Dreamforce: A Look Into the Future

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My complimentary pass to Dreamforce 2013 (#DF13) exposed me to information (keynotes and expo) to affirm change has arrived and is coming for many in the way we communicate.

Internal communications, collaboration and engagement with customers and partners is evolving and business professionals are increasingly using mobile devices to reach out to their contacts in a more personable, one-on-one manner. Technology now allows us to have face-to-face conversations through our tablet/device.

Similar to the new Kindle Fire’s “Mayday” button promoted on TV commercials, the way companies are marketing and offering services is changing. Personal interaction is coming back in style! Marketing is booming, and social media is leading the charge.

The focus is on the customer, and a new phrase came out of Dreamforce – “The Internet of customers,” which evolved from the popular term the “Internet of Things.” How companies engage, interact and collaborate with their customers is transitioning as we speak. Email is a thing of the past, at least for the Dreamforce groupies. I’m not sure I’m ready to part with my email, but I do like collaborating with folks on platforms like Salesforce Chatter, IM and Skype.

So that leads me to wonder, how many people really are ready to move away from email? I certainly like the idea of quickly getting an answer, and not having to wait/sift through email to communicate with someone, and eliminating all that clutter around the message.

It was estimated that over 135,000 people attended Dreamforce (#DF13) in San Francisco, under the big cloud tent outside of the Moscone Center. This cool expo attracted enterprise sales teams, enterprise system designers, app designers, philanthropists, marketing/communications experts and more from across the globe.

All of these folks were buzzing around and scurrying between sessions, even when the two days of much needed rain soaked the sidewalks while people waited patiently under their umbrellas in the bus lines.

At the main keynote Tuesday morning, the Salesforce.com “King of SaaS” and founder, Marc Benioff took the stage wearing his dazzling, futuristic shoes; while he took some grief from the CEO of Whole Foods Market (a customer), he proudly rocked them.

The main room was jam-packed for Marc’s keynote, so if you didn’t have a seat there were plenty in the two large overflow rooms at nearby hotels. Marc boasted about how this year’s Dreamforce was the largest, with more than 135,000 registrants. In addition, there were more than 1,200 breakout sessions (good luck squeezing in everything you wanted to cover), more than 350 exhibitors and several Salesforce.com’s customers, plus the famous, Huey Lewis, Blondie, Green Day, Sean Penn and Petra Nemcova.

And why all of the entertainers? Sean and Petra were promoting their foundations to help the people of Haiti (J/P HRO) and Thailand (Happy Hearts Fund) rebuild after they were ravaged by natural disasters. Salesforce.com has been a top supporter of these philanthropists and their foundations, so they came to share their stories and talk with Marc directly in front of a large audience. And the philanthropist seekers continued during the keynote, when Marc opened up a Q&A session for the first time, and one audience member put Benioff on the spot asking if he will help the people in the Philippines? When Marc answered, “yes,” the audience member was quick to ask, “how much?” Surely an awkward moment for the company leader, but Marc assured the audience that Salesforce.com will help the recently ravaged country.

Huey Lewis wrapped up the feel-good moment by singing “The Power of Love,” the theme song supporting the global relief efforts at DF13. Tuesday night, Blondie and Green Day attempted to rock the house as they battled with rain soaked equipment.

But lets get back to the keynote. The presentation was well done especially when Marc was talking futures. Joined by his partner Parker, the men cleverly performed a “Back to the Future” skit to demonstrate where customer service and collaboration is headed. Connected devices are here, and will change the way we communicate with our customers.

A few critics noted that Marc’s keynote was a bit too commercialized—considering they had several customers stand up in the audience and promote what Salesforce.com has done for their businesses. The strong advertising feel did turn off some of the technical developers sitting around me. But, really folks, Salesforce.com is a marketing-driven company… it should’ve been expected.

Salesforce.com is the No. 1 CRM company in the world, No. 1 in market share and Fortune’s most admired software company. Considering Forbes didn’t predict their success three years ago, I guess they should have asked Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown to use his DeLorean time machine to take them into the future.

But who wouldn’t want to take a trip into the future, or have a handy crystal ball to see what the future has in store for us?