With vaccines imminent, maybe we’ll be able to get back to complaining about standing in never-ending lines at the Moscone Center this time next year!
That was what I wrote last year when Salesforce had a brave stab at staging some kind of Dreamforce event in San Francisco. On that occasion, the tens of thousands of delegates that normally close down the city center had been reduced, as COO Bret Taylor quips, to:
Marc [Benioff] and I and a bush on the top of Salesforce Park.
Things look better this year. There are around 1000 people at the San Francisco, all double dosed and PCR tested. But similar live events in New York, London and other locations around the globe were shelved as the Delta variant provides a painful reminder that we’re not out of this yet, not by a long way.
But as an avatar of a real world Dreamforce, 2021 is looking like a more familiar beast to those of us who’ve been attending since Year 1 - tech, philanthropy, sustainability, equality, education and superstar guests - Jane Fonda and Will Smith, no less - while Dreamforce regulars such as The Foo Fighters and Metallica are popping up to provide a semi-comforting semblance of business as usual. (No sign of Will.I.Am yet, mind you, but it’s only Day 1!)
Except of course it’s not business as usual and that’s emphatically not the theme of Dreamforce 2021. The events of the past 18 months have put paid to that, quite apart from any other factor. This year the overarching point of focus is the ‘new normal’ in all its manifestations. Now, I hate that term - it's overused and rendered meaningless when brandished triumphantly by one too many vendors/consultants/CMOs without the necessary ballast to support the responsibility of defining what’s really meant.
But it can’t be argued that Salesforce falls into that guilty camp. Since the COVID pandemic kicked in, CEO Benioff and his executive team have responded to an unprecedented - hate that one as well! - crisis in a positive and constructive manner, rising to meet the challenges facing not only the firm’s own employees, but also its customers. There are many examples of how this has been seen in practice to be found in diginomica’s dedicated COVID-19 content archive - here - and I’m not going to repeat those today.
The point I’m taking away remotely from this year’s Dreamforce is that while the crisis isn’t over, there is a Vaccine Economy taking shape and it’s important to look at what that means for organizations everywhere, both in terms of corporate issues, such as the Future of Work, and the wider macro-issues, such as sustainability, education and healthcare, that carry through into a putative post-COVID world.
This time 12 months ago, perhaps we were most of us just thinking about how to get through the rest of the year. This year, there is reason for more optimism and longer term thinking and just room to contemplate how we build this ‘new normal’. As Taylor put it this week:
The theme of this year's Dreamforce is The Trusted Enterprise. The backdrop of Dreamforce this year is that we're really in the midst of a number of crises still in this world, a global pandemic, and equality crisis that has been exacerbated by this pandemic and our public schools, inequities and the impact of this pandemic, across genders, races, sexual orientations.
If you open up any newspaper, you can read about 'The Great Resignation' and a great re-location and just how disruptive this past couple of years has been to the workforce. And we're also in the midst of a sustainability crisis globally. I'm actually thankful that we're able to hold Dreamforce. If you had been in San Francisco just a couple of weeks ago, air quality would have been almost untenable because of the fires raging around Lake Tahoe - and this has become an annual event here in California.
All of this really adds up in our minds to what we think is a crisis of trust in this world. And we're showing up at Dreamforce with our Trailblazers, with our community, with world leaders and CEOs and our administrators and developers alike, really to recognize that we think business is the greatest platform for change and to paint a picture of this vision for inspiring every organization to become a Trusted Enterprise and address these crises.
It's a strong mission statement. I wish I was hearing it on Mission Street, but needs must. And hey, here’s to standing in that interminable Moscone Center line this time next year? Dreamforce 2021 - in we go!