If you’re a CEO, CMO, CIO or VP of Sales interested in growing and scaling your company--fast--with technology, you should have gone to Dreamforce13! The world's top thought leaders in business and technology spoke there, and provided critical insight on how the latest and greatest in cloud technology is solving real-world business problems.
This year I had the opportunity to attend Dreamforce 13 in beautiful San Francisco (yes, even with the constant drizzle). It was my first Dreamforce conference, and it was a fascinating event. It was a vibrant scene overflowing with interesting and exciting attendees and ideas. For me, the big buzz this year was about the "Internet of Everything," also known as ubiquitous computing.
DF13 was a must-attend conference, but if it wasn't on your agenda this year, here are 10 key takeaways from Dreamforce 13:
1. Cloud computing has reached critical mass and has become the defacto operating system of choice for business computing. Today, the Salesforce Dreamforce conference is the largest software conference in the world. Only the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas is bigger. Keep in mind, Dreamforce didn’t get this big by accident. Companies have been seeking business applications that produce fast time-to-value for a long time. Salesforce and cloud-based software is fullfilling that need. What was once only the domain of enterprise customers can now be purchased by the SMB market. As a point of reference, over 135,000 people attended the conference and the 1,200 sessions were packed to capacity. In fact, many of the sessions were sold out far ahead of time. Just in case you weren’t paying attention, Jim Cramer covered the opening of the event on live the Mad Money show on November 18 on CNBC.
2. Dreamforce is where "The Cloud" gets real. For the past several years there has been a lot a hype behind the term "cloud computing." Turn on Bloomberg TV,CNBC or read the Wall Street Jounal and you're bombarded with ads or stories about "The Coud." According to Gartner Research's Technology Hype Cycle, there has been so much hype around cloud computing that we are now in the "trough of disillusionment" in 2013 for cloud computing. While the tech analysts may think everone is disillusioned with cloud software, at Dreamforce you get to see how cloud computing is solving real-world business problems today. From the technology keynotes to the exhibit hall with over 350 vendors, Dreamforce was where the fog behind the term "cloud computing" lifted and you got to see what you can actually do with cloud software. Based on my observations on the number of applications demontsrated at Dreamforce, we are quickly entering a new age of productvity with cloud software.
3. Salesforce.com is at the center of the universe when it comes to building cloud computing ecosystems. Over 350 cloud vendors exhibited at Dreamforce this year. These vendors (aka, ISVs) sell cloud software that allows you to easily extend the functionality of Salesforce into just about every area of your business today. There were so many vendors this year they were spread across multiple exhibit halls at the Moscone center. Keep in mind all of these vendors have placed a major bet on the Salesforce platform and ecosystem. First-time startups who exhibited at the smallest booths had to pony up $20,000 to be there. The vendors that I spoke to during the lunch breaks said the booths more than paid for themselves.
4. Value is created by integrating with multiple systems easily. One of the key elements behind Salesforce.com's success is its ability to integrate quickly with other cloud-based software solutions -- fast. Need accounting integration? Go to the AppExchange and install the app for your accounting package. Need marketing automation integration? Go to the AppExchange. There are close to 2,000 business apps on the Salesforce app exchange and over 10,000 installs every month. Unlike Google Play and the iTunes store, these are real-world enterprise class business applications that produce ROI and not toy entertainment applications. Want to be agile? Make sure any software package you buy today has a robust integration with Salesforce.com
5. APIs are everything. If you publish a robust API that is easy for developers to use, you will exponentially multiply the number of people who use your product. Salesforce has been an API pioneer for years and has made an even bigger commitment to it this year with its release of the Salesforce1 platform. The big news around the new API is the focus on mobilizing everything. More specifically, it makes it easy to design, build and publish secure mobile applications that expose Salesforce data to your employees and partners.
6. If you’re not using Salesforce as your CRM system, you’re at a competitive disadvantage. Why? Salesforce is much more that a CRM system. It’s a platform and ecosystem that allows your company to be agile and respond to business needs quickly. So if you want to be a truly customer centric organization that responds to customer needs in real time, Salesforce should be your CRM system of choice.
7. B2B companies are early adopters of new cutting-edge techology. This is especially true when it come to the internet of everything (IOE) and machine-to-machine communication (M2M). While people were giggling about the impracticality of Google Glass (those new eyeglasses from Google), the technologists at Phillips Ultra Sound division are putting that technology to good use with their field service technicans. During the opening keynote, we watched a demonstration of a field tech using Google Glasses to provide augmented reality to troubleshoot a problem with an ultrasound machine. If you'd like to see this demo, check out the keynote (fast forward to 1hr 14 min): http://youtu.be/j6ueRQBfRPQ.
8. The ability to understand and truly know your customer has reached new heights. With Salesforce at the core of your customer ecoystem you can greatly enhance your knowlege of their needs. Want to know what your customers and prospects are reading on your website? Install one of the many marketing automation platforms that integrate with Salesforce. Want to stay on top of which customers are satified with your customer service? Turn on the Service Cloud product.
9. Data quality will make or break your business. According to the Data Warehousing Institute, 600 billion in lost revenue is due to bad data. Having high-quality data at the right time and knowing how to leverage it will give you a distinct competitive advantage. The key to having clean high-quality data starts with your CRM system. To that end, Salesforce has created Data.com, which is a product within Salesforce which appends and cleans your customer data. Under the hood, it uses D&B data and data mined from the web to help keep your CRM records up to date. Data.com is just one of the many data tools available to keep your CRM data clean.
10. Beware of trade show hype. At the end of the day the goal of any major software trade show is to sell software. The best of the best are presenting and selling their wares at Dreamforce, and what is not said is as important as what is said during presentations. That's why most presentations start with the safe habor disclosure. Consequently, all technology buyers should do their homework and not rely on forward-looking statements when making major purchasing decisions. The good news is the business model behind all successful cloud software companies is built upon satisfying customers for the long term and living up to the promises made.
If you’re thinking about attending Dreamforce in 2014, here are few things to keep in mind: make sure you preregister for the sessions you are interested in early and book your hotel reservation far in advance. One more thing: bring comfortable shoes! The conference is so big that it is spread across several hotels across the city and you may have to walk a few blocks between sessions. Oh, and bring an umbrella.