Tag Archives: Salesforce

Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI going hard after Salesforce

Microsoft and Salesforce are attacking each other again. Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI tools are coming that will beef up sales, marketing and — most of all — service and support, unveiled the day after Salesforce announced Quip Slides, a PowerPoint competitor.

Salesforce appears to be annexing Microsoft’s business-productivity territory, while Microsoft is rolling its forces deeper into Salesforce’s CRM domain by more tightly connecting Teams collaboration with its CRM suite, freshened up with new AI capabilities.

“You’ve got Salesforce announcing Quip Slides, and you’ve got Microsoft doing a whole bunch of integration between Teams and Dynamics … who’s going after whose market?” said Alan Lepofsky, analyst at Constellation Research.

In a media briefing ahead of its Ignite user conference, the tech giant took some direct shots at rival Salesforce in introducing Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI tools that buttress CRM processes. Of particular note was Dynamics 365 AI for Customer Service, which adds out-of-the-box virtual agents.

Assistive AI for contact centers

Who’s going after whose market?
Alan Lepofskyanalyst, Constellation Research

Virtual agents can take several forms, two of which include chatbots that do the talking on behalf of humans, or assistive bots that prompt humans with suggested answers for engaging live with customers either on voice or text channels.

New Microsoft bots, built on Azure Cognitive Services, won’t require the code-intensive development or consultant services that other vendors’ CRM tools do, claimed Alysa Taylor, Microsoft corporate vice president of business applications and global industry. She singled out Salesforce as a CRM competitor in her comments.

“Many vendors offer [virtual agents] in a way that is very cumbersome for organizations to adopt,” Taylor said. “It requires a large services engagement; Salesforce partners with IBM Watson to be able to deliver this.”

Either way, the bots will require training. Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI-powered bots can be trained by call center managers, asserted Navrina Singh, Microsoft AI principal product lead, during a demo.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s taking on Salesforce with new CRM AI tools

The bots can tap into phone log transcriptions, email and other contact center data stores to shape answers to customer problems and take some of the workload off of overburdened contact center agents, Singh said.

The virtual agent introductions were significant enough that Microsoft brought out CEO Satya Nadella for a cameo with Singh during the briefing.

“The thing that’s most exciting to me,” Nadella said, “… is that [Microsoft] can make every company out there an AI-first company. They already have customers, they already have data. If you can democratize the use of AI tools, every company can harness the power of AI.”

Other Dynamics 365 AI tools for CRM

Sales and marketing staffs get their own Dynamics 365 AI infusion, too.

Microsoft brings Dynamics 365 AI for Sales in line with Salesforce Einstein tools that use AI to prioritize lead pipelines and sales-team performance management.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI for Market Insights plumbs marketing, social media and other customer engagement data to improve customer relations and “engage in relevant conversations and respond faster to trends,” Taylor wrote in a blog post announcing the new system.

While the Microsoft moves appear effective, industry observers questioned whether they can Microsoft make an impression in Salesforce’s massive market footprint, even if they are easier to use, more economical and more intuitive than Salesforce’s.

Lepofsky said he isn’t sure, because of the sheer numbers. The 150,000-strong Dreamforce user conference is at the same time as Ignite, and the latter will likely draw only about a sixth of the Dreamforce crowd. And Salesforce likely won’t be resting on its AI credentials either.

“I think you can speculate that Salesforce will also be talking about AI improvements at Dreamforce, so perhaps it’s not that differentiating for Dynamics,” Lepofsky said.

While Microsoft announced no release date for its AI tools, a preview site will go online this fall, Singh said.

Dreamforce brings Salesforce products upgrades

Users can anticipate more Einstein AI features to be integrated with Salesforce products and more news about the CRM vendor’s recent acquisitions and how they will play pivotal roles in the Salesforce platform.

Salesforce is expected to unveil the Einstein and acquisition developments at Dreamforce, the company’s annual customer conference in San Francisco that attracts nearly 150,000 attendees.

Analysts said they expect substantial upgrades to core Salesforce systems and more use cases for Einstein and how recent acquisitions of CloudCraze and MuleSoft fit into the Salesforce ecosystem.

“Salesforce is trying to tell the story that they are the customer success platform for all companies, B2B, B2C and companies that operate in both industries,” said John Bruno, an analyst at Forrester.

Bruno added that he expects more keynotes than usual from companies like Adidas that show how Salesforce products allow companies to work with a variety of customers, from both the business and consumer sectors.

“I think you’ll hear a tight story around exactly how Salesforce and CloudCraze and Commerce Cloud fit for B2B and B2C companies,” Bruno said. “Is it going to be prime time ready? No, but they will target that story because Salesforce hasn’t told that story great.”

Attendees at Dreamforce 2017 in San Francisco
Users can learn about new upgrades and features for all Salesforce products at Dreamforce conference.

New Quip Slides system

Meanwhile, Salesforce said Sept. 17, a week before Dreamforce, that it will be showing at the conference PowerPoint-esque upgrade to its content collaboration platform, Quip, called Quip Slides.

Quip Slides is an AI-assisted platform to help workgroups create interactive presentations mainly for internal meetings and training. It features real-time collaboration, charting, live data, feedback prompts and engagement insights.

Another feature in Quip is Salesforce partner-built Live Apps, which enable work teams to embed Box and Dropbox files into Quip.

Integrating the Integration Cloud

The CloudCraze acquisition was just one of several the San Francisco-based CRM giant made to improve its suite of products. Salesforce spent $6.5 billion to acquire MuleSoft and build out what it’s calling the Integration Cloud.

What Salesforce is recognizing is there’s a whole different set of roles for how you manage customers now.
John Brunoanalyst, Forrester

Paul Greenberg, founder and analyst at The 56 Group, said he sees the name “Integration Cloud” as a misnomer, but that he thinks the MuleSoft purchase is a pivotal acquisition to bolster Salesforce.

“Despite its silly name as Integration Cloud, MuleSoft was a smart acquisition as it gives Salesforce access to all these different layers of service and does a lot of things Salesforce couldn’t previously do,” Greenberg said. “For integrations to succeed, it’s not just about building on the Salesforce platform. Without MuleSoft it was harder to build out integrations.”

With many organizations working to upgrade legacy systems and update their processes and provide  customers with a modern experience, the ability to connect legacy systems to current platforms is often laborious. Salesforce hopes its Integration Cloud will help ease that transition.

“We’ve ended up in a hybrid world,” said Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd. “We’ve created so many data silo issues and it’s incumbent on the platform players to provide the ability to get past that.”

Continuing with business transformation

In addition to the expected unveiling of Integration Cloud and B2B commerce use cases, Salesforce is anticipated to continue its strategy of bringing together different customer-facing departments to help curate better customer experiences.

“I don’t think it’s a fully mature or fully conscious Salesforce strategy, but Salesforce is drilling down toward more personalization,” Greenberg said. “Salesforce’s Connections conference was the first step to that public story where we saw Marketing Cloud, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud becoming cross clouds in more significant ways than ever before.”

Bruno, from Forrester, agreed that organizational transformation and how Salesforce products can help is a major theme for Salesforce.

“What Salesforce is recognizing is there’s a whole different set of roles for how you manage customers now,” Bruno said. “I can see themes where [Salesforce] recognizes businesses have changed, customer engagement has changed and they are trying to provide solutions to account for that.”

More than just Salesforce products

Beyond the larger topics around its new acquisitions and customer empowerment, all of the core Salesforce products are expected to receive upgrades and users will be able to attend sessions with roadmaps outlining the future for Salesforce products.

“A core part of Dreamforce is about unveiling new innovations and it’s what customers have come to expect,” said Brigitte Donner, VP and conference chair for Dreamforce, at Salesforce. “We have more product keynotes planned than ever before.”

Donner added that the theme for Dreamforce is “change,” extending beyond just Salesforce products to larger social issues, with the first climate summit planned at Dreamforce this year, as well as Salesforce bringing back an equality summit.

Dreamforce takes place Sept. 25 to 28. Check SearchSalesforce.com for daily conference coverage.

Salesforce Datorama acquisition to bolster Marketing Cloud

The Salesforce Datorama acquisition is expected to enhance the Salesforce Marketing Cloud system and better compete with Adobe — the CRM software vendor’s main competitor in the marketing space.

The Salesforce Datorama acquisition marks the fourth purchase for the vendor this year, following its acquisitions of Attic Labs, CloudCraze and MuleSoft. The cost of buying Datorama, according to reports, was about $800 million.

Datorama uses AI and machine learning to provide marketing intelligence and analytics to help organizations identify which campaigns work best and what the next best marketing tactic should be. Salesforce appears to be looking to the Israel-based company’s technology to bolster its Einstein AI-backed business intelligence software.

The move will strengthen Salesforce’s portfolio in marketing and analytics, said Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research.

“Datorama looks at every piece of analytics around the campaign to figure out why one was more successful than another. Salesforce has been building out its Marketing Cloud and [has] been doing specific acquisitions to bolster its marketing and ad-tech capabilities,” Wang said.

Not all observers think the Salesforce Datorama acquisition was the best move to help with marketing analytics.

Datorama customers have used the product more for reporting, rather than analytics, according to Tina Moffett, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

“Datorama’s strong suit is in its ability to connect disparate data sources — from Facebook and ad servers and email providers — into one central system, and it uses AI to do that,” Moffett said. “A lot of the organizations that we’ve talked to use Datorama as a central reporting and dashboard tool.”

Building capabilities through acquisition

When you see this acquisition, you have to think the next thing for Salesforce is ad tech.
Ray Wangprincipal analyst and founder of Constellation Research

Salesforce has been visibly working to improve Marketing Cloud and has done so mainly through acquisitions.

That campaign started with acquiring ExactTarget in 2013 and turning it into the core Marketing Cloud system. Salesforce then bought Krux in 2016 to improve Marketing Cloud’s data management capabilities and soon renamed Krux to Salesforce DMP.

Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama AI marketing software fits the same theme, but the purchase may have surprised some.

“Salesforce’s [approach] is to build capabilities through acquisitions,” Moffett said. “For them to focus on marketing performance measurement and then acquire a company wasn’t that big of a shock. I think what was a big of a surprise was that it was Datorama.”

Surprise or not, Salesforce appears to have big plans for Datorama.

“Salesforce’s acquisition of Datorama will enhance Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud with expanded data integration, intelligence and analytics, enabling marketers to unlock insights across Salesforce data and the myriad of technologies used in today’s marketing and consumer engagement ecosystem,” Ran Sarig, Datorama CEO and co-founder, wrote in a blog post.

Meanwhile, Wang said he could see the Salesforce Datorama acquisition laying the groundwork for another Salesforce product: an advertising cloud.

“When you see this acquisition, you have to think the next thing for Salesforce is ad tech,” Wang said.

Salesforce graphic with Marketing Cloud logo
Salesforce acquired Datorama, an AI marketing analytics company, to help bolster its Marketing Cloud (pictured).

Salesforce sets sights on Adobe

Salesforce’s focus on strengthening Marketing Cloud also is apparently aimed at Adobe — another marketing software giant.

The two software goliaths have battled fiercely in recent years, and the Salesforce Datorama acquisition should be viewed in the context of that technological arms race, Wang said.

“From a Marketing Cloud perspective, it’s Salesforce and Google versus Microsoft and Adobe, and that’s what people need to recognize when considering their investments,” he said.

The big tech leaders all are trying to make it easier for organizations to connect the dozens of marketing tools that most large enterprises use.

“The bigger issue is the fact that most organizations run 40 to 50 martech solutions and want to know how to consolidate [their data],” Wang said. “Everyone is looking for one vendor to make this easier, and the integrations that Datorama has are important and allow you to connect those different pieces.”

Salesforce’s Marc Benioff calls for a national privacy law

Since June, when Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff authored a widely read opinion piece for Politico calling for a national privacy law for personal  data — a  stance that runs counter to that of many tech vendors — California passed data privacy legislation echoing the European Union’s groundbreaking GDPR.

Benioff, who had earlier backed a more radical data privacy ballot measure that tech giants like Facebook opposed, threw his clout behind the California bill, even though that measure is not quite as stringent as the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Amid boom times for data and the lack of U.S. regulation making it easier for companies to consume and monetize customer data, Benioff put the giant San Francisco-based CRM software vendor at the vanguard of the U.S. data privacy movement.

Meanwhile, the GDPR extended beyond the Atlantic and affected many U.S.-based companies that have international customers.

Between the regulatory changes around the world and consumer distrust of technology companies after recent episodes of breaches and data misuse, a national personal data privacy law such as the one Benioff envisions could be on the horizon.

But what that would look like in the U.S. is unclear, given Silicon Valley’s virtually unregulated reign and Congress’ apparent lack of appetite up to now for tech regulation.

And a big question for observers of the mercurial Benioff is whether it’s relatively easier for a company like Salesforce, which acts as a data processor and doesn’t monetize data directly, to call for stricter data privacy regulation

‘Bit of a paradox’

Salesforce declined to make Benioff available for this story. But Lindsey Finch, senior vice president of global privacy at Salesforce, said in an interview with SearchSalesforce that the kind of corporate transparency Benioff calls for in the Politico piece can be hard to achieve.

Headshot of Salesforce CEO Marc BenioffMarc Benioff

In his article, Benioff beseeches companies to be clearer about how they use customers’ data and to make terms of service concise and comprehensible.

But, as a click on the Salesforce website shows, the company’s terms of service for using cookies on a browser comprises more than 5,000 words of legal terminology. It’s more concise than some competitors’ pages, but it’s doubtful the average consumer would take the time to read 16 pages of legalese.

“This is something the industry struggles with,” Finch, a lawyer and former privacy counsel for General Electric, said. “On one hand, privacy laws like GDPR require very detailed information be provided. On the other hand, consumers want something concise and understandable. There’s a bit of a paradox of what laws legally require and what consumers can reasonably digest.”

Finch also responded to the potential criticism that Salesforce’s position in favor of strict personal data privacy is somewhat convenient because even though the company acts as a data processor for thousands of organizations, its customers’ data doesn’t directly affect its bottom line.

Lindsey Finch, senior vice president, global privacy, at SalesforceLindsey Finch

“We are a data processor in delivering our services to our customers and processing data on their behalf, but we are also a data controller in terms of running our business,” Finch said. “While our core business is delivering services as a data processor, we also have a lot of responsibilities as a controller as well.”

Data controllers are the companies directly affected by GDPR regulation and have to maintain their personal data protections up to the EU standards.

With some 10,000 employees, Salesforce is the biggest employer in San Francisco.                                    

Finch also elaborated on another key point in Benioff’s Politico piece — that a national personal data privacy law in the U.S., while using GDPR as a template, should be “tailored to our own traditions, values and rule of law.”

“We’re seeing this explosion of data and on the one hand you have individuals, either in a business or personal capacity, and what they want is a more personalized experience,” Finch said. “But at the same time they’re demanding that companies they do business with are more trustworthy than ever before.”

“We see an opportunity with something like GDPR,” she added. “What we’re advocating for in the U.S. is to look at how data is handled from the perspective of the end consumer and the types of things they’d reasonably expect or want to know about how their data is handled.”

The unregulated data landscape

Meanwhile, although the internet seems like a ubiquitous staple of everyday life, it’s still relatively new and matching regulation — which often gets drawn out through the political system — with the pace of innovation can be a difficult quandary.

“We’re seeing a backlash to this ‘Wild West’ approach to data and seeing the first signs of a more orderly digital economy,” said Steve Wilson, a data privacy expert and vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc. “You can’t have everyone for themselves when it comes to data.”

I’m seeing respect for GDPR and movement on this. Businesses understand that GDPR is an opportunity to get your [stuff] together.
Steve Wilsonvice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research

Wilson argued that widespread data breaches and concerns about Facebook’s use of data are laying the groundwork for an eventual national personal data privacy law, but others in the data privacy field still see any significant regulation as years away — if it materializes in the U.S. at all.

Another privacy expert, Ted Claypoole, a partner at the North Carolina firm Womble Bond Dickinson and a veteran data and privacy lawyer, was less sanguine on a national privacy law’s chances here.

“I think [a national privacy law] is unlikely and if it comes it will be a while from now,” Claypoole said. “If citizens don’t push for this and go collectively to Congress and demand this be changed, it won’t be. In 10 or 15 years it’ll be too hard to do because businesses are built on using data.”

One of the main reasons for Claypoole’s pessimism is his view that U.S. citizens don’t care much about personal data privacy — or if they do, their actions contradict their sentiment.

“People say one thing then jump on Facebook or give away data for a 20% off Chipotle coupon,” he said, referring to the popular Mexican food chain.

Wilson agreed that the U.S. has lagged behind on setting national privacy standards, but said he’s bullish on the response to GDPR and the movement toward better data regulation in the U.S. — starting with California.

“America has taken 20 years to get nowhere on this, but I’m not cynical about this,” Wilson said. “I’m seeing respect for GDPR and movement on this. Businesses understand that GDPR is an opportunity to get your [stuff] together.”

Wilson also said Salesforce is in a better position than companies like Facebook or Google to take the moral high ground on data privacy because Salesforce doesn’t directly make money from personal data, but that the CRM vendor still owns an important stake in the issue.

“A cynic would say that Salesforce can separate itself from the hurly burly of data and that’s fine, but they do have an important role in the custodianship of data,” Wilson said.

Data is valuable

Whether a national privacy law is a realistic goal or an idealistic dream, the national conversation on data privacy is shifting.

The California law AB 375 is a significant first step and could be a substantial one, as it would make U.S. companies abide by the California regulation if they do any business in California — similar to how companies not based in the EU still need to adhere to GDPR if they have a customer based in the EU.

“It’s not really about privacy. It’s about data being an important commodity in the digital economy and we can’t have a ‘Wild West’ anymore,” Wilson said. “We need some restraint and control and enterprise modesty. We see this attitude toward data because it’s so valuable.”

Inside the private event where Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and other rivals share security secrets

Speaking this week on the Microsoft campus, L-R: Erik Bloch, Salesforce security products and program management director; Alex Maestretti, engineering manager on the Netflix Security Intelligence and Response Team; David Seidman, Google security engineering manager; and Chang Kawaguchi, director for Microsoft Office 365 security. (GeekWire Photos / Todd Bishop)

REDMOND, Wash. — At first glance, the gathering inside Building 99 at Microsoft this week looked like many others inside the company, as technical experts shared hard-earned lessons for using machine learning to defend against hackers.

Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, Microsoft security data wrangler, spearheaded the event.

It looked normal, that is, until you spotted the person in the blue Google shirt addressing the group, next to speakers from Salesforce, Netflix and Microsoft, at a day-long event that included representatives of Facebook, Amazon and other big cloud providers and services that would normally treat technical insights as closely guarded secrets.

As the afternoon session ended, the organizer from Microsoft, security data wrangler Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, complimented panelist Erik Bloch, the Salesforce security products and program management director, for “really channeling the Ohana spirit,” referencing the Hawaiian word for “family,” which Salesforce uses to describe its internal culture of looking out for one another.

It was almost enough to make a person forget the bitter rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce.

Siva Kumar then gave attendees advice on finding the location of the closing reception. “You can Bing it, Google it, whatever it is,” he said, as the audience laughed at the rare concession to Microsoft’s longtime competitor.

It was no ordinary gathering at Microsoft, but then again, it’s no ordinary time in tech. The Security Data Science Colloquium brought the competitors together to focus on one of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry.

Machine learning, one of the key ingredients of artificial intelligence, is giving the companies new superpowers to identify and guard against malicious attacks on their increasingly cloud-oriented products and services. The problem is that hackers are using many of the same techniques to take those attacks to a new level.

Dawn Song, UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor.

“The challenge is that security is a very asymmetric game,” said Dawn Song, a UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor who attended the event. “Defenders have to defend across the board, and attackers only need to find one hole. So in general, it’s easier for attackers to leverage these new techniques.”

That helps to explain why the competitors are teaming up.

“At this point in the development of this technology it’s really critical for us to move at speed to all collaborate,” explained Mark Russinovich, the Microsoft Azure chief technology officer. “A customer of Google is also likely a customer of Microsoft, and it does nobody any good or gives anybody a competitive disadvantage to keep somebody else’s customer, which could be our own customer, insecure. This is for the betterment of everybody, the whole community.”

[Editor’s Note: Russinovich is a keynoter at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, June 27 in Bellevue, Wash.]

This spirit of collaboration is naturally more common in the security community than in the business world, but the colloquium at Microsoft has taken it to another level. GeekWire is the first media organization to go inside the event, although some presentations weren’t opened up to us, due in part to the sensitive nature of some of the information the companies shared.

The event, in its second year, grew out of informal gatherings between Microsoft and Google, which resulted in part from connections Siva Kumar made on long-distance runs with Google’s tech security experts. After getting approval from his manager, he brought one of the Google engineers to Microsoft two years ago to compare notes with his team.

The closing reception for the Security Data Science Colloquium at Microsoft this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Things have snowballed from there. After the first event, last year, Siva Kumar posted about the colloquium, describing it as a gathering of “security data scientists without borders.” As the word got out, additional companies asked to be involved, and Microsoft says this year’s event was attended by representatives of 17 different tech companies in addition to university researchers.

The event reflects a change in Microsoft’s culture under CEO Satya Nadella, as well as a shift in the overall industry’s approach. Of course, the companies are still business rivals that compete on the basis of beating each other’s products. But in years or decades past, many treated security as a competitive advantage, as well. That’s what has changed.

“This is not a competing thing. This is not about us trying to one up each other,” Siva Kumar said. “It just feels like, year over year, our problems are just becoming more and more similar.”

Siamac Mirzaie of Netflix presents at the event. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

In one afternoon session this week, representatives from Netflix, one of Amazon Web Services’ marquee customers, gave detailed briefings on the streaming service’s internal machine learning tools, including its “Trainman” system for detecting and reporting unusual user activity.

Developing and improving the system has been a “humbling journey,” said Siamac Mirzaie from the Netflix Science & Analytics Team, before doing a deep dive on the technical aspects of Trainman.

Depending on the situation, he said, Netflix uses either Python, Apache Spark or Flink to bring the data into its system and append the necessary attributes to the data. It then uses simple rules, statistical models and machine learning models to detect anomalies using Flink or Spark, followed by a post-processing layer that uses a combination of Spark and Node.js. That’s followed by a program for visualizing the anomalies in a timeline that people inside the company can use to drill down into and understand specific events.

“The idea is to refine the various data anomalies that we’ve generated in the previous stage into anomalies that our application owner or security analyst can actually relate to,” Mirzaie said.

The stakes are high given the $8 billion that Netflix is expected to spend on content this year.

But the stakes might be even higher for Facebook. The social network, which has been in the international spotlight over misuse of its platform by outside companies and groups, says it uses a combination of automated and manual systems to identify fraudulent and suspicious activity.

Facebook, which held a similar event of its own in April, was among the companies that presented during the gathering at Microsoft this week. Facebook recently announced that it used new machine learning practices to detect more than 500,000 accounts tied to financial scams.

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure CTO, in his conference room on the company’s Redmond campus this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

During his keynote, Microsoft’s Russinovich talked in detail about Windows PowerShell, the command-line program that is a popular tool for attackers in part because it’s built into the system. Microsoft’s Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is designed to detect suspicious command lines, and Microsoft was previously using a traditional model that was trained to recognize potentially malicious sequences of characters.

“That only got us so far,” Russinovich said in an interview.

After brainstorming ways to solve the problem, the company’s security defense researchers figured out how to apply deep neural networks, more commonly used in vision-based object detection, for use in PowerShell malicious script detection, as well. They essentially came up with a way to encode command lines to make them look like images to the machine learning model, Russinovich explained. The result surpassed the traditional technique “by a significant amount,” he said.

At the closing panel discussion, David Seidman, Google security engineering manager, summed up the stated philosophy of the event. “We are not trying to compete on the basis of our corporate security,” Seidman said. “Google is not trying to get ahead of Microsoft in the cloud because Microsoft got compromised. That’s the last thing we want to see.”

“We are fighting common enemies,” Seidman added. “The same attackers are coming after all of us, and an incident at one company is going to affect that customer’s trust in all the cloud companies they do business with. So we have very much aligned interests here.”

Salesforce Interaction Studio unveiled at Connections 2018

Salesforce Interaction Studio appears to be the latest major launch in the vendor’s push to enable users to capture a more complete picture of their customers — where they choose to spend their time online, how they like vendors to market to them and which ways they prefer to communicate.

Salesforce has spent billions of dollars on acquisitions, integrations and marketing to achieve that goal. And while it’s not there yet — the targets tend to move in the rapidly changing technology landscape — Salesforce is hoping its latest integrations and new products help its customers find a more complete customer journey.

Toward that end of more smoothly guiding customers through the stages of interacting with an organization, Salesforce unveiled several new product integrations, partner integrations and new applications, including Salesforce Interaction Studio. The CRM giant made the product announcements on June 13 at its Connections 2018 conference in Chicago.

Ray Wang, a Salesforce watcher and principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research Inc., said Salesforce Interaction Studio is an effective response to the fast-increasing importance of customer experience in CRM.

“CRM is actually dead. It’s about how can you craft mass personalization at scale,” Wang said. “It’s about building that experience and journey, which has become a lot more important than CRM.”

CRM vendors such as Salesforce are moving beyond customer management and working toward improving the customer experience and journey — the process of customers interacting with a company. That progression is where Salesforce Interaction Studio comes into play.

Built out of an OEM partnership with software company Thunderhead, Salesforce Interaction Studio enables companies to analyze and manage consumer experiences. Additionally, it can recommend the next-best action for customers, depending on how they interact with that brand.

“It allows you to look at cross-channel consumer insight and see next-best action and optimize customer journey,” Wang said.

Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics 360

Salesforce Interaction Studio was just one of the products unveiled at Connections, a conference focusing on marketing, commerce and service.

Building off a partnership announced at Dreamforce last year, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics 360 are generally available for integration for Marketing Cloud customers. According to Wang, the alliance is a blow to one of Salesforce’s chief competitors, Adobe.

“The battle of analytics has been Adobe Omniture versus Google Analytics,” Wang said. “As Microsoft and Adobe have come close together, it’s natural for Salesforce and Google to become allies.”

The partnership will enable customers to merge insight from Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics 360 into a single dashboard within Marketing Cloud, while campaign data will be available within Google Analytics 360 to provide tailored web content.

Another feature, which won’t be available in beta until July, will allow users to create an audience in Google Analytics 360, activate it outside the Google platform and allow users to continue building that audience within Marketing Cloud.

While nothing prevented Marketing Cloud customers from using Google Analytics 360 to track web analytics, the lack of a deep integration with Marketing Cloud made it difficult for users of both to tie that information back to campaigns. By combining Google Analytics 360 with Salesforce’s inward-facing Einstein Analytics, a company can see a more holistic view of a customer’s data.

It’s not personalization — we haven’t gotten to that point yet. But it allows you to think about the type of journeys you’re creating for customers.
Ray Wangprincipal analyst and founder, Constellation Research

“Einstein takes the data inside the Salesforce platform and helps users find insights, while Google Analytics 360 component is based on web analytics,” Bobby Jania, vice president of product marketing for Marketing Cloud, said in a release. “It looks at how consumers are behaving, pages they visit [and] how long they are on there for.”

Combining those analytics insights to the insights from Salesforce Interaction Studio can go a long way in helping customers track consumers’ campaigns, according to Wang.

“It’s a huge void in Marketing Cloud and most other clouds,” Wang said. “It’s about crafting the right experience and understanding where a customer is — it takes context into account.”

While personalization is the ultimate goal for Salesforce and similar companies focused on customer journeys, that pie-in-the-sky objective is still off on the horizon.

“It’s not personalization — we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Wang said. “But it allows you to think about the type of journeys you’re creating for customers.”

B2B Commerce Cloud

Beyond Marketing Cloud and Salesforce Interaction Studio, Salesforce officially released its B2B Commerce Cloud product, formerly known as CloudCraze. Salesforce acquired the B2B e-commerce product earlier this year, having been originally built on top of Salesforce software using Force.com.

“It will make it easier to see what a user is doing on a commerce site and connect it to Marketing Cloud,” Jania said. “B2B commerce for Salesforce will make that complex order have the same UI as B2C commerce.”

The Salesforce Interaction Studio release continues Salesforce’s long-term campaign to unify sales and marketing departments within organizations.

“You have a stack at Salesforce where marketing and commerce are a lot tighter than they were before,” Wang said.

Salesforce also unveiled Integrations between Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud, allowing service reps to see customers’ buying histories during service calls, opening up the opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell other products.

Pricing information for Salesforce Interaction Studio, B2B Commerce Cloud and the Marketing Cloud-Google Analytics 360 integration wasn’t immediately available.

SAP C/4HANA hopes to tie together front and back office

ORLANDO, Fla. — SAP is setting its sights on Salesforce with a new suite of customer experience products called SAP C/4HANA.

Unveiled at the opening keynote here at SAP Sapphire Now, SAP C/4HANA brings together SAP’s marketing, commerce, sales and service cloud products, sitting them all atop its Customer Data Cloud and embedding machine learning with SAP Leonardo.

“SAP was the last to accept the status quo, and SAP will be the first to change it,” said Bill McDermott, CEO for SAP. “We’re moving from a 360-degree view of sales automation to a 360-degree view of the customer. The entire supply chain is connected to customer experience.”

SAP is hoping that by connecting back-office capabilities with SAP ERP products to the front office, the company can provide an end-to-end experience for its users — something that few vendors can offer. SAP executives called the release of SAP C/4HANA a reflection point for SAP and the CRM industry.

“The roadmap for Hana and S/4Hana gave us what we needed to connect the back office to the front office,” McDermott said.

In addition to connecting back-office functionality, SAP’s new CX suite was also spurred by the separate acquisitions of Hybris, Gigya and CallidusCloud, which added the capabilities necessary to bring together these products.

“The goal is a single view of the customer,” said Alex Atzberger, president of customer experience for SAP. “With the acquisition of Gigya, we manage 1.3 billion profiles, and this is what’s happening in CRM. It’s about effectiveness and efficiency and how can you effectively target and engage a particular customer.”

Atzberger added that this customer engagement needs to keep the customer in mind first and foremost, meaning it can’t be creepy when it comes to courting a customer, but rather provide users with the tools to move a customer along the entire marketing, sales and service pipeline.

We’re moving from a 360-degree view of sales automation to a 360-degree view of the customer.
Bill McDermottCEO, SAP

It has been a long-standing goal of SAP’s to combine its industry-leading ERP tools with its CRM tools — being the first major vendor to combine front- and back-office capabilities — and while time will tell whether SAP can achieve this with C/4HANA, it appears the company is on the right track.

“They’ve been saying this for years, so what changed? I really think they’re finally executing on what they want to do and the architecture caught up and the acquisitions helped tie it together,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research vice president at 451 Research. “This ties to their cloud platform, and it was critical for that vision they have to connect the dots. These are things that Salesforce is trying to figure out in regards to the 360-degree customer view.”

While SAP admitted it was slow to adapt to this modern view of the customer, it’s hoping that by stringing together this suite of applications, it can provide the customer experience businesses are vying for.

“It’s not only about connecting that end-to-end chain, but also to give the best user experience in the industry,” McDermott said. “SAP is capable of doing this, and now we’re ready.”

The importance of SAP’s various acquisitions over the past couple of years can’t be understated when it comes to creating SAP C/4HANA. The 2017 purchase of Gigya for $350 million became the data management platform for SAP, helping customers maintain and protect customer data. The SAP acquisition of CallidusCloud earlier this year for $2.4 billion gave the company a modern, cloud-based sales, quote-to-cash and customer experience product that helps round out those front-office offerings that can complement SAP’s existing ERP products.

“The Gigya acquisition is really essential for that vision of [customer identification]. And managing that identity in a secure environment — especially with GDPR — is critical,” Kingstone said. “That plus bringing in their data management capabilities and machine learning with SAP Leonardo — if they can pull this off, that’s the next generation in a modern architecture.”

Pricing information regarding SAP C/4HANA wasn’t released at the unveiling.

Salesforce Trailhead gets social boost for admins, developers

Salesforce recently released two new features for its training platform, Salesforce Trailhead: a publicly displayed skills graph and the option for admins, developers and other certified pros to create a vanity URL. While these two features may seem like small changes, they pave the road for Trailhead to become an alternative to the résumé or, maybe more significantly, a way to steal eyeballs from rival Microsoft’s LinkedIn professional network.

Trailhead provides hands-on training programs for all facets of Salesforce and a number of other skills that can be useful for people working with Salesforce implementations. It also allows users to develop and share their own training strategies.

Originally, Trailhead tracked users’ accomplishments, but didn’t provide any way for the users to display their accomplishments to each other or to potential employers. More recently, Salesforce Trailhead started giving users badges they could display on their profiles to represent every training program they’ve completed.

Because these training programs often include hands-on elements and actual coding projects, this gave users the ability to show off their skills. The skills graph takes this one step further, providing a pie chart for Trailhead users to prove their skills to prospective employers.

Salesforce Trailhead profile as personal brand

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said, “Salesforce wants to give you their Salesforce résumé. Over time, this should give people the ability to build up their personal brand.” The Salesforce résumé is built around the badges, and the public skills graph is, as Lepofsky said, just “taking it to the next level of publicity.”

“People are looking to differentiate at more than the product level,” Lepofsky added. Instead, they’re competing over extra and unexpected skills. Employers are looking for more granular information on the skills of their prospective employees than that they have Salesforce experience. Being able to point to quantifiable measurements of specific skills would be an asset on the job market, Lepofsky said.

Brent Leary, co-founder at partner at CRM Essentials, said the Salesforce Trailhead badges and skills graph would “make it easy for people looking for the right kind of résumé and experience … to know that these experiences are legitimate.”

Furthermore, according to Leary, because the skills graph and badges are standardized, this provides a useful way for employers to compare prospective hires from different geographical locations and with different backgrounds.

A profile in Salesforce Trailhead
Recent updates to Salesforce Trailhead include a revised skills graph and badges to display skills they’ve earned and knowledge they’ve gained.

Increasing diversity of Salesforce recruiting side benefit?

Sarah Franklin, executive vice president of development relations and general manager of Salesforce Trailhead, said she sees these new features as more than just a way for Salesforce to build its own version of LinkedIn.

Franklin said the skills graph “changes the résumé from ‘What you have done?’ to ‘What are your skills?'” A traditional résumé lists past job experience and educational history, but it doesn’t include any way to prove that the job applicants have gone through training and have new skills that they didn’t use at previous jobs. The purpose of the Trailhead skills graph, according to Franklin, is “if you learn [new skills] and you can show it on your skills graph, then you’re in.”

We have to make it affordable to have an easy on-ramp to a career.
Sarah Franklinexecutive vice president of development relations and general manager at Salesforce

She said she hopes that, with the inclusion of the skills graph, Salesforce Trailhead will be able to increase diversity in the company’s ecosystem. Franklin is a mother of daughters and a woman working in technology herself, so increasing, among other things, gender diversity in the technology space is important to her. “The problems we have with diversity, they’re systemic. It’s not job recruiting. To get recruited, you need a four-year degree. To get a four-year degree, you need lots of money, probably. It’s a systemic problem that we face, and we have to change the game,” she said.

The free training isn’t useful for only current Salesforce users. Franklin said college students with debt and no work experience, parents returning to the workforce after raising children and people looking for a brand-new career could be new users for Trailhead. People who come to the Salesforce ecosystem by nontraditional roads can also prove their qualifications to a potential employer via the skills graph.

“We have to make it affordable to have an easy on-ramp to a career,” Franklin said.

The vanity URL makes it easier for users to link prospective employers, LinkedIn pages and Twitter profiles to the Salesforce Trailhead profile. According to Lepofsky, Salesforce MVPs are already starting to jockey for position to be the first one to get their chosen Trailhead URL. “People aren’t sharing business cards anymore. They’re sharing URLs,” Franklin said. The vanity URL hopes to capitalize on that.

Salesforce databases remain Oracle, for now

Speculation has grown around whether or not Salesforce plans to move off of Oracle databases. This may, or may not, be the case, according to two analysts.

In 2013, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison held a joint phone call lauding the nine-year licensing agreement in which Salesforce would use Oracle’s database to host its core products. Many analysts were on the call, but no questions were allowed, according to John Rymer, a Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst who was on the call. Instead, the analysts were instant messaging among themselves, prophesizing what this partnership may mean for the coming years.

“A bunch of us were chatting in the background, saying Benioff hung up the phone, walked down the hall and said to his tech people, ‘You have nine years to get me off Oracle,'” Rymer recalled.

Salesforce has consistently needed to outsource its databases and infrastructure, providing its competitors — namely, Oracle — with a substantial licensing fee and a brand-name customer. In early January, CNBC reported that Salesforce and Amazon had made “significant progress” moving away from Oracle technology. While the report was poorly sourced and “mixes up things,” according to Rymer, he did agree with the sentiment that Salesforce is certainly working to rid itself of its reliance on one of its main competitors.

Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce
Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce

“[Salesforce] wants control of their own tech stack and to the extent they can get what they need from a lower-cost option or an open source option,” Rymer said. “I’m quite confident they’re working on that.”

Whether or not Salesforce is working on a proprietary relational database depends on who you ask. Founders of both Oracle and Salesforce have scoffed at the notion that Salesforce is leaving its database.

Larry Ellison, CEO, OracleLarry Ellison

“Salesforce isn’t moving off of Oracle,” Ellison said during Oracle’s December earnings call. “Our competitors, who they have no reason to like us very much, continue to invest in and run their entire business on Oracle … Salesforce runs entirely on Oracle. I mean, go ahead. You tell me who’s moving off of Oracle.”

That earnings call was a little more than two weeks before the public reports trickled out about Salesforce and Amazon working to move off of Oracle. The reports stated that Amazon has been building its own infrastructure, called Redshift, since 2000, and Salesforce is building out infrastructure with the code name Sayonara — Japanese for “goodbye.”

Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at Beagle Research, said he believes it would be a waste of resources to build Salesforce databases and go against the current direction Salesforce is moving.

“The best investment is in a disruptive innovation, and building a database is not that,” Pombriant said. “A disruptive innovation is adding analytics, or building out a better mobile product or innovating around Trailhead — all things Salesforce has done and poured decent money into — and those will provide returns. But building a database to use internally and maybe try to sell in the marketplace does the opposite. It’s a drain of resources.”

Salesforce’s new partnerships

About speculation that Salesforce is working toward leaving Oracle, the company said only that “Salesforce does not comment on rumors.”

Regardless of Salesforce’s stance on Oracle, the San Francisco-based company has partnered with several other infrastructure leaders over the past year, with an Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnership stemming from 2017 and a newer partnership with Google Cloud announced at Dreamforce in November. That, combined with Salesforce’s influx of startup technology through its string of purchases in recent years, signals that Salesforce is hoping to modernize its infrastructure, according to Rymer.

“Startups tend to not base their technology on Oracle databases,” Rymer said. “Since 2013, Salesforce has made a bunch of acquisitions, launched a lot of products, and a lot of those newer products are running on AWS.”

Considerations with or without Oracle

Whether a potential switch to Salesforce databases affects its customers depends on how seamless the data migration is.

“If [building out Salesforce databases] impacts customers, then Salesforce has failed,” Rymer said. “Salesforce customers don’t see the Oracle database. So, any movement has to be seamless.”

Pombriant, however, who asked Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris if Salesforce is moving on from Oracle, said it is more likely Salesforce is building capabilities to work with Oracle’s database.

If [building out Salesforce databases] impacts customers, then Salesforce has failed.
John Rymervice president and principal analyst, Forrester

“Parker Harris told me directly that won’t be [Salesforce’s] direction,” Pombriant said. He added that Harris said Salesforce is working on technologies that add capabilities around the edges — and it’s those projects that could be the Sayonara products to which the public reports refer. “It’s quite possible — I know that Oracle and Salesforce admit they have a relationship, and Oracle developers work with Salesforce to better understand what each is doing.”

Building out proprietary Salesforce databases — while possible — just doesn’t seem like a feasible option to Pombriant.

“I’m not skeptical that [Salesforce] can pull it off; I’m skeptical they intend to,” Pombriant said. “There’s the old joke that if you give a million monkeys typewriters, in a million years, someone will write a Shakespearian play — great. You can say the same thing about building databases. It’s a bad business move and doesn’t produce tangible, bankable results.”

Salesforce Quip gets a facelift

SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce launched a major overhaul of the Quip collaboration tool it acquired in July 2016….


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The core concept behind the new version is organizing everything related to a project in one tab.

This, Salesforce hopes, can reduce the friction associated with clicking through different browser tabs associated with email, chat, cloud storage, shared spreadsheets and other Salesforce apps a company may have integrated into its CRM platform

First launched in 2013, Salesforce Quip enables users to collaboratively chat and work on shared documents and spreadsheets. Salesforce calls the latest update, announced at the annual Dreamforce user conference, the Salesforce Quip Collaboration Platform. It enables users to bring a wide variety of live applications onto a single canvas.

A project manager can customize the widgets associated with a project and provide team members with the permissions required to make changes. All the updates to this page can be automatically reflected in the appropriate Salesforce database in an auditable and, if necessary, reversible manner.

Focus on a single canvas

Collaborative interfaces are certainly not new, but the team behind Quip has a lot of experience in launching some of the most successful apps on the web, including Google Maps, FriendFeed and the Google App Engine.

The team leveraged this experience to create a core set of Quip widgets called Live Apps, as well as an API that enables third-party developers to add new widgets to the platform. The individual apps were developed by DocuSign, Lucidchart, New Relic Inc., Altify and others. Now that the platform is live, more apps are expected to be developed. Current Salesforce apps include Salesforce records, calendars, Kanban boards, shared documents and chat.

View of Quip dashboard and examples of mobile layout
A screenshot of the Salesforce Quip dashboard and mobile features

The Altify app enables teams to include a widget to map out the relationships inside a customer opportunity. The New Relic app enables a marketing team to track website performance during big events, like Black Friday sales, so that the sales and engineering teams can collaboratively make changes during the campaigns.

A project manager can also create a Quip workbook that best matches their team’s process. A single workbook can include a marketing budget, marketing goals and marketing documents, all in one place.

Collaborating on a better film

Salesforce Quip is used by 29,000 employees at 21st Century Fox Inc. to manage film production, sales and marketing. Creatives use it to track scripts or call sheets associated with TV and movie productions. All changes are made to a document of record in one place so that everyone is working on the same version. This reduces the burden of trying to weave changes made to different versions of a document into the master.

What’s particularly intriguing is the level of granularity with which participants can reference data in the apps. For example, 21th Century Fox producers use Quip for reviewing film dailies, and they can tie a chat to an arrow pointing to a specific object in a video frame. This saves them time because everyone involved can look at the exact video frame in the footage without having to open another window and manually look for it.

Creating a new experience layer to drive process

Salesforce Quip represents an example of driving better workflow by improving the user experience layer.

Twenty years ago, enterprises talked about process. Now, we have moved to engagement. If I create the right engagement mechanism, the process is a byproduct of that.
Paul Gaynorpartner, PricewaterhouseCoopers

headshot of Paul GaynorPaul Gaynor

“The experience could be a customer, employee or partner experience,” said Paul Gaynor, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, at Dreamforce. “A focus on the experience layer allows enterprises not to focus so much on the process, [but on] how to bring about engagement. Twenty years ago, enterprises talked about process. Now, we have moved to engagement. If I create the right engagement mechanism, the process is a byproduct of that.”

The key is to hide the complexity from users.

“Behind the scenes, we want to apply AI, machine learning and the capability to bring multiple data repositories together, either in the public or private cloud, and have them merge,” Gaynor said. “If I create the right enablement, then the process naturally follows.”

Turning business into a team sport

“Complex enterprise selling is a team sport,” said Anthony Reynolds, CEO of Altify, referring to the difficulty of a company selling its products or services to large organizations.

It’s too easy for teams on all kinds of projects to get bogged down in the minutia and friction of moving between different apps. The promise of Quip is to make any enterprise process a team sport. The idea of a team sitting around a single screen related to a campaign sounds a lot more exciting than separate individuals trying to keep up with a flurry of emails, chats and various app notifications.

Leading sales organizations are starting to adopt a more collaborative approach to selling to larger customers. Account-based marking (ABM) has emerged as a way of customizing the marketing message to address the unique needs of all the stakeholders in a target opportunity. But this requires a high level of collaboration between all the employees involved in customizing the marketing communication and sales strategy for the target customer.

headshot of Anthony ReynoldsAnthony Reynolds

“A company can’t really be successful with their ABM strategy unless it is tightly coupled with an account-based selling strategy,” Reynolds explained. “Account-based marketing starts with [a] better understanding of a company’s unique needs to enable a custom engagement. Altify allows an organization to cleanly execute the handoff from marketing to sales teams so they can effectively position value, connect to power and get a deal done.”

Salesforce Quip is still in its early phases compared to traditional communication channels, like email and chat. Reynolds estimates that about 10% of Altify’s customers are using Quip today, while another 25% are exploring it.

Note: TechTarget offers ABM and project intelligence data and tool services.