A compelling vision from the Salesforce World Tour 2017

A compelling vision: Salesforce World Tour 2017

This week, Salesforce delivered on their world tour commitments to the central US markets, bringing a piece of the annual Dreamforce experience to the lakeside convention center in Chicago.   Between the Chicago-style hot dogs and Sierra-themed conference, the world tour experience was more than memorable – it provided a degree of clarity to the benefits of the past few years acquisitions and investments by Salesforce.

Several important points were made today, six months on from the last Dreamforce event in San Francisco 2016.  The top 10 insights from today:

1)    The entire keynote was delivered by women executives – all at the top of Salesforce.  I share this point first because it was refreshing to experience, and illustrates why Salesforce stands apart from many in the Silicon Valley universe as a progressive and inclusive organization.  I encourage more in the tech industry to follow suit.

2)    Einstein, the Salesforce based Artificial intelligence capability, was in full effect across Sales, Marketing, and Service platforms.   What was hinted at a year ago, is now fully realized in guiding intelligently the various customer journeys.  

You can see the significant investment in the A.I. experience – and the intellectual value that has been embedded in the Sales support guidance, the Services automation capabilities, and the Marketing cloud actions which are informed by the A.I. that is Einstein.   The lead scoring and predictive analytics on the Sales side was particularly compelling.

3)    The value of the Lightning user experience is now a strong differentiator, and brings together the various cloud experiences in a consistent UI.   Gone are the days of ‘tab to table’ screens – the UI is fluid (allowing you to pull and drop various components on the screens), and dynamically generated based on rules and the Einstein A.I. guidance.    Easier to use = more efficient = happier sales, marketing, and service team members.    Salesforce is no longer mind boggling small fonts and depth of menus – it makes sense.

4)    Simple things are some of the most powerful in Salesforce today.  The ability to utilize the Salesforce Mobile client as a central sales engagement app on a phone or tablet is a reality today.   Where Hubspot and other email tracking platforms had outpaced Salesforce in the past years – today you can achieve equal and greater capability via the Salesforce Inbox and Mobile client.   

Being able to share calendars, email ‘sense’ engagement, and have Einstein analytics advise probability of best sales leads for the day – super charges your sales teams effectiveness.

5)    Marketing Cloud – reimagined from its prior days as ExactTarget – Marketing Cloud has taken on a new level of maturity with the Einstein A.I. enhancements and rules based actions.  You can truly design for various customer journeys, based on defined marketing / advertising and customer journeys – and engage across multiple (omni) channels to optimize audience awareness.   Yes, other players do this too – what is meaningful about Marketing Cloud + Einstein is the sense of engagement and precision / accuracy you achieve when you combine the two together.  When you tack on Pardot and the DMP (data management platform) possibilities with Einstein – it is very hard to beat.

6)    Service Cloud is now a fully integrated component and contributes to the ‘customer 360’ mindset most companies are seeking today.  Now you can see the before (marketing), during (sales), and after (service) relationships in a common dashboard and view – and again has the Einstein embedded analytics and advise.  One particularly interesting integration is the chat-bot capabilities (Live Message) which you can leverage.  Check this out if you have not considered.

7)    Community Cloud is shaping up to be a competitive alternative to Facebook Workplace as a collaboration environment you can share across suppliers, employees, and customers to create a common social space.    

Rooted strongly in the Salesforce data model (and benefits when you leverage the entire stack with Salesforce solutions) – the Community Cloud provides a common space for inter-connected entities in the schema (customers, suppliers, and employees) to share knowledge and collaborate.  If you are building (or rebuilding) a business around the Salesforce platform stack – you would be well off to consider how Community Cloud fits into your engagement thinking.   

8)    Demandware is now Commerce Cloud – and that is a very good thing.   From last years’ acquisition of the Demandware platform – the benefits to the Salesforce eco-system are clear:  Commerce Cloud brings to the table an enterprise ecommerce platform and integrating with the robust customer data model that is Salesforce itself.  The automations and A.I. capabilities ahead are fascinating to consider as Salesforce will bring eCommerce to the customer journey map through Commerce Cloud. 

9)    Lest you think this is an advertisement for Salesforce (we are a Hubspot shop in fact at Practically Digital) - there are always a few head scratchers

An example - Quip – bought last year also – is a simpler version of either Office 365 or Google G Suite – combined with Basecamp or Slack, as best was illustrated today. 

The product message is still a bit murky how a company will use it to replace or enhance your existing collaboration experience – other than to say “well it works with Salesforce really well”.   Like Sharepoint vs. Yammer in the Microsoft universe – we are not sure (yet) how Quip will become a valued point solution or part of a stack investment (unless you do not use Slack, Basecamp, G Suite or Office365 today – in which case you may be a customer contender).   

10) Are ‘2 A.I.’s are better than one’, as the partnership between Salesforce and IBM Watson from earlier this year has been messaged to the market.  This is still taking shape in the demonstrations and discussions, and not clear enough (yet) how this adds value to most companies. 

Having experience on both sides of this partnership – my sense is ‘IBM = process A.I.” and ‘Einstein = entity A.I.’ – and when you combine the two in a thoughtful way – you may arrive at two very fast digital advisors on how which business process should touch which customer, supplier, or marketing lead – in what order – without requiring (much) human intervention.  Stay tuned on this one – there is a story here worth telling but it seems a little out of focus still.


In summary – the world tour event illustrated today a major improvement on the acquisitions, artificial intelligence, and customer vision for Salesforce 2017.   If you have not looked at your relationship management solution(s) lately – now is a good time to consider how ready you are for digital business.   Especially if you are lagging behind on artificial intelligence and analytics to support business transformation.  

To learn more about digital engagement, customer experiences, and how relationship management is part of a digital business, get in touch with us below! 








Growth, efficiency and security: three digital technologies every executive should know in 2017

As companies gear up for 2017, digital business opportunities abound for forward thinking leaders.   For Sales Growth, Efficiency, and Security (+speed) - the digital landscape holds a number of strong opportunities in the year ahead.   Understanding the possibilities, and how they add value to the broader business, is key to any digital transformation. 

For Growth - Sales Engagement Platforms  

The number one thing that drives corporate growth is sales.  And the growing number of sales engagement platforms in 2016 was not by accident. The recent Aragon Research report on Sales Engagement Platforms has pegged the market today at $780m, and expected to grow to $5b by 2021.    Often times sales engagement (or enablement depending on the marketing twist) – is focused on helping business leaders best identify the ‘hot leads’ and strong sales candidates that can help move a quarter or make a business year.   

Why should CxO’s and IT leaders care?  The need for better sales techniques and technologies has reached an all-time high as companies have realized static growth through traditional sales processes and solutions.   Many of the leading platforms in this area are ‘born on the cloud’ – and integrating with the leading CRM and contracts management platforms.   Breaking the mold and finding new ways to identify, connect and engage customers will be key in 2017 for growth minded companies.    

This year, solving what your sales engagement platform play will be key to many companies’ growth success.  

For Efficiency - Cognitive computing (and the variations of artificial intelligence)

The proverbial genie is out of the bottle with artificial intelligence, and 2016 witnessed a number of tech vendor commitments (and some deliveries) of A.I. for sake of business.   The commercial leader, IBM, has brought to market strongly the IBM Watson platform, enabling dozens of industries and thousands of companies in the quest for great efficiency.    Salesforce, always a tech leader, will also be introducing Einstein into their platform in 2017.  And Microsoft is quick to follow with Cortana and other predictive analytics capabilities.   

Key questions to answer on artificial intelligence:  In the mash up of buzz words and hype around the capabilities, does your business (and IT group) know the difference between machine learning and cognitive computing?    More important, do you know which is right for your business now, and in the future? The efficiency gains (and in some cases, workforce transition or replacement) from the use will be long running.    Building a strategy today that embraces the possibilities, with a long term view will be crucial to maximize the efficiency gains possible for your business.  

For Security (and speed) – Blockchain

From his recent TED talk, Don Tapscott, a leading digital strategist and speaker, shares his insights into how the block chain technology will impact nearly all facets of human life.

How will blockchain make the world different in 2017?  In short, Blockchain helps drive security (and speed) by improving the real time authentication of transactions and removing the ‘middle man’ in the clearing and authentication process.   By making the transactions ‘completely trustworthy’, the authentication time and processes can be changed from hours and days (think transferring funds across a banking network or between countries), to microseconds.  

Two illustrative scenarios that are impacted by blockchain (and more to come): 

First, in Financial Services.  The availability of funds, and real time acquisition time possible with the blockchain authentication process, changes the underlying business model for the financial services market itself.  The fees, processes, timing involved, and infrastructure of over 100 years is challenged with the adoption of block chain.  How does a bank or institution charge for microsecond processing in the future state?    More important, how does that impact the flow of capital between individuals and businesses worldwide.     

Second, Verification of financial reports and records in the accounting industry.  Today millions of auditors and tax processors around the world conduct regular analysis, reporting and auditing processes, mostly still in a quarterly or annual cycle with complex platforms and processes.    When the need for ‘trusting the books’ is automatically performed with blockchain capabilities, how does that impact the accounting industry?   In short, it can drastically shift the value proposition (and need) for financial review and reporting.   And it forces a digital rethink of the industry itself and the value it will provide to companies ahead.    

As companies consider security and speed opportunities in 2017 – consider how your company might adopt block chain to transform your business.   If authentication, authorization, and speed are priorities for your company, block chain will provide a competitive advantage which you can take up.

Digital capabilities and transforming your business in the implementation process is something we help companies with every day.  Are you ready to become a digital business?  

Get in touch to learn how!   

Why every company is a digital business

Insights from our first anniversary event: The TouchCR story

Why digital is everyone’s business
Last evening, we celebrated our first anniversary with a holiday event with 80+ attendees, and an amazing keynote from CEO Al Corona, Suzanne Mehta, and Ritchie Hale at TouchCR sharing their business journey.
TouchCR’s origin, a consumer products company needing a better digital marketing solution, was faced with a common digital problem.  The had a large amount of customer data, a need for better targeting of customers, and no evident marketing solution in their industry to meet the needs. 

To solve, they built a better digital marketing platform on top of Salesforce, leveraging the existing SF components and solving for a better solution as Business 2 Consumer (B2C) company.  Having solved their need as a business, they are now taking their digital offering to other B2C companies as a profitable opportunity.  The traction they are seeing is amazing, and the audience last night was extremely engaged with the possibilities.
The TouchCR journey illustrates the digital reality every business faces.  The abundance of data, finding how to better engage customers with insights that data brings, and driving growth quickly– is a strategic ambition for every company. 
The digital insight: Finding the right digital solution for your company is driven first and foremost by your business priorities (and often pain).  Growth, better market engagement, and leveraging your digital assets (information in most cases) to your advantage are areas we help companies identify and help achieve for their own digital journey.   Take a note from TouchCR - leveraging (your data and existing platforms) and going fast forward helps drive market leadership, and ultimately growth!    Thank you to TouchCR for their presentation last night, and partnership in our event! 

Digital business is possible for any company - to learn how we help clients find their answer, get in touch for your 2017 digital strategy assessment!  

Top points from Dreamforce 2016 - Einstein knows how to help you sell

This year’s Dreamforce event concluded in San Francisco had innovation for everyone in the announcements and partnerships, with a common thread of tech conferences being the unveiling of SalesForce Einstein, the new artificial intelligence engine soon to be part of the Salesforce eco-system.

Key Salesforce announcements worth note included:

Einstein is here to help 

Cognitive computing at the core of the Salesforce platform.  With the launch of Einstein, companies will now be able to augment the age old ‘sales instincts’ with predictive lead scoring, analytics which leverage real time data of business announcements, and behavioral reports which help companies surface the best potential buyers, most needy support customers, and best ‘next actions’ to take as a services / sale professional.    Similar to IBM Watson, Microsoft Cortana, and the Google DeepMind A.I. capabilities brought to commercial use in the past year, Einstein will provide a new layer of insights, advice, and support to business users of the SF platform.   (read more here)

Making the SF user experience ‘hyper flexible’ and intuitive

A common complaint heard with SF implementations (especially those pre Lightning interface) is the difficulty in navigating the screens and menus to arrive at actionable information.   This has been overcome in part last year with Lightning and the UX changes, and further enabled with the component capabilities launched this week.   The ability to intuitively drag and drop data elements, from dashboards to reports, makes the SF experience a much more intuitive capability.    

Developer friendly with Salesforce Dx

Salesforce, like many platforms, has had limitations in the past on what programmatically was possible, and integrated with only a handful of programming environments and eco-systems.   With Salesforce Dx, developers will now be able to leverage an open dev environment, writing across over a dozen different languages into the SF platform.   Version management (always a challenge in team development) is now intuitive and automations of test environments make the process of writing, testing, and launching iteratively a major improvement.  

300 Apps Lightning ready and counting

With over 300 Lightening ready applications available in the App Exchange for SF, many of the leading integration solutions are now completely compatible with the Lightening platform.   Salesforce’s encouragement to the partner community to conclude the migrations to Lightening for the balance of solutions was a major nudge for many of the partner players.   This is good news for customers and companies, ensuring that the journey from one version of SF to another will conclude in the near future with partner eco-system help.

Time to better collaborate, and chatbot enable Salesforce

Collaboration and chatbot capabilities were frequently cited during keynotes and presentations, including a partnership with Slack and Quip, an acquisition from earlier this year.   Mobility is clearly in the sights for SF in their efforts here.   This is crucial, as the SF Mobile application today has limited capabilities for teams to work together.   Look for more here in the months ahead.   

Acquisitions matter

Acquisitions do matter, with the announcement this week of Krux purchase by SF for over $700m US.  Krux, a digital marketing / data management platform that helps companies better target and campaign pursue customers.   (read the Krux announcement here)

Branding matters

Finally, the SF Trailblazer branding and sales promotion identity was unveiled, bringing home to many how friendly the SF user experience is becoming with these latest innovations and capabilities.  

What does this all mean for business leaders and customers?  

In short, Salesforce is taking the cognitive sales and service cloud to the market head on, and challenging other competitors to bring their A game.  

From the Dreamforce conference this week - with improved usability, greater flexibility and speed with development, deeper capabilities with acquisitions, and an embedding cognitive platform, Salesforce is helping companies focus on what matters most – the customer.  

To learn more about how SalesForce innovations can help your digital business evolve, get in touch with us