After closing its fiscal year, Salesforce yesterday took time out for a "half-time show in between our two Dreamforces" according to CEO Marc Benioff, with a host of product announcements, a promotion for President Keith Block and an understated appearance by Metallica playing the US National Anthem - as you do.
There was a lot to take in, but let’s give it a go, starting with Block, who assumes the title of Chief Operating Officer (COO) left vacant since the departure of George Hu last year. The (well-deserved) additional title reflects the importance of the Benioff/Block dynamic at Salesforce these days.
I’ve commented in the past on the growing prominence of Block as a public face for Salesforce, both in investor calls and at user events around the world.
It’s an entirely healthy and productive development for the firm, even if it inevitably leads to ‘Block as CEO?’ scuttlebutt on social media. There is no vacancy there, but it speaks volumes about Block’s profile that all that Benioff has to do is hand him the microphone and it’s supposedly the start of a succession plan!
More grounded in reality was the focus on Lightning, the single platform, single user experience to which Salesforce intends to transition its various clouds. Lightning has also been adopted by 90,000 customers to date. Benioff said:
We have hit the accelerator as fast as we can and at times we've almost broken it because shifting that technology was not easy. [Customers] are used to us releasing three new versions every year, but this is the first time the whole platform has changed under them. And many of them didn't even know it.
For its part, Salesforce’s own shift to Lightning has begun with the Sales Cloud in the forthcoming Spring 16 release upgrade. Benioff said it is essential for Salesforce to:
hit the re-set button on every one of our apps…which is what we’ve done with Lightning.
Lightning Voice will let users launch a phone call from within Sales Cloud Lightning and automatically log a call so that users can easily track interactions with customers without having to separately create a call log.
Sales Cloud Lightning will also come with Steel Brick CPQ integration, following the purchase of Steel Brick last year.
Another acquisition, RelateIQ, will surface in SalesforceIQ Inbox, pulling together CRM and email. Alex Dayon, Salesforce President of Products, said:
What if I was closing business from my email? It connects your CRM to your email in one experience.
Out in the field
Meanwhile Service Cloud Lightning will see a focus on the field service management market. Field Service Lightning will become generally available for Service Cloud customers in the second quarter of this year.
This is an expected development - scuttlebutt had it that a field service play would feature at last year’s Dreamforce after Oracle acquired TOA Technologies and Microsoft snapped up FieldOne.
It is however another example of Salesforce’s expanding functional footprint putting it on a collision course with partners in the company’s ecosystem. For example, the SteelBrick acquisition made Salesforce a competitor of Apttus. (Ironically Salesforce just went live internally on Apttus!).
The same thing is now true of the likes of ServiceMax and ServiceNow, with Benioff hailing the Salesforce home-grown service management offering as:
the Uber of field service apps.
Salesforce’s angle on partner-clash is simple enough - these are big market sectors and the key is to provide customers with choices. That’s also the line being taken by ServiceMax today, with Spencer Earp, Vice President EMEA, telling me:
Field Service is a very big market – it pretty much keeps the world running in just about every sector you can think of from healthcare to energy to manufacturing – and it’s applicable to companies of all sizes. What’s interesting is that it’s not just the size of the market that’s expanding, but also the potential.
So it’s not surprising that as both the market for field service grows and the potential for monetising grows with it, that we’ll see multiple players with different levels of offerings. It’s a multi-billion-dollar market, so there’s plenty room for field service leaders like ServiceMax who operate on the Salesforce1 platform to co-exist with Salesforce in this space – partly because of the sheer size of the market, but also because of the diverse set of customer requirements in a market this big.
Some companies will want to simply automate the location and scheduling of their service techs, for example, whilst others will need the richer experience and deep sector expertise that a complete end to end field service management solution like ServiceMax provides.
The new Lightning-enhanced editions of Sales and Service Clouds will appear by the end of July.
Elsewhere Salesforce1 Mobile is gaining full offline capabilities for iOS and Android devices. Users will be able to enter information when they are offline and then sync it when they are reconnected.
Mobile isn’t just about bringing the Salesforce app to the phone, that will never work. We have a vision that every company should have the ability to run their business on a phone.
In our industry everything is changing and we need to create a whole new environment. We have millions of users on mobile and we don’t even travel with our laptops.
[We] have users, especially millennials, who don't want to be handed a laptop and told 'here's our old SAP or Oracle apps or old Windows apps and now run your business from your laptop.' That's not how millennials work. We know they want to work the way we work, which is on our phone and rapidly.
Finally, pricing on different tiers of both Sales Cloud and Service Cloud products - professional, enterprise and unlimited - has been tweaked. Lightning Professional Edition, Lightning Enterprise Edition, and Lightning Unlimited Edition for the two clouds will come in at $75, $150, and $300 per user per month, from the second quarter of 2016.
A useful scene-setter for 2016, marred only by a 5% dip in the Salesforce share price on a rumor that the company has lost an (unnamed) high-profile customer. It's a rumor that various Wall Street commentators have debunked. We'll find out more on the forthcoming post-results conference call no doubt.
In the meantime, congratulations to Keith Block!
Disclosure - at time of writing, Salesforce and ServiceMax are premier partners of diginomica.