Having just returned from my trip to the US for DreamForce, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the news (see here and here) from the event. I wanted to write up  post that takes a more thoughtful look at what was, and was not, announced, and what this means for the longer term salesforce story.

First up however it is worth looking at my pre-show predictions, and seeing how I did. I predicted

  • A more substantive approach from salesforce that saw them concentrate on actually delivering to their vision [I picked that one pretty well]
  • An ERP uber alliance between NetSuite or Workday and saleforce [salesforce scored a mini-coup by brining Workday, Infor and Concur along on its social enterprise mission]
  • PaaS going multi-language [yup, I picked that one right]
  • A lightweight CRM[not yet, but watch this space in the next few months, partners will do it]
  • Lots of parties [you betcha!]

So all in all I predicted pretty well. But what does DreamForce 2011 really mean? Firstly I would classify this year’s event as one of consolidation. In the past 12 months we’ve seen some massive news come out of 1 Market Street – the acquisitions of Heroku and Radian6 and development of the Chatter platform. 2011 was all about tying these things together in a way that made for a compelling and consistent story – this story went under the title of the “Social Enterprise” and, rather than being simply another example of hyperbole – it does wrap a consistent theme around where salesforce is going, and how their product offerings deliver on that promise.

While it would have been fun to see some big acquisitions announced at DreamForce – I believe that the real opportunity isn’t so much in giving us media big meaty news to cover, but rather in delivering upon an ongoing vision – to wrap a new way of working around an enterprise – one that encourages collaboration, discovery, efficiency and one which gives organizations a better chance of succeeding in their objectives. I have to concur with Susan Scrupski on this one – Marc Benioff has become the voice of the new enterprise generation – the video below was played as the DreamForce keynote got underway – while many will call it little more than a significant dose of kool-aide, I see it as more than that, it’s a video full of examples of what this connected and social world looks like for the world – taking in examples as diverse as the Arab spring to locations based deals, from cars connected with their owners to crisis relief in a post Tsunami Japan.

While it may have been exciting for the attendees to hear of a few more hundred million dollar acquisitions by salesforce – it was arguably far more important for them to hear Benioff’s vision for the future of enterprise and, by extension, our world.

So the things that got me excited and thinking that we might just be changing the world;

  • The fact that Infor, Workday and Concur are integrating with Chatter start to indicate the value proposition of a communication channel that transcends the inflexible borders of enterprise software and weaves its way through all the systems of note in an organization – it’s the communication bus of the future. AL of a sudden HR processes (from Workday) ERP data (Infor) and Travel and expense management (Concur) have a common social language
  • The fact that with data.com, organizations will be able to harness information about a contact from multiple sources and always look at the most up-to-date information, all in one place. It’s early days and data.com could be much more than what it is now, but it’s a first step
  • The case studies of organizations using Heroku to build and deploy applications that would have never been able to meet the cost/benefit requirements of the enterprise of old
  • The unveiling of Kenandy’s ambitious attempt to re-think what manufacturing software really needs to be in this connected world. The supply chain gains its own social language
  • The combined launch of touch.salesforce.com and SeesmicCRM – bringing enterprise software to connected devices anywhere and everywhere
  • With DRO organizations can choose to have the most sensitive of their data remain on-premise, but still “talk to” their cloud applications and processes

DreamForce tied all of these things together and delivered them in a way that showed just how much they’ve moved on from their origins as a CRM company. While CRM might be their ticker – they’re very much an enterprise powerhouse now. Oliver Marks hit the head on the nail when he wrote that;

Businesses of all sizes all over the world are struggling to apply a contextual lenses in relation to their technology needs to all these fuzzy-to-them cloud concepts

Salesforce takes what is, essentially a technology driven concept “cloud” and applies it as the enabler to a changing world – out of the bottom of this drops the technologies, but more importantly the messages that allow salesforce to look, from the sidelines at least, like a contender to challenge the incumbent technology behemoths.

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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