My takeaway from Dreamforce 2011: Convergence
Like years past (this was my 4th Dreamforce), I was eagerly awaiting of Marc Benioff’s keynote, not just because of the entertainment value, but because I was expecting to hear the about the ‘next Cloud’ as in the last couple of years. While the theme of the event was the Social Enterprise, I left thinking one word: Convergence. Unlike the previous years, I saw a vision that attempted to bring together many pieces of the enterprise puzzle together. I will not attempt to go in any depth in any of the individual components, and if you are looking for this, I recommend visiting the Enterprise Irregulars who have once more provided strong coverage of the event.
Here are the pieces of the puzzle as I perceived them coming together:
- Social Media: This was of course the theme and dominated much of the opening keynote. New product announcements, included new Chatter offerings (Chatter groups for both internal and external collaboration, Chatter Connect API for integration with other collaboration platforms like Microsoft’s SharePoint, Chatter Now- a new Instant Messaging platform, and Chatter Approvals for workflow integration), but also the integration of Radian6, the social listening and monitoring platform Salesforce acquired last spring. Most notable was the announcement of the capability to allow companies to build true social profiles for their customers and prospects integrated into data.com.
- Cloud: I am very surprised how little coverage this received, but Marc did announce a hybrid cloud offering with the new Data Residency Option (DRO) on database.com. According to the hasted announcement during his keynote, he declared that customers will be able to integrate data that resides behind their firewalls. I found this particularly interesting, especially because of his almost-religious views of the cloud in years past.
- Mobile: While Salesforce had some emerging capabilities previously, these were predominantly mobile-ported versions of its existing offerings. The two most notable announcements last week were native HTML5 support, and the complete revamp of the user experience leveraging the touch capabilities of today’s tablets and smart phones (both Android and iOS) under touch.salesforce.com.
- Content: While Salesforce entered this space with the acquisition of Jigsaw last year (which has since has morphed into data.com), I noticed a continued commitment to make this offering more enterprise-grade (beyond the mostly crowd-sourced data that currently powers data.com) with a partnership announcement with Dun and Bradstreet’s new D&B360 offering.
- Internet of things: Beyond a failed attempt to demo Toyota Friend during the keynote, there were mentions of humans interacting with Enterasys network switches and Coke vending machines. Given that according to IDC, there are more than 25B smart / embedded devices out there today, this I believe is a very smart move.
- Analytics / Business Intelligence: This area has traditionally been one of Salesforce’s Achilles’ heels. While there were no major product announcements, I saw more dashboards and drill-down capabilities embedded into workflows.
This is by no means a small vision, and unlike previous years, it focused less on the technology (after all, as disruptive as the cloud is, it still is a consumption / deployment model) and more on the potential business value it can provide. Only time will tell if Marc and Salesforce will be able to pull it off, and I am still puzzled by the narrower positioning of the event. As for me, I had hoped to build a Storify story to support this post, but the Twitter API crashed before even the keynote started.
As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome. I am particularly interested in the views of enterprise incumbents and disruptors alike….