Dreamforce Key Takeaways
Dreamforce 2021 is in the books, and as usual Salesforce delivered an amazing experience. After 20 years of ever-increasing growth, Dreamforce had ballooned into one of the largest tech conferences on the planet. With annual attendance exceeding 150,000 people, every aspect of the event had become a spectacle, not least of which was getting 150,000 people into one city to talk all things CRM. Amazing speakers, A-list celebrities and musical acts, magnificent networking, product sales, and an avalanche of swag dominated the 4/5-day affair.
Like many facets of life, 2020’s pandemic threw a wrench into last year’s version of the conference. Salesforce scrambled to get a virtual offering out the door. But between the pandemic uncertainty and significant political and social matters dominating America’s attention. Needless to say, the 2020 iteration of the event was subdued with a few keynotes and online sessions, but understandably not with the usual panache.
With a year to prepare, Dreamforce 2021 returned with a bang. Salesforce landed on a nice blend of in-person and online experiences, inviting just 5000 people to the San Francisco location. In person attendees raved about the event, while online visitors had an extraordinary virtual experience that was truly tailored to reach both audiences. Let’s cover a few key take-aways:
If you attended any key-note or session for more than 5 minutes, there’s a good chance you heard speakers discuss the importance of trust. While this age-old value has always been vital, there are plenty of reasons this topic is relevant today. As the world continues to be more on-line/virtual/automated, companies must work incredibly hard to earn and retain customers’ trust. For one, companies must demonstrate that they will deliver on the goods and services offered, as well as customer support that customers expect. For another thing, businesses must clearly demonstrate that they safeguard private information from their customers, as we’ve seen too many breaches in recent years. Furthermore, in an era where some individuals and organizations willfully spread misinformation through various forms, companies must be conscious of their own messaging to ensure that they deliver factual and authentic messages to clients.
CEO Marc Benioff discussing trust and rocking amazing shoes
Trust doesn’t end with the client, though. Business-to-Business trust is vital as organizations work together to grow and take on the world’s new challenges. Of course, the trust between employers and their employees might be the most important of all. The saying goes “take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.” This extends to trust as well. Companies who earn their employees’ trust will sustain a team that earns customers’ trust, too.
A first-time attendee to Dreamforce might think, “for being a tech conference, they sure do like to talk about trees.” Fair point. Dreamforce veterans know that Salesforce has always had a philosophical and – – for that matter – a spiritual connection with nature. Starting with the Hawaii origin and ties from CEO Mark Benioff and continuing through to today, Salesforce as a company has always prided itself in being part of environmental solutions. This year the emphasis was on rebuilding a worldwide tree population that has been ravaged by 50%, mostly through human action. The headline goal is to plant 1 billion new trees in conjunction with some great partners and organizations. However, several sessions delved into sustainability on topics like business contribution to sustainability and the impact of water sustainability.
The topic also led to the announcement of Sustainability Cloud, an app that enables businesses to quickly track, analyze and report reliable environmental data to help them reduce their carbon emissions. Salesforce has created infrastructure before for the pandemic and other situations such as disaster relief. This is just the latest instance of Salesforce putting their money – and platform – where their mouth is to evolve their system to assist in real-world challenges.
Many of the special guest speakers discussed the topic of diversity in their messaging. Will Smith covered his career path and what he is doing now to help the next generation have their voice heard. Wanda Sykes discussed the challenges she faced, how things have changed, and how we still have a ways to go. Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber discussed her career path, leadership lessons and challenges as a woman going up through the ranks to the highest level. Aly Raisman discussed women using their voice to protect themselves and stand up against predators and other people who would harm them or hold them back.
Streaming dominates the world of content and consumer attention, and Salesforce enters the area with the release of Salesforce Plus. The platform is free and will include content surrounding the ecosystem. This will range from general business topics and practices, informational product updates, partner featurettes, and allegedly even a mascot show.
The service was rolled out just in time for Dreamforce and made attending the event online very easy. Viewers could see upcoming content and flip between sessions as easily as flipping channels on the TV. Non-Dreamforce content is already available, and sessions from #DF21 were often up within 24 hours, if not the same day as the live version. It will be interesting to see how the platform is used moving forward, and what content “pops.”
The Slack acquisition has dominated the business headlines, including coverage on CNBC, Fox Business, and the Wall Street Journal. As businesses transform into fully remote or hybrid models, Slack continues to be a critical platform for team collaboration and communication. This fed into the discussion of the “Digital Headquarters” where organizations are less dependent on physical office space and shift to a work-from-home/work-from-anywhere model. Many Salesforce users were already Slack users, and the combination of the two should only make life easier. Speakers were quick to clarify that Slack will not be replacing mainstay feature Chatter, but rather augmenting it. This will be interesting to see how it develops.
6. Tableau and Mulesoft
Two recent additions to the Salesforce family, Mulesoft was acquired in 2018 and Tableau the following year in 2019. Mulesoft has long been an industry leader in integrating applications and securely managing data transferring between them. Likewise, Tableau is one of the leaders in data management, data visualization, and business intelligence sector. Now with two and three years’ respective partnership, these tools continue to be further integrated and embedded with Salesforce as a whole.
Recent Salesforce Acquisitions faring well
Speakers discussed how they are using Mulesoft and Tableau. Mulesoft users spoke of the ease with which they can transfer and update data between systems. Tableau speakers discussed how data visualization and business analytics – especially in conjunction with Einstein – have made their lives easier, and provided them with valuable insights into their own operations. Expect that Mulesoft, Tableau, and Slack will all continue to be fundamental partners for the Salesforce ecosystem for the foreseeable future.
7. Other topics
Of course, there were numerous other topics covered. On the process automation front, Salesforce confirmed that Workflow and Process Builder will eventually be deprecated. In the short term, the tools will still work, but eventually organizations will not be able to create new Workflows/Processes (only update existing ones). Flow is clearly the tool of choice moving forward. At this point anything in Workflow or Process Builder can be done in Flow, so organizations are encouraged to start migrating in that direction as future developments in the Process Automation world will be geared towards that tool.
Service Cloud got a nice enhancement with Omni-Channel Flow. This will really help companies with customer service and support, especially those with complex support processes. Additionally, Einstein AI capabilities provide another practical application of the Einstein product. This time, it can be used with Service Cloud to help classify cases to make use of Omni-Channel Flow and other flows.