Salesforce Focuses on 'Internet of Customers' at Dreamforce Show

NEWS ANALYSIS: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff talks about an "Internet of Customers" that is producing useful information about business relationships that needs to be captured and analyzed.

Salesforce Big Data

SAN FRANCISCO—As they say about friends of friends—a customer of a customer is a customer of

That was the message at the company's Dreamforce '15 mega conference, which took place in San Francisco last week for 170,000 attendees.

The message that the company was projecting to customers in attendance was your customers are just as important to Salesforce as you are to Salesforce. Your success in meeting the needs of your customers means Salesforce software is doing its job. Each interaction is another link in the chain.

"It's the Internet of Customers," said CEO Marc Benioff. In announcing his company's newest product, IoT Cloud, Benioff said the ever-expanding Internet of things (IoT) multiplies the opportunity to reach and engage with customers. The IoT Cloud can capture the billions of customer interactions happening online every day and turn them into actions, new kinds of "customer success."

"It's not just an IoT revolution," Benioff said. "It's a customer revolution."

Many of the new initiatives discussed at Dreamforce reinforced the idea that customer is king. Wave Analytics is being integrated throughout the Salesforce platform. The Lightning "user experience" will enable ease of use and speed app development.

And a new service, SalesforceIQ, can extract sales-related information out of email and other applications to guide sales reps. The software continually assesses relationships between customers, prospects, and partners based on the content of the email exchanges and calendar activity before suggesting actions based on the content.

That might seem a little spooky, but the attendees at the conference were happy with the direction Salesforce is taking to integrate more intelligence and interactivity into the platform. "I live in Salesforce," said one rep with a San Francisco-based startup. "I'm happy with anything that can make my job easier."

The fact is despite the perception to the contrary, most customer data—and Internet of Things data, for that matter—goes unanalyzed, Benioff said. Forrester analysts speaking at Dreamforce reinforced that point. Most businesses are not yet prepared to deal with all of the data, but they must, Forrester asserted, because data is the key to becoming more responsive to the customer and surviving as a business.

Speaking of friends, a key player in executing Salesforce's vision is Microsoft, which received star treatment at the conference. Microsoft Chairman John Thompson spoke about how mobile, cloud computing and working together with Salesforce, will "change the wealth of this planet," he said. "And that will change the opportunity for every individual on this planet."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's chat with Wired Senior Editor Jessi Hempel showed exactly where Microsoft is today and where it's headed in the post-Steve Ballmer era.

"For me to be at Salesforce, that is key to what I think Microsoft's identity is," Nadella said. “We are a platform company. Successful platform companies do one thing very well, which is harmonize the multiplicity of interests, bringing end users, third party developers and IT together to make the organization successful."

Nadella discussed and demonstrated several partner initiatives, including Office 365, Skype and Cortana, but some things never change—the Cortana demonstration failed.

Nadella pitched the importance of productivity and mobility for businesses to be successful with customers, something that Microsoft can provide for Salesforce. "Conversations are becoming the new platform, the new driver of productivity," Nadella said.

Productivity means "for each one of us to get more out of every moment of our life, in all this abundance, with computing everywhere, data everywhere. What's scarce is time. How can software and services come together to give me back my time so that I can enjoy both my work and life."

Mobility is not "about any one device as the be all and end all of computing," he added. "It is being centered on the mobility of the human experience across all devices, not just the mobility of the device."

Despite the good feelings, there are still some questions around Salesforce. Profits are still a rare occurrence and there was the odd series of stories over the summer about somebody (perhaps even Microsoft) being interested in acquiring Salesforce. None of that really matters. Not when you have the customers and such good friends in the industry.

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise, While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...