Tag Archives: Dreamforce

AppExchange, acquisitions key to the future of Salesforce

If numbers such as $13.28 billion fiscal 2019 revenue or 171,000 Dreamforce attendees last month are any indication, Salesforce nailed the tech side of building a wildly loyal customer following for its sales, marketing, customer service and e-commerce clouds during its first 20 years.

For the next two decades, it will take continuous technology innovation, especially in the areas of cloud integration, AI and voice to prevent those customers from defecting to Adobe, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle platforms. Far more important to the future of Salesforce,  employees, customers and analysts said, is growing a Salesforce talent pool beyond the company’s control: partners, developers, admins and consultants.

To woo partners, Salesforce opened its platform. It hosts the AppExchange, a third-party marketplace similar to the Apple App Store or Google Play. Lightning Platform, a low-code appdev environment launched in 2009 as Force.com, enables individual users to create low-code apps and integrations themselves. Finally, Trailhead, a free, self-paced Salesforce training site, debuted in 2014; it has attracted 1.7 million people to learn developer, admin and consultant skills.

Yet it’s not enough. Salesforce developer and admin talent are in short supply. They will get even shorter if the company realizes CEO and founder Marc Benioff’s oft-stated revenue targets of $20 billion by 2022 and $60 billion by 2034 as more customers come to Salesforce.

“Salesforce’s biggest innovation is building this open community, whether it’s admins and recognizing how crucial they are, or creating Force.com and encouraging other developers to come in and develop on their platform,” said Nicole France, an analyst at Constellation Research. “Going forward, the challenge will be keeping up with the pace of innovation — it’s a lot harder when you’re a behemoth company.”

Salesforce's 20-year boom

AppExchange, Dreamforce built over many years

When Salesforce first started, what we call cloud companies today were referred to as application service providers. Salesforce’s big innovation was building an entire platform in the cloud instead of just one app, said Michael Fauscette, an analyst at G2.

When Salesforce first got into the enterprise, they didn’t go in the traditional way. IT bought tech — except for Salesforce automation. It came in through the sales guy.
Michael FauscetteAnalyst, G2

“Salesforce, and NetSuite, too, really had this idea of scaling infrastructure up and down really quickly with multi-tenancy, according to need,” Fauscette said, which found a different buying audience. “When Salesforce first got into the enterprise, they didn’t go in the traditional way. IT bought tech — except for Salesforce automation. It came in through the sales guy. They could just start using Salesforce immediately.”

Quickly, though, Salesforce knew it couldn’t keep up with every individual customer’s tech needs, especially integrations with outside business applications. So, in 2006, it threw open its platform to third-party developers by introducing the AppExchange, which provided sales teams with tools to integrate Salesforce with applications such as calendars, email, accounting, HR and ERP. Today, AppExchange hosts 3,400 apps.

Force.com, now called Lightning Platform, came along two years later, and enabled individual developers or even nondevelopers to build their own apps and connectors among Salesforce and other apps.

The AppExchange evolved into a Salesforce revenue generator in several ways, said Woodson Martin, executive vice president and general manager of Salesforce AppExchange. First, Salesforce earns revenue when an app is sold. Second, AppExchange enables customers to use Salesforce to grow their companies and, in turn, increase their Salesforce subscription. Third, it generates new leads for Salesforce when a developer creates a connector to a vertical-specific app.

“We think of AppExchange as the hub of the Salesforce ecosystem,” Martin said. “In some cases, apps are the tip of the spear for new industry verticals.”

G2’s Fauscette said that shuttling data between clouds, and between clouds and on-premises systems, will require more and more integrations between Salesforce and outside applications for at least the next decade. That makes AppExchange a crucial part of the future of Salesforce.

Acquisitions give partners new opportunities

Moving forward, AppExchange will expand into new domains, Martin said, as Salesforce integrates features and capabilities from companies it acquired, including Tableau and MuleSoft, into its platform. That will create opportunities for developers to create new customizations for data visualizations and data integrations.

Martin also said that Salesforce closely watches technology trends in the consumer retailing and e-commerce space — personalization and AI are two recent examples — to bring to its B2B platform. That’s what customers want, he said: a B2B buying experience that works as well as Amazon does at home.

But it takes outside developers to buy into the AppExchange concept, and so far, they seem rosy on the future of Salesforce. AppExchange partners such as configure-price-quote (CPQ) provider Apttus generally believe there’s room for developers of all stripes to grow their own franchises, even when Salesforce adds native overlapping features that directly compete.

That happened when Salesforce acquired Apttus competitor SteelBrick and added Salesforce-native CPQ three years ago, said Eric Carrasquilla, senior vice president of product at Apttus. That’s because Salesforce has hundreds of thousands of CRM customers now — and the number keeps increasing.

“Salesforce is a force of nature,” Carrasquilla said, adding that Apttus and Salesforce CPQ have roughly 3,500 customers combined. “That’s still a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the opportunity within the CRM market. It’s a very deep pool, businesswise, and there’s more than enough for everyone in the ecosystem.”

Read how Trailblazers also figure heavily into the future of Salesforce in the second part of this story.

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Salesforce Lightning Bolt strikes Appirio as vertical plan

Appirio, a cloud services provider, rolled out prebuilt offerings on Salesforce Lightning at Dreamforce 2017, which wrapped up this week in San Francisco.

The Wipro company’s prebuilt wares, referred to as Salesforce Lightning Bolt solutions in the SaaS vendor’s terminology, target the retail and healthcare vertical markets and employee engagement as a horizontal market.

Salesforce Lightning, the vendor’s platform-wide upgrade, debuted two years ago, and customer migration to the environment was a key theme at Dreamforce 2017. The Salesforce Lightning Bolt approach, which the company unveiled in 2016, lets Salesforce partners create new communities, portals or websites that integrate with Salesforce customer relationship management. Salesforce intends for the Lightning Bolts to be reusable, industry-specific offerings.

The ability to develop custom, repeatable Salesforce Lightning Bolt solutions appeals to channel partners.

“That is why [Salesforce Lightning Bolt] resonates with us and other systems integrators,” said Yoni Barkan, director of solutions and innovation at Appirio, based in Indianapolis. “These are solutions that we feel show our industry expertise in a particular area and allow us to leverage that.”

These are solutions that we feel show our industry expertise in a particular area and allow us to leverage that.
Yoni Barkandirector of solutions and innovation at Appirio

Appirio’s Bolt lineup includes a retail and franchise offering that aims to facilitate collaboration among franchisors and franchisees, home offices and retail partners. Barkan said the Lightning Bolt lets participants view their own branding — a franchisee’s or home office’s branding, for example — while participating in the Salesforce-based community.

Also in the retail and franchise space, Appirio’s promotion management Lightning Bolt provides a collaboration platform for managing new promotions and brand updates. Barkan said the promotion use case stems from work the company has undertaken with a global franchise company.

A medical device ordering and sales Lightning Bolt, meanwhile, seeks to bolster communication and collaboration among manufacturers, distributors and suppliers. And an employee community and social intranet Salesforce Lightning Bolt targets employee engagement. For that Bolt, Appirio is partnering with vendors such as Stantive Technologies Group, which provides the OrchestraCMS content management system.

Green House Data, Ingram in acquisition mode

Green House Data, a cloud hosting and managed services company based in Cheyenne, Wyo., has acquired Ajubeo, an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider based in Boulder, Colo.

The purchase provides Green House Data a presence in the Rocky Mountain region, adding to its geographic expansion. The company in April 2017 purchased IaaS provider Cirracore, which has operations in Atlanta and Dallas.

“We’ve largely based acquisition and expansion strategies around a combination of customer demand, geodiversity and, of course, market opportunity,” said Shawn Mills, president and CEO at Green House Data. “For example, we acquired into Atlanta earlier this year because 75% of Fortune 1000 companies have some kind of presence in this market, so it is advantageous to both our clients and to organic growth.”

From the cloud services point of view, Green House Data’s Ajubeo purchase was also driven by the latter company’s private cloud practice, Mills noted.

Cloud services companies are acquiring other firms to shore up skills in an increasingly multi-cloud environment. Mills said multi-cloud customer engagements are “more and more the norm than an anomaly.”

Ingram Micro Inc., meanwhile, acquired The Phoenix Group, a distributor of point-of-sale (POS) technology for the U.S. and Canadian electronic payments markets. According to Ingram Micro, The Phoenix Group’s management and associates will operate as a division of Ingram Micro.

Other news

  • Big Switch Networks, a data center networking vendor, launched a channel program the company said provides partner incentives, training, certification and enablement programs, along with professional services opportunities. The company’s channel partner program is based on two tiers: The Big Switch Authorized Partner tier is open to partners who are authorized networking resellers of Dell EMC or Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Channel partners can also qualify for that tier by signing a Big Switch VAR agreement for selling Edgecore and Big Switch offerings. The Big Switch Premier Partner tier is open to partner that meet the Authorized Partner requirements and also fulfill additional Premier Partner tier requirements that include maintaining a defined number of certified sales and engineering employees.
  • Datical, a provider of database release automation offerings, unveiled a partner program with the objective of connecting DevOps vendors and systems integrators. Program features include an online marketplace, access to training and joint marketing opportunities with Datical.
  • Pivot3, a hyper-converged infrastructure vendor, said the company witnessed a 178% increase in new deal registrations from channel partners from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2017. In addition, the company said 77 partners have joined the company’s channel roster in Q3.
  • Kryon Systems, a robotic process automation solutions provider, is partnering with MFX, an IT services provider for property and casualty insurance carriers, reinsurers and agents.
  • Ingenico Group, a POS and e-payment company, has selected Masergy, a hybrid networking and managed security provider, for its managed SD-WAN Pro offering.
  • World Wide Technology, an IT solution provider, opened a new global headquarters in the Maryland Heights, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. The facility is 208,000 square feet, and it includes a 300-seat auditorium equipped with an LED screen that’s 51 feet by 12 feet.
  • BCS ProSoft, a business software and technology consulting firm, has appointed Sally Craig as its vice president of sales and marketing. Craig was previously a channel executive at ERP vendor Epicor.

Experts: Time is nigh for a Salesforce Lightning migration

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago at Dreamforce, Salesforce unveiled Lightning, a platform-wide upgrade that paved the way for other new features, including the abundance of Einstein products. It also — although not overtly — paved the way for a future Salesforce Lightning migration as Salesforce Classic fades away.

And that future may be here now. The topic of a Salesforce Lightning migration was a popular one on the opening day of Dreamforce Monday — two different Lightning migration sessions were at capacity during the morning, with dozens of attendees turned away in both cases.

“At the end of the day, Salesforce won’t be doing anything on the old style anymore,” said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research. “If a customer is hesitant to move to Lightning, I don’t want to imply that Salesforce is pushing customers along, but everything forward will be Lightning.”

At a Service Cloud roadmap session at Dreamforce, that sentiment was solidified by Salesforce executives.

“Some features aren’t possible in Salesforce Classic,” said Jon Aniano, senior vice president of product management for Service Cloud.

Dreamforce 2017 kicked off Monday
Sessions focusing on how to prepare for a Salesforce Lightning migration were popular during the first day at Dreamforce in San Francisco Monday.

‘A stealth deployment’

The lack of new features in Salesforce Classic was a big reason why CommScope, a network infrastructure provider based in Hickory, N.C., recently migrated from Salesforce Classic to Lightning.

The company began using Salesforce in 2012. This past spring, it launched its Salesforce Lightning migration, giving itself six months to complete the adoption, said Danelle Lockwood, an analyst of sales operations at CommScope.

If we wanted to use new features, it was in Lightning. Salesforce isn’t doing anything in Classic — everything is in Lightning.
Danelle Lockwoodanalyst of sales operations, CommScope

“If we wanted to use new features, it was in Lightning,” Lockwood said. “Salesforce isn’t doing anything in Classic — everything is in Lightning.

“We gave ourselves six months, but it wasn’t needed,” she added. “A lot of things worked during the migration.”

To ensure processes would still work after the migration to Lightning, Lockwood said CommScope was able to test everything before turning the switch on.

“We moved everything to production, and then didn’t turn it on,” Lockwood said. “It was a stealth deployment and we retested everything.”

The move was a result of Salesforce slowly fading out Salesforce Classic — almost forcing customers to launch a Salesforce Lightning migration.

Training your workforce

While new features will most likely only be available on Lightning, another impediment keeping longtime users from implementing a Salesforce Lightning migration is the potential training involved with a new user interface.

But by giving your workforce enough time and freedom to explore Lightning, according to Lockwood, users can mostly train themselves.

“We didn’t do much training. We sent out a two-minute introduction video that focused on the parts that were new,” Lockwood said. “When we did our testing, we had our users do it and had them go in and create an opportunity and add a contact. We didn’t tell them how to, so that we could figure out where they had problems and tailor the little bits of training toward those problems.”

At Dreamforce, Salesforce applications take center stage

Apps, Einstein and Quip are expected to be the focus at Dreamforce, with Salesforce keeping any new clouds it may be building under wraps.

For its first 18 years, Salesforce focused inward, building its clouds and the infrastructure to support them. This year, with many business processes covered by one cloud product or another, Salesforce is turning its attention outward — to the applications side of the aisle — hoping that building out its community of developers will help propel new growth.

Salesforce applications will be a big focus at the start of Dreamforce, the company’s annual conference, which is expected to draw more than 170,000 attendees, according to a recently published report by USA Today. In its initial announcements ahead of Dreamforce, Salesforce focused on existing products and how to improve the user experience, including a bevy of app-building tools.

Einstein apps and bots

The company’s apps can now be embedded into Einstein with the release of myEinstein, which allows users to create custom AI models. Salesforce Einstein AI bots can also employ artificial intelligence to assist with customer service workflows. Einstein Prediction Builder enables admins to craft AI models that predict business outcomes.

Salesforce Einstein AI was the big reveal at last year’s Dreamforce — the accumulation spending more than $1 billion on AI-centric companies. And while no new clouds or platform-wide products were unveiled this year, some analysts see this year’s Dreamforce as a Part Two to last year’s Part One.

“It’s an evolution from what [Salesforce] talked about last year,” said John Bruno, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Right now, Einstein is still in the early adopter phase. That being said, the stuff Salesforce has done has matured [Einstein] over the past year.”

Apps extend to Apple, Google stores

One key example of that, according to Bruno, is the availability of Einstein Prediction Builder, which allows companies to embed AI functionality into its own business processes.

“Prediction Builder is Salesforce stepping out and saying, ‘Everything you’ve known Salesforce to be as a platform is in the past,'” Bruno said. “Prediction Builder is the next generation of that. Salesforce placed its bets on AI being the future, and, if that’s the case, you can’t rely on the first-party capabilities you put out there.”

Beyond improving and building out Einstein, Salesforce released several other upgrades, many of which focused on building Salesforce applications and company branding.

The Salesforce mobile application will go from Salesforce1 to mySalesforce — allowing for employees at all levels to build custom Salesforce applications. App builders can also publish Salesforce applications to the App Store or Google Play with a Listing Wizard capability. Lightning received the app upgrade with myLightning, including better branding capabilities and an improved App Builder.

Quip makes collaboration push

Quip also received an application-centric upgrade, with Live Apps embedding real-time collaboration and document viewing, a calendar app that can be used to track projects, and workflow templates for quick document and spreadsheet use for specific industries and projects.

The added collaboration features for Quip can lead to the question of whether this is Salesforce positioning itself to challenge the Slacks and Microsoft Teams of the world. Salesforce denies any posturing, saying that Slack remains a partner.

Salesforce wants to be the one place where employees conduct all of their work-related activities.
Bill Quinn, director of customer experience solutions, Tata Consultancy Services

“Slack and Quip are allies in changing the way people work, and Slack continues to be a great partner of ours,” said Rafael Alenda, vice president of marketing at Quip. “Slack has seen success in communication, while the Quip Collaboration Platform is focused on document, collaboration and, in the end, transforming the enterprise culture into something much more modern, less reliant on emails and less reliant on meetings.”

Alenda added that with an open API, Quip could be embedded into other document-based tools that customers use.

While Salesforce continues to play nice with Slack, others see it as the company subtly positioning itself into the growing collaboration market.

“I think they’re essentially working to make Salesforce the ‘hub’ for all the work you do as an employee,” said Bill Quinn, director of customer experience solutions at Tata Consultancy Services, based in Mumbai, India. “Salesforce wants to be the one place where employees conduct all of their work-related activities. It started with Chatter but has grown with Quip.”

To help companies with development of Salesforce applications, Trailhead has also been expanded into myTrailhead. The move allows customers to create custom learning pages with their own content and branding to assist with onboarding and company-specific skills.

More information regarding these features and other future features will be released throughout the week at Dreamforce. Be sure to check back to SearchSalesforce for updates.