Dreamforce 2013: What to Expect
It’s that time of year again. The holidays are on the horizon, but not before Salesforce.com’s annual extravaganza in downtown San Francisco.
DreamForce 2013 is, by most accounts, slated to be the biggest the convention has ever been since it got started in 2003. Just compare 2003’s 1,300 registered guests with the estimated 92,000+ attendees for 2013 and the exponential growth of the event becomes a reflection of Salesforce’s rise to power as a major player in the business software world.
While it’s still about the technology–Salesforce will always be remembered as the pioneer of SaaS-only delivery for CRM–Dreamforce is also also about being one huge statement piece for Salesforce marketing: look at the amount of resources we can marshal, look at the size of our partner network down on the Expo floor, look at all the luminaries willing to attach their names to us, look how cool and un-stuffy business software became because of us!
With that in mind we each put together our perspectives on the convention and what kinds of information and events we’re hoping to check out this year.
Expectations for This Year
The keynote speeches at company-hosted technology conventions are always interesting. When I say interesting I don’t mean so much from a content perspective as all the metatextual stuff that comes along. CEO Marc Benioff’s keynotes are particularly interesting in this regard. Equal parts State of the Corporation address, product demo and motivational speaker session, the utter slickness with which the company presents their chief executive is always worth seeing.
Watch as Benioff, in true faith healer style, pulls big-name Salesforce clients out of the audience to have them give testament to the transformative power of the Salesforce platform.
There are also a few Salesforce-related news tidbits I’m hoping to find out more about, be it in official announcements or informally on the Expo floor. I’m mainly curious about the game plan for their much-vaunted foray into marketing automation as well as what’s going to happen to Do.com, the task management solution slated to end in January according to a pretty unceremonious announcement in October.
Being a newbie to the Dreamforce scene, I’m quite excited for the conference as a whole. I’m eager to check out many of the younger startup companies that are making a splash in the marketing industry, especially those with funky names I’ve never heard of but want to know. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for the decision management platform Hexigo
, because I think it would be a lifesaver to many of our internal communication problems caused by our existing email-chain methodology.
As a young woman in the tech industry, I can’t help but view Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer as promising symbols of the changes we will soon incur in the business world. Though the media has questioned Mayers’ abilities and beaten the pros and cons of Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ philosophy to the point of unbearability, I think they hold critical positions for de-genderizing the workplace — and yet I find them most inspiring because in the end they’re just like all other women, learning how to maneuver the corporate space. Each excels as a businesswoman, as a motivator and as a trailblazer, and I think their Dreamforce keynotes will undoubtedly be a high point of the convention for me.
As everyone in tech knows, if you work in the industry and don’t know who Salesforce is, then you must be terrible at your job. That being said, it’s also relatively common knowledge that trying to map out the SaaS giant’s bigger picture can be a trying task at best. Yet this year’s Dreamforce slogan to “join the customer company revolution” coupled with the company’s assortment of acquired software platforms suggests a quiet but persistent infiltration of the stagnant ERP vendor space. It would appear that Salesforce’s re-commitment to its clientele is the company’s way of pacifying increased grumblings about pricing, customer focus and functionality limitations. Only time will tell if or how this new tactic will placate the 100,000+ Salesforce users, although at this point I highly doubt the enterprise is headed anywhere but up.
This will be my first Dreamforce, as well as my first time in San Francisco, so for one, I’m excited just to be at the conference, learning from the top individuals in the industry. I’ve heard that this year’s Dreamforce will be focused on how companies can connect and interact with customers via new channels and techniques. Hopefully presenters will bring provide some concrete take-home tidbits instead of the more abstract ideas that have always been tied to customer engagement, particularly in understanding business social strategy.
I’m also excited to check out the smorgasbord of new and established companies in the expo, particularly 8×8, Bunchball and Appirio (whose name I will pronounce correctly, after watching their pronunciation YouTube video). I’m also planning to meet with OneSource, who produces a cool CRM solution, and look forward to learning more about new products and features in their pipeline.
Lastly, since my colleagues have been telling me about the overabundance of free company swag that we’ll be seeing and receiving, I’m quite excited to see what companies are handing out. Salesforce water bottles? Keychains? Bouncy balls? Count me in!
To be honest, I would have been a bit more impressed if Dreamforce’s keynote speaker lineup had included someone a little more controversial that the Silicon Valley power players that it’s showcasing this year. What I’m really looking forward to at Dreamforce is finding out who will win Salesforce’s inaugural Hackathon. With a nearly-obscene $1 million prize up for grabs, Salesforce has made it clear that they’re willing to invest in developers with great ideas, so I’m excited to see what comes out of this new facet of Dreamforce.
I’d also like to learn more about LevelEleven, who are elevating gamification to a whole new level. Their flagship product, Compete, lets sales teams do just that – compare their performance directly against their peers. Whether that will spur teams to do better or foster a cutthroat sense of competition has yet to be seen, but Compete has definitely been creating a buzz since it’s Dreamforce debut in 2011.
This is the year of employee engagement and customer engagement vendors, and they are going to be hitting the expo floor this Dreamforce. Gamification and engagement analytics seem to be making ripples in the industry, and I’m excited to watch the hundreds of companies swarm to collectively meld the pieces that will bud the tech trends of 2014.
Like Ashley, the Hackathon is on the top of my look-out list; innovative, risk-taking developers and fresh startups are always a source of inspiration. Some new products are even making their debuts at the expo, such as Adallom and Gijig. Like Mark, I look forward to an explanation to Do.com’s disappearance this January as well as the purpose behind ExactTarget’s acquisition. As far as keynote speakers go, I can’t forget what will likely be an inspirational keynote delivered by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the acclaimed book, Lean In, about the scarcity of women in leadership positions.
Overall, I simply seek a refreshing day when my Bay Area tech industry neighbors come out from their office towers in the financial district, greet one another with booming voices and give out freebies. With Dreamforce, Halloween came late this year.
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