October 15, 2012
I go to many industry events in my job, and as the fall event season passes its peak, there is one event that has stayed with me a month after it was hosted. It's Dreamforce – salesforce.com’s annual event, which was held on Sept 18-21 in San Francisco and which attracted more than 90,000 users (per salesforce.com's count). It wasn’t the size that made this event noteworthy, even though it was the biggest event that salesforce.com had ever hosted. It wasn’t the energy that permeated the venue, the numerous DJs, the MC Hammer performance before Marc Benioff's keynote, or even the theatre that surrounded every product keynote. It was the “positive-ness” that customers, both big and small, voiced at the event – positive-ness that made you believe in the “social enterprise” vision of the company, and that the company could deliver its ability to connect customers, partners, employees, and even products together.
Instead of focusing on features, functions, and product road maps, salesforce.com kept most messaging at the high level, hitting on the notes of “what do these applications do for me” and “why should I be interested?” Salesforce.com used customers and customer videos from the likes of Activision, Rossignol, GE, and Burberry, to name a few, to describe the real impact that salesforce.com has had on these companies. Some stories were down to earth – like Activision’s use of social channels to provide customer service to its customers. Some were more extreme – like GE’s using Chatter communities to monitor the health and performance of jet engines (engineers and products collaborating??).
Focusing on the tactical announcements that salesforce.com made for the Service Cloud, I found that there were no transformational capabilities announced – just a solidification of the company's foundational offerings. Some announcements that caught my eye were the introduction of chatter communities for service to facilitate peer-to-peer engagement and escalation to assisted service, knowledge management enhancements, and case management enhancements (case feeds, email to case capture, customizations of case feeds, Chatter answers, proactive notifications, etc.), showing that salesforce.com is hardening its product and filling in the gaps of missing capabilities.
Dreamforce was a great event. And, pragmatically looking at the Service Cloud sessions, I thought they were a good balance between the tactical (like all the ICMI sessions of measurement and agent training), product content (like the road map presentations), and the pragmatic, near-term future of customer service and where it fits into the customer experience management ecosystem. This was all buoyed by the vision of the power of the social enterprise – a vision that Marc Benioff sells very well.