Last year was the first time I attended salesforce’s DreamForce global conference (at least in person). DreamForce is a pretty intense event – tens of thousands of people, the entire Moscone center and most hotels and hospitality establishments in the vicinity are fully booked to cater for the multitude of geeks and salespeople descending on DreamForce.

Last year I wrote a forward looking post with my opinions around what we could expect from the event. My picks were;

  • Increasing attention to Chatter
  • More flexibility around pricing
  • Richer customization for lower priced versions of salesforce and
  • More moves to build the ecosystem

Overall I did OK with my projections – Chatter got amazing coverage at DreamForce 2011 and has continued to do so with high profile announcements around Toyota using Chatter internally. Pricing is still a point of contention, and with companies like Rollbase offering some pretty attractive options for salesforce users, salesforce needs to be careful to watch that they don’t get undercut by competitors. Potentially in response to this threat, salesforce inked a partnership with Intuit that apparently will see all QuickBooks’ four million customers offered a cut-down version of salesforce CRM. At the time I expressed some concern that this partnership was little more than vapor ware – significantly, despite the promise that this partnership would launch some actual product this (northern) summer, nothing has yet been released.

In terms of my ecosystem projection, the Heroku acquisition and the courting of the broader development community show that salesforce is serious about being a truly broad ecosystem provider – a list of their notable investments, acquisitions and hiring moves is instructive in this regard;

  • Salesforce acquired Radian6 in order to integrate social media monitoring to it’s platform and application products
  • Salesforce acquired Dimdim to add real time communications to it’s other social products
  • Salesforce acquired Manymoon – a social productivity application
  • Salesforce did the right thing and left Heroku alone to continue doing awesome stuff for developers
  • Meanwhile Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian gets to be smart on both the Heroku and the platform
  • Salesforce hired Ruby Creator Yukihiro Matsumoto to join the Heroku team
  • Heroku was broadened to support the Clojure language
  • salesforce invested in ServiceMax a field service software vendor

So… looking forwards to this year’s DreamForce in a couple of weeks, what can we expect…

Less Vaporware, More Substance

Previous DreamForce events have seen recurring announcements of partnerships between salesforce and large enterprise vendors. As salesforce grows to scale, it no longer needs these “partnerships” to build credibility, rather it’s own credibility in the CRM space allows it to build alternative revenue streams through acquisitions or internal development – we’ve already seen this with the Radian6 acquisition, I expect another couple of similar announcements to be made at DreamForce – possibly in the helpdesk/service desk space. As for previously announced partnerships that delivered nbothing of substance (VMForce anyone?), hopefully we’ve seen the end of those.

An ERP Uber-Alliance

Very much one from left-field, but something I’ve been talking about (only partially tongue in cheek) for awhile now. I’d also be less than surprised if I saw some kind ultra alliance between one of the cloud ERP vendors – in some ways NetSuite would be a good fit (similar company stories, similar target markets, some similar approaches) but the conflict between salesforce’s CRM product and NetSuite’s own product would seem to big a barrier. Perhaps Workday can step up and fill this role? Either way despite doing Ok in the market place, FinancialForce, the financial solution built on top of and partly owned by salesforce, isn’t setting the world on fire. I’d not be surprised to see salesforce cast an anxious eye in the direction of SAP and decide to fend off that risk by partnering with one of the more successful cloud ERP/financial vendors.

Uber PaaS Offerings

Already Heroku has broadened beyond Ruby on Rails with its support for Clojure, one slightly left field but eminently possible approach would be for salesforce to support .NET or Java on Heroku – this would close the loop in terms of enterprise development – for developing apps using common business data, Ruby for its speed, agility and ease of use, and .NET or Java for it’s undeniable widespread enterprise adoption. There’s no end of potential acquisition targets or partners when it comes to PaaS enablement.

CRM Lite

Despite the announcement with Intuit, we’ve as yet seen nothing come either directly from that or indirectly from salesforce to answer the needs of businesses to whom salesforce pricing is prohibitive. I’m still picking that we’ll see something substantive come, but possibly not at DreamForce.

More people, More parties, More hyperbole

DreamForce is always a blast, and Marc Benioff is the voice of aspiration – the ultimate showman, he’ll not give up the opportunity to proclaim, statesmanlike, the coming of a new age – previously it was the Cloud, last year seeing that moniker gaining widespread adoption he introduced Cloud2 – who knows what this years term will be. It’s safe to say though, whatever tack he takes, there’ll be 30000 people in the Moscon center hanging off his every word… And the front rows will be taken up by commentators and analysts trying to gaze through the smoke to see the real story from the show.


Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.


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