Dream a little dream(force)

I came back from San Francisco earlier today after a few days at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference. It was my first time to Dreamforce and what a time it was. Conferences like these are always interesting to me on many levels: what I learn about the core of the conference (in this case all the cloud(y) stuff that salesforce is up to), how the vendors position themselves (not only Salesforce, but all their partners too) and (taking a step back) the mega-trends – what is fundamentally changing in the way we work and the world in general.
In terms of what I learned about the cloud and salesforce’s offerings therein, I will likely need a few days to go back through all my notes for a complete account, but the highlight was definitely the clear vision communicated from the top down of the mobile social enterprise. I’m not sure I (or maybe even they) fully understand what that means, but the parts that we do understand are pretty compelling.
The mobile part has been with us for a while, but it has always seemed like the hardware was ahead of the software (TabletPC) or vice versa (Windows Mobile). Now things seems to be coming together: iOS and Android are both great mobile platforms and developers now have to tools to deliver great experiences on them. The interesting thing to me about this switch to mobile is the lowering of a users expectations about how much work they need to get done to make it worth getting in to an app. We’ve all been there: by the time we fire up the laptop (even from sleep), login, and open the application we need it seems like we’ve jumped through a lot of hoops, so we better do a lot of work. Swap out your laptop for a tablet or smart phone, and you can get from the point of thinking “I need to do _____” to actually doing it in a few seconds. The expectation you have about how much work you need to do once your actually doing work goes down by an order of magnitude. An while it may seem counterintuitive, I think that means that more work gets done AND fewer things slip through the cracks because people will do the work before they forget.
The social part is pretty obvious – apply the familiar concepts of the social graph, open communications and everything connected to everything to the business world. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew everything they needed to know right when they needed to know it to do their job? The dark side to of this of course is the enterprise analog to what we are already seeing in the consumer space: continuous partial attention – never really being on or off task. If done properly, business people could get into the same ‘flow’ state that many social media mavens talk about and better business could result…but that will require a skill set, mid set and approach to getting things done that I think most business people today don’t understand.
In terms of vendor positioning, I got the strong sense that Salesforce is very much in control of its partner ecosystem – not through rule of law, but rather through the shear pace at which they are moving forward and innovating. Salesforce sets the tone and message, and the partner ecosystem drafts in the wake behind. This isn’t a bad thing – as long as salesforce can keep it up. It will be interesting to see what happens the first time one of salesforce’s partners beats them to the punch in some key emerging area.
Lastly, the big picture – I guess I am starting to get old because the pace of change is even amazing me. Whole new product categories, business and fortunes are being created and destroyed in months and even weeks. The move to the cloud is yesterday’s news. Tomorrow’s will be about the new business models that that fundamental reality makes possible. In some ways I am lucky to be witnessing what seems to me (since I am in the middle of it all) one of the largest waves of creative destruction to have ever hit the all businesses at once. The way you market your products has changed because of Social and Chatter. The way you sell your products has changed because of the Sales Cloud. The way you service your products has changed because of the Service Cloud. Now I need to get to thinking about how the way you develop your products will change….





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