Monday – Last week, I attended my third Dreamforce. Once again, the Salesforce.com customer event in San Francisco exceeded its previous participation with over 130,000 registered attendees, turning the four days into another “Dreamforce Happening”.
Great emotions arose during the opening speech given by CEO Marc Benioff who surprised some with his speech, spending at least the first half hour highlighting the 1/1/1 charity model of the Salesforce.com foundation, particularly the projects in Haiti. Prominently emphasizing charitable work of a technology provider in that way is something I had never experienced before, and certainly not something I can imagine of every CEO and every company. That’s not to say that other companies are less charitable. But try to imagine this scenario playing out just once at SAP or Oracle. Marc Benioff’s personality fits this perfectly – he not only does good, but also likes talking about it to motivate others in the process. It’s exactly this personality that garners emotional support from employees, partners and customers of Salesforce.com. This fact can’t be ignored, in my opinion. Really, it’s just the opposite – the multiplier effect, where dedicated employees impact partners and customers, partners impact customers who keep the ball rolling within a user company, is often underestimated. In reality, most companies lack such leading figures.
In addition to the emotions, there were also some innovations. For one thing, “Salesforce1” was introduced as a new platform. The introduction reminded me of an event with Eric Schmidt from Google at Dreamforce 2011. At that time, Schmidt said in an interview with Benioff that next generation developers will initially develop applications for mobile devices that also feature local and social characteristics. Given this new platform and the corresponding marketing, Salesforce.com cannot only renew that message but also elegantly circumvent some of its technical challenges. Through acquisitions over recent years, there’s been an accumulation of some underlying platforms that allegedly provide easier access via APIs.
The “Salesforce Superpod” presented in cooperation with HP is another innovation. This hardware is a dedicated instance in the multi-tenant enabled Salesforce.com environment, a kind of private cloud or hosting that allows the company to experience all the benefits of a public cloud. The Superpod should only be offered to large customers for an additional though currently undetermined fee. Obviously Salesforce.com is taking a half a step back from its previously publicized “exclusive” public cloud strategy to attract customers who had been exercising caution partially due to legal and/or security and respectively privacy reasons. If in the future this Superpod is also offered in data centers in other countries which were previously critical of it, considerable opportunities will open up. Admittedly, it begs the question: what happens if more than a few large companies accept the offer? Salesforce.com will probably settle on pricing.
Aside from these technical aspects, the company’s aggressive sales targets really caught my attention. While I was still holding on last year that Salesforce.com was acting like a kind of “hidden champion”, it now presents itself differently. Sessions for software, consulting and implementation partners revealed the company’s great ambitions. Potential opportunities in the service sector within the Salesforce.com ecosystem would double over the coming years. In addition, the expected annual sales target for fiscal year 2015 is five billion USD. The long-term goal is to bring the company to an annual run rate of 20 billion USD. The company is obviously up to something!
Note the following:
There’s still enough leeway to grow aggressively since the company’s focus is certainly not limited to CRM just as Work.com’s development already demonstrates. Additionally, the company does not carry as many “inherited liabilities” around as the established competitors and can therefore continue to operate in an agile and focused way. Growth at any price, though, should not be the only goal.
Salesforce.com is consistently expanding its vision and its existing products. The Superpod bid now allows some companies to enter the cloud. What remains questionable is definitely the pricing.
Salesforce.com has ambitious growth and sales targets. However, their own services play a relatively small role in generating sales compared to established software providers. Instead, the goal is to assist partners in generating sales and to invest in these partners.
This much is clear: Salesforce.com cannot reach its long-term sales goals alone from applications in the CRM environment. Analytical applications Benioff responded to in a question and answer session with customers represent only a portion of the portfolio in the long run. “Every application is re-viewed, re-thought and re-engineered.” That was already mentioned last year in connection with Work.com and hasn’t changed as far as I’m concerned.
Gaining emotional support from employees, partners and customers is not to be underestimated as a multiplier. In this case, competitors can learn a thing or two from Marc Benioff or other protagonists without imitating.
Considering the anticipated anew “Happening” next year, I’ll close: “The next Dreamforce is just around the corner”.