At Dreamforce 2014, the annual conference for Salesforce.com users, there were many themes: mobile-first, customer-centric and data-intelligent were a few such trends on display.
But ultimately, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff showcased a customer relationship management platform that focuses on IT convergence, that is, converging information and systems. From the technology perspective, this means that various products are designed to work with one another -- and to stitch together mobile, social and analytics capabilities on the foundation of the cloud. [For all our coverage of Dreamforce 2014, check out our articles and video below; click on the sections at left: News, Salesforce.com and Dreamforce.]
From the user perspective, the idea is to take silos of experience and join them together --whether these silos are applications or devices; back-office apps or webpages; CRM, ERP or financial data. The goal is to join these silos to deliver a better user experience and to enable that ever-elusive goal: the single view of the customer, or the 360-degree view.
"Salesforce has developed -- and has been delivering on -- a comprehensive and integrated vision for how customers will engage digitally with businesses," wrote Dion Hinchcliffe in a piece on Dreamforce 2014 highlights. "Also core to their products is the capability for businesses to reach customers in all channels."
With its various offerings, from the Sales and Service Clouds to Wave, the analytics offering, and from the Marketing Cloud to Salesforce Lightning, the idea is to join CRM data with other back-office information and third-party data to get a fuller picture of sales prospects and customers and to enable these views in a mobile-first, business-executive-friendly way. Tools like Lightning aim to help developers build in a mobile-first way and create custom apps that plug easily into Salesforce 1, the entire CRM platform.
New rollouts at DF14: Entrenching social, mobile and the cloud
Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud. Designed with a mobile-first mentality, the new analytics offering has been touted as "analytics for everyone," particularly for business users, who often lack the data expertise of a data analyst but need insights on customers.
Wave can number-crunch many millions of rows of data quickly, is built for mobile devices and targets business executives who need fast, digestible customer information -- without having to use apps like Excel to reach conclusions. The goal of the business intelligence app is that business executives "have all the information [they] need," said Stephanie Buscemi, SVP, about the Analytics Cloud, at the Wave product keynote at Dreamforce. Wave combines CRM data with other sources.
"It's not just customer account information -- not just Salesforce data," she said. "I have third-party inventory data from ERP, unstructured data, social data. It's not with my analyst or IT. It's with me to work with."
Wave has much going for it, but many users may already be entrenched with other business intelligence tools and not ready to switch. It's a trend that SearchCRM will keep a close eye on.
Sales Cloud. With this new mobile sales offering, the company is focusing on the way salespeople really work on the road and enabling that workflow in mobile-, social- and location-based ways.
The Sales Cloud uses as its starting point the mobile UI, or user interface, and makes it easier for reps to access customer account information and to use such location-based services as maps to navigate easily to a sales appointment, as well as third-party information to learn more about whom they might meet with.
"Why can't our business apps be as simple and intuitive to use as consumer apps?" asked Mark Woolen, SVP of product marketing for Sales Cloud.
Features including Notes and Tasks enable reps to take notes directly on a tablet during a sales meeting, then convert those notes into actionable tasks. The app also brings in third-party data for additional information on top customer accounts and provides a visual depiction of a customer's buying status in the lifecycle.
Sales Cloud has built-in intelligence as well as productivity apps, and is designed for easy access and use from anywhere because it's made for mobile devices and built on Salesforce 1.
Sales Cloud also uses Chatter, Salesforce's internal networking app, so sales reps can communicate with colleagues back at the office.
Service Cloud. The new Service Cloud is designed to eliminate friction points for customers as they work with service agents, and to give agents better insight into customers as they try to raise the bar on service.
The Service Cloud includes new features, such as an SOS button for interactive chat help from a service agent. SOS for Apps is similar to the Mayday button for the Amazon Fire Phone and provides in-context access to customer service with a live video connection to an agent, on-screen guided assistance and screen sharing.
The Agent Console is designed to give customer agents access to articles and other related material to help them resolve customer service issues or potentially upsell customers on related products.
Outfitted with the Salesforce Community Cloud, the company's new self-service communities enable customers to get their questions answered from experts and peers.
"These are WordPress-like templates that are part of Service Cloud 1 that any business user can," said Sarah Patterson, VP of product marketing for Service Cloud. "They can get a community spun up in a matter of minutes without needing to get technical support."
Marketing Cloud. The Marketing Cloud is designed to help marketing teams interact with customers with better intelligence in a more automated way. It includes features like Journey Builder for Apps, which enables a company to tailor marketing to particular customer profiles and preferences and automate message delivery to make these processes more efficient and accurate. The Marketing Cloud also enlists the intelligence and analytics to get deliver about customers and where they are in the purchasing journey. The Marketing Cloud also incorporates social features and group messaging.
Salesforce Lightning. Lightning is a set of development tools to help companies customize and deploy new apps to mobile devices running Salesforce1. It provides tools, a framework and a visual builder to build apps together "like Lego bricks," said Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris. Lightning isn't yet available on the tablet, but it will be later in the year and on the desktop in 2015, as well as in new wearables, like the Puls watch that musician will.i.am debuted at Dreamforce.
As Salesforce partners build apps for everything from restocking to QA testing, Lightning offers a database of reusable components that partners can fit for their own use. And there is no need to know how to code.
Have users caught up with converged systems?
But as collaboration and CRM expert Hinchcliffe noted, both users and the marketplace may not yet be ready for some of the changes that these new applications signal. Hinchcliffe wondered whether these new apps will enable users to be more productive and make more insightful decisions or whether this "torrent" of new technology will just overwhelm them.
There's also ample reason to ask whether companies saddled with legacy applications and data are ready to make the move. Some of these IT silos of data and applications aren't geared to the cloud or mobile and may not be simply converted there.
Despite these challenges, Dreamforce 2014 reveals the possibility of how converging IT systems might create more intelligent business processes for sales teams, marketers and business executives -- and a more frictionless experience for customers. At SearchCRM, we'll be watching these trends to see how they coalesce or converge.
With Dreamforce 2014 on the horizon, CRM experts and users talk about what they're anticipating at Salesforce.com's annual conference. In advance of the week-long event, Salesforce released new products, such as Sales Cloud1, Service Cloud1 and its much-awaited Analytics Cloud, Wave. Examining the state of the CRM market is also a topic of interest heading into Dreamforce.
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Reports, reactions from Dreamforce
Thousands flocked to San Francisco for Salesforce.com's annual user conference, Dreamforce, eager to try and solve their business problems and learn from industry colleagues. A hot topic proved to be Salesforce's Analytics Cloud, Wave, which was rolled out at the outset of the conference to a lukewarm reaction from users. The company also signaled an improvement in its relationship with Microsoft, while other topics included best practices on cleaning dirty data and implementing Salesforce on a large scale.
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The release of Wave was a hot topic at Dreamforce 2014. The much-awaited release of Salesforce's Analytics Cloud is a native business intelligence capability for its platform, giving users a visual representation of data without having to be a full-fledged analyst. Some customers see Wave as appealing, but there is hesitancy to commit at this early stage.
With Salesforce's announcement of its new, native analytics capability, users have access to a visual presentation of data that is mobile-friendly. But are companies ready to leave their existing business intelligence tools to adopt this new product?