Dreamforce16 - Help wanted! Salesforce ecosystem needs 10x more bodies

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright October 4, 2016
Salesforce projects a ten-fold increase in the number of consultants needed to help customers implement its software by 2020. Where will they all come from?

Dream Job Ahead traffic sign with blue sky © doomu - Fotolia.com
Dream Job Ahead traffic sign on a blue sky background

While many workers around the world feel their jobs are under threat from globalization and technology innovation, there's one line of work where new entrants can apparently look forward to a thriving career, according to research unveiled today at Dreamforce.

A massive skills shortage is hanging over the fast-expanding Salesforce partner ecosystem, which by the cloud technology giant's own calculations will generate a cumulative total $260 billion in professional services revenue alone over the next five years. Revealing the quarter-trillion dollar figure during the partner keynote that kicked off the annual conference today, Tyler Prince, Salesforce EVP alliances and go-to-market innovation said:

If that's true, we're going to need ten times the number of consultants we have in the market today.

Prince also cited research from IDC that showed Salesforce partners reporting average year-over-year revenue growth of 48%, and a projection that by 2020, for every $1 of Salesforce revenue, its partners will generate $4.14 of revenue. That figure includes revenue earned by companies that build online applications and services on the Salesforce platform, as well as the consultants who help customers implement and harness those solutions.

Talent sources

Salesforce sees talent coming from two main sources to plug this looming skills gap, says Prince, speaking to diginomica in a post-keynote Q&A session. The first source will be from incumbent consulting firms repurposing resources whose skills were developed to service legacy on-premise software, in order to benefit from cloud growth.

The big large SIs, some of these on-premise practices they've built, zero growth is actually [seen as] a good thing. They celebrate that, or single-digit growth. What we're talking about are firms, at scale, that are growing at 40, 50, 70, 100%.

These consultancies have been around for hundreds of years. They take their skillsets and they repurpose them to where the market demand is. So there's no doubt in my mind that there's an active plan by the world's largest systems integration consulting firms to migrate from legacy on-premise capabilities to cloud-based technologies, and certainly Salesforce, at an unprecedented rate.

The second source will be new developers coming out of university who have grown up with a fresh approach to application development, he says.

Developers may come out of university with a keen sense to go build applications and build a company. We are certainly counting on that ecosystem and that new breed of technologists and consultants to really come up through the roots as well.

Salesforce is working with many universities and other education institutions around the world to ensure Salesforce skills get added to the curriculum, added Neeracha Taychakhoonavud, SVP Salesforce partner programmes:

We have a very active academic alliance, because we do need to grow the total number of resources. Getting young people out of school, veteran job retraining, all that is part of that initiative.

In India ... we're partnering with the states to get our content into all the universities. In the US and the rest of the world, we're partnering with both public and some of the for-profit institutions to get that data science skill out.

Salesforce has also ramped up its online training and certification program, Trailhead, which officially launched last year. This year, the program's visual theming is all over the Dreamforce campus. It makes a crucial contribution to skills transfer, says Neeracha.

Using Trailhead as a learning platform makes it very accessible to get started and I think there's a range of skills that is very applicable to someone who's consulting in a Salesforce environment. Both deep technical, architectural things, but also just functional. There's a large swathe of skills we need.

Encouraging developers

Also unveiled in today's keynote were various initiatives, some technical, some commercial, to encourage application development on the Salesforce platform. They include:

  • New Salesforce Lightning capabilities as well as the launch of Salesforce DX, which provides an improved integrated development environment and other functions to aid developer productivity.
  • Embedding the AppExchange directly in the Salesforce user interface so that a customer can find and install relevant partner applications without having to leave the Salesforce application. Just as important, the company has also improved the tool its sales reps use to find partner solutions, so that now they can filter by tier, industry and cloud specialization.
  • More streamlined and automated administrative processes around partner enablement. Salesforce has doubled the number of operational staff supporting partners over the past year, says Neeracha, as well as improving its process automation:

Many of the transactions had to be touched manually for some reason or other, so that's not going to be a speedy experience for the partner. The processes weren't necessarily clean, automation was difficult, and it got to the point where, are you automating little bits and pieces all over, or should you just take stab at the whole thing and reimagine it? We're going for the latter.

There were also new initiatives to encourage more networking and mentoring among partners, and the unveiling of a new acronym. Salesforce has decided it's time to retire the archaic ISV term and instead wants its application partners to be known as Application Innovation Partners.

My take

Salesforce continues to step up its focus on building a robust partner channel, but the goal of a ten-fold increase in the number of consulting professionals by 2020 is challenging, representing almost 60% growth every single year. It must achieve that while maintaining quality standardsm and continuing to expand the functional footprint of its own products and those of its, ahem, application innovation partners.

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