On the final day at Dreamforce last week in San Francisco CEO Marc Benioff and co-founder Parker Harris took to the stage one last time to take a number of questions from attendees. Despite it being the end of a very intense week, the pair still managed to fill out one of the huge keynote halls in the Moscone centre and willingly took a grilling from the audience.
Usually at these things you’re used to hearing the people on stage answering scripted questions to a number of planted soft-ball questions. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for the session, as plenty had been already covered in the previous keynotes.
But credit where credit’s due, Benioff and Harris spoke off the cuff and were happily answering some questions that even the hardest of journalists would feel a bit awkward answering. For example, one Australian attendee asked the pair if they thought that their marketing was juvenile and if they shouldn’t be more serious during their keynotes?
However, Benioff and Harris handled responses in the best way possible – by admitting that they might not have everything right and by asking for feedback on how they could improve next time around. And by throwing a few jokes in here and there to take the edge off.
What caught my attention in particular were a couple of questions relating to Salesforce’s developer community, which I thought were worth highlighting. Two attendees asked Benioff and Harris if they could focus their attention on encouraging developers to the Salesforce platform, as they perceived that there was a shortage in the market.
One woman, who said she worked for Microsoft, said:
This is my first Dreamforce. And one of the unique problems I encountered at Dreamforce is the issue of developer poaching. On several occasions I was having casual conversations with people that were getting interviews from other companies. I think that comes from the issue of a shortage of developers building on Salesforce. My question is, what can we do to encourage more developers building on Salesforce from the university pipeline?
Separately someone else, who I got the impression was a Salesforce developer himself, said:
I don’t have a question as so much as an ask, that when you go on those world tours that you bring the admin zone, you bring the development zone, you bring Trailhead (an online training programme for developers wanting to learn the Salesforce platform). Please bring that same energy and those same opportunities for those new admins, those new developers, that are just learning the platform to give people like me and so many others the opportunity to help them and learn from others.
Not quite as direct as the first question, but very similar sentiments. Both were suggesting that Salesforce needed to do more to get more developers working on the Salesforce platform. Which Benioff implied was true when he quipped that “it’s a very good time to be a Salesforce developer”.
Now, I don’t know if there is actually a shortage of developers on the Salesforce platform. It could be argued that there is just a shortage of developers in the industry. However, the fact that two people at the Q&A used their question to focus on this topic suggests to me that customers and Salesforce integrators are probably seeing something similar.
In response to the questions, Harris said:
I hear the same thing from a lot of our customers, which is why, for example, Trailhead has been such a success that everybody wants us to make it a product. Everybody wants us to turn that into way more than it already is. Marc has said that we should roll it out internally, train all the sales people, freaking out Adam Seligman (Salesforce’s VP of developer relations) who is now thinking we should put more people on that. We do need more training and to create more developers. Adam is very passionate about that, we just need to help him.
Benioff too admitted that Salesforce needs to do more to create more developers in the community. He said:
I think we should enable the world on Trailhead. I think we should make it a global education programme and let people put whatever they want on it. We need to help Adam, we need to help you, I think your point is right. We need more, more, more, more. That’s just the problem. We wish we were a company the size of Microsoft, which is more than 10 times the size of Salesforce. We are not doing everything we should be doing, we should be doing more in colleges, more hackathons, we should be doing more online.
Disclosure: Salesforce is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing.