Not many software companies need a Hawaiian blessing ceremony to get us ready for the launch of some new products, but this is the keynote presentation at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce jamboree.
So it is that we have Hawaiian dancers, the blessing ceremony itself and then the Beach Boys with some surfing USA classics – you can tell there’s a bit of a theme emerging here, can’t you? – and it’s 25 minutes after the whole thing kicks off before CEO Marc Benioff pops up with an ‘Aloha!’ to address the Salesforce.com faithful. (Told you there was a theme…)
It’s all down to Wave – surfing, riding the wave etc etc – the cloud analytics push described not unfairly by senior Salesforce.com execs as ‘our worst kept secret’.
But first, it’s the philanthropic focus that takes center stage with a run down of the One Million Meals initiative that called for every Dreamforce attendee to bring a can of food along, before moving on to this year’s NGO of choice which was the San Francisco Unified School District.
There are those among my peers who find this aspect of Dreamforce somewhat overpowering and complain that we should cut the chase of tech announcements sooner, but I find it impossible to agree. The 1/1/1 philanthropy philosophy is genuinely hard-wired into the Salesforce.com corporate DNA and allowing that to spill out onto the main stage seems entirely appropriate to me.
A dash of Dreamforce regular Will.I.Am, some more Beach Boys and 55 minutes in, it’s time for some software talk and we’re off with the connected customer messaging. Benioff declares:
Our vision is to build that platform that allows our customers to connect…the customer success platform.
Following a sly dig at ‘old’ companies turning over their CEOs – said loudly enough to be heard in Redwood Shores? – it’s time to focus on Wave and cloud analytics.
Clearly Benioff isn’t superstitious given what happened to the last big Wave in the cloud industry, the ill-fated Google Wave back in 2012, but there’s the usual tide of enthusiasm for the Salesforce.com offering.
There are three important things about Wave, says Benioff: it’s a product for everyone, designed to work on mobile devices and it’s been built as a platform so that ISVs and developers can extend it.
Some canned customer validation for all this comes via long-standing Salesforce.com customer GE Capital via a video testimonial, followed by the arrival on stage of Alex Dayon, Salesforce.com President Products, a Frenchman looking not entirely comfortable perhaps in his themed Hawaiian shirt, for the demo of the product.
This comes complete with the gimmick of a boat on stage – boats are more usually the provenance of arch-frenemy Oracle of course! – but this is a slick and highly impressive run through of the new offering which clearly sits well with the audience.
It’s an impressive debut for Wave, undermined only by the incessant leaks and pre-announcements during the week. But when Dayon demos using Airplay to beam the screen of a mobile device onto a large TV screen, it wins a round of applause.
Job done, so now it’s time to catch a wave, declares Dayon on a surfboard- which is of course cue for a third appearance from the Beach Boys, who are certainly being made to work for their money today. The thought briefly occurs that maybe less is more sometimes, but the audience cheers and claps along, so what do I know?
Lightning strikes twice
With the analytics launch over, it’s time to move on to discussion of the need to develop mobile apps faster, a challenge illustrated by a video from that well known German company, Coca Cola Enterprises, before Benioff moves on to Lightning, the new Salesforce.com UI that he’d ‘accidentally’ announced via Twitter the day before.
Cue thunder claps and a lightning flash on stage, which is, according to Benioff:
the only special effect we can afford after paying for the Beach Boys!
At this point it’s time to hand over to co-founder Parker Harris in his now-traditional ‘dress Parker up in a funny costume’ slot – superhero this year – to drill down on the topic with a seeming allusion to some of the confusion around last year’s Salesforce1 messaging:
You thought it was an application last year, it wasn’t. It was a platform.
To make his point, it’s back to Coca Cola and Harris is building a delivery application on stage for delivery of customised Coke bottles, inevitably shipped in live through the Moscone via a flying drone! This is a genuinely nice demo, crisp, detailed and a timely reminder of just how good Harris is at this sort of thing.
Finally, time to get back to the connected customer concept, courtesy of a third testimonial video, this time from Honeywell and focusing on its connected thermostat product. The video informs us:
Every connected device puts together a contractor and a customer… we’re on a journey. We can create new software and services that we sell as subscription to contractors. Now we don’t just get revenue from hardware, but also software.
It’s been the best keynote yet reckons Benioff in conclusion, alluding to his mission statement from the start:
We’re here to excite you, educate you, entertain you, inspire you.
The challenge of the Dreamforce keynote year on year is how to trump the previous one.
This year was the usual heady mix of philanthropy, showbiz and tech. It’s by equal parts a potent mix of the inspirational and the borderline cheesy, hosted by Phineas T. Benioff in cloudy ringmaster mode.
Maybe it runs a bit too long – the two hour rehearsal time hits the 2.5 hour mark effortlessly and by the end there was a noticeable bailing-out by those at the back of the room. Maybe my ‘less is more’ musing from earlier fits better here?
But when you cut past the razzamatazz and theatricality of it all, at the heart of this year’s keynote sit three global brands – GE Capital, Coca Cola and Honeywell – and their use of Salesforce.com’s offerings. This isn’t just smoke and mirrors or bread and circuses. These are ‘grown-up’ companies and this is where it gets serious.
Disclosure: at time of writing, Salesforce.com is a premier partner of diginomica.