The annual Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference (Twitter: #DF12), just underway, may be the largest software conference ever, with attendance, physically and on the Internet, expected to be 90,000. Certainly, as one of the largest software events of 2012, this conference will be heavily covered via social media, while under the roof of the Moscone Center and surrounding hotels Salesforce will be demonstrating the power of using social media concepts in the enterprise and combining those concepts with collaboration software. Salesforce, which has become a cloud computing and software–as-a-service force in the industry, is publicizing its new efforts in marketing and in work applications. Once a conference for marketing and sales professionals, Dreamforce is now a technology and IT event that interests many IT organizations that are examining how renting software on the Internet can help their efforts and support their business priorities more efficiently than purchasing it.
Salesforce showcases its cloud computing partners in Dreamforce’s Cloud Expo, providing partners exposure before a large crowd of attendees – and not incidentally earning Salesforce large fees, as Salesforce is known to have the highest prices for exhibit space. Partners collectively will be spending tens of millions of dollars to be part of the event and entertain current and prospective customers. For others, the evening parties take on the life at Dreamforce which for most is the social highlight of the conference.
Salesforce still maintains that it is a “no software” business, but it is actually a “no on-premises software” business. The “no software” theme is tired; it was effective many years back against Siebel, Oracle, SAP and others, but now those companies have cloud-based application portfolios too. Nevertheless, Salesforce has been a leader at demonstrating how poorly IT sometimes performs at deploying applications and tools within the timeframes needed. This failure is not always the fault of IT, but purchasing, installing and deploying software has its challenges.
At Dreamforce Salesforce will demonstrate the power of using collaboration methods such as instant messaging, activity streams, web conferencing, video streaming, forums and other social techniques. This demonstration started in earnest last year with Salesforce Chatter Enterprise. Our benchmark research across business areas such as sales, customer service and workforce efforts finds that businesses are interested in taking advantage of these methods, but they are not yet on the top of anyone’s list.
In the sales organization, the applications that have the highest priority are sales forecasting, sales analytics, lead management, sales planning and tracking, commission and compensation and proposal, quote and contract. We found the importance of forecasting sales to be so critical that we are introducing a new benchmark in sales forecasting. Sales organizations are not putting a high priority on collaboration or social media, according to our 2012 benchmark measuring sales organization priorities, but they are increasingly interested. Our benchmark research found that analytics is the top priority in 77 percent of sales organizations, with collaboration at 63 percent, mobility at 50 percent and social media at 38 percent. Our research also found that 41 percent of sales organizations now prefer the software-as-a-service approach over on-premises for the first time. My dialogue with organizations using Salesforce is to get sales forecasting like Cloud9 Analytics provides today.
Sales organizations that do want to leverage social collaboration are most interested in broadcast, wall posting into activity streams and application sharing. All of these are part of Salesforce Chatter, which is tightly integrated into its applications or can operate in a stand-alone environment.
Salesforce will be introducing its Marketing Cloud suite and showing off the social media and collaboration methods it has expanded since its purchase of Buddy Media, which uses techniques and services to boost a company’s or product’s brand across social media and to drive traffic to a desired location on the Internet. Its digital inbound marketing techniques move beyond the outbound marketing method of electronic mail that the majority of Salesforce partners use, including Eloqua, Marketo and Pardot. While Salesforce is promoting social media-based inbound marketing, others still have reservations about its near-term potential. Facebook serves as a cautionary example; it has not been able to grow its revenue to its Wall Street financial expectations using this new approach. Salesforce hopes that getting individuals to do its marketing can help. Whether or not that proves true in the short term, social media-based marketing efforts still have some maturing to do; individuals will have to learn to respond to and click on promotions.
Salesforce will also introduce its new Work.com efforts, which are focused on building a portfolio of social collaboration applications designed to engage a company’s workforce directly in a range of employee and business process efforts. Salesforce has been evolving this approach after spending several years providing web-based methods to build custom applications on Force.com. With experience in this realm and after many acquisitions, the company will demonstrate how a new breed of business applications will evolve to be part of a computing environment that also includes mobile technologies like smartphones and tablets. Salesforce earlier this year acquired Rypple, as I assessed, which provides social activity and goals management – functions that are not managed well in organizations on a daily and weekly basis. Rypple’s approach is not designed to replace traditional annual performance appraisals, which will be around for some time, but will help increase productivity by providing managers and employees more direct guidance and recognition using social collaboration inside the enterprise.
I expect to hear more from Salesforce on human capital management, as this segment has been heating up with acquisitions by IBM, Oracle and SAP. Salesforce partner Job Science is among those looking for a boost. Our benchmark research on social collaboration and human capital management finds that knowledge sharing is of the highest importance to organizations. Salesforce is working to promote knowledge sharing with its social collaboration technology Chatter. Its enterprise version is about building a people-based backbone for organizations to more easily interconnect than they do through email and telephones, which are perceived as antiquated and not appropriate for organizations today. Our recently released next-generation workforce management benchmark found a growing swell of organizations looking to embrace social collaboration and mobile technology to promote manager-to-worker collaboration.
I also expect to hear more on Salesforce’s advancements in the recently launched Service Cloud for social interactions with customers, along with its use on mobile technology platforms.
Even if you are not eagerly awaiting any announcements, this year’s Salesforce Dreamforce will keep your interest with speakers such as General Colin Powell, Jeff Immelt, Sir Richard Branson and Tony Robbins. Even if you are not coming to enjoy the chaos of conference, you can tune in from your desk and watch the keynotes live or on replay with links at the Dreamforce 2012 site. If you want to hear my sarcastic optimism about software in the cloud, follow me on Twitter (@marksmithvr) or look for the hashtag #DF12.
Meanwhile, away from Dreamforce, Ventana Research is measuring the advancing role of business technology innovation. We invite you to participate. Our findings will be unveiled at our grand technology innovation event on November 8 at the Tech Museum in San Jose, CA. At the event we’ll also be celebrating our tenth anniversary. My colleagues and I would be delighted to see you there.
Until then, look for more in depth analysis and objective analysis of Salesforce this week, since this is what everyone has come to expect from me and the entire Ventana Research team!
CEO & Chief Research Officer