interesting to track noticeable long-term gains in mentions in the aftermath of Dreamforce, but the cloud is front and center this week both in San Francisco and online.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images / SF)

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