Salesforce's largest yearly conference, Dreamforce, is trying to break new ground this year in mobile, customer engagement and social.
With speed an unofficial theme -- keynotes include "Drive business at the speed of social" and "Grow faster with the right data at the right moment" -- the feel of Dreamforce 2013 is a mix of showing organizations how to get more done faster and a coming-of-age party for Salesforce, which, over the last two years, has acquired numerous companies, including Buddy Media, EntropySoft and ExactTarget.
Jeff Allen, vice president of marketing for Standard Register, a Dayton, Ohio-based content management company, said he's noticed Salesforce starting to become more of an integrated platform where all the vendor's new utilities -- Chatter, ExactTarget, Heroku and so on -- have their places and appropriate uses. He added that this year's event will be the opportunity for Salesforce to show how it is going to put all the pieces together.
Dreamforce grows up
"We're taking over San Francisco -- it's not just about the Moscone Center anymore," said Michael Peachey, senior director of marketing at Salesforce, who helped organize the conference's content this year.
While it's not been publicized as such, this year is the 10th anniversary of the first Dreamforce conference. Back in 2003, it was a smaller meeting of 1,130 attendees, held at the San Francisco Hilton hotel. There was no live band, and while computer programmers or entrepreneurial groupies might have been familiar with some of the keynote speakers, they weren't household names.
"I think it'll be interesting to see how the organizers will handle 120,000 people in San Francisco. It was OK last year, but it can't get much bigger than this and stay in San Francisco," said Joe Morgan, CEO of Standard Register.
Interacting with customers, wherever they are
What draws attendees to Dreamforce is its content, learning opportunities and the chance for Salesforce and other organizations to showcase their newest innovations. Balakrishna "Nara" Narasimhan, vice president of marketing and strategy at Appirio, a San Francisco-based IT consulting firm, has been to almost every Dreamforce conference since 2008 and has seen its evolution over the years. "Every year, Dreamforce's subject matter has become broader and deeper," Narasimhan said.
What were Dreamforce's focuses in previous years?
Cloud marketing and sales, Dreamforce 2012
Chatter's debut: Dreamforce 2011
"I think there will be more conversation around mobile," Sarah Stealey Reed, content director of the International Call Center Management Institute (ICMI) said. Morgan agreed; He said that "mobile, mobile and mobile" will be the hottest topics at the conference. "We're going to hear Marc [Benioff] talk about how the majority of access to systems and people is going to happen on mobile devices," Narasimhan predicted with confidence.
Chatter is also going to be at the forefront, Stealey Reed said, adding that she expected at least a couple of announcements about new innovations, specifically for Chatter. Narasimhan suggested that Chatter is poised to be the most popular entry point into the Salesforce system and has been optimized and ready for mobile devices.
Stealey Reed also expects customer experience to take a major role on Salesforce's stage. Justin Robbins, manager of training and development at ICMI, agreed. "[Customers are] going to be more in control of their own experience -- that's what we're going to hear a lot about this year."
Software for the social generation
We live in an era where everyone wants to be able to "like" their co-worker's lunch choice on Facebook or send a tweet to their favorite band saying their last album missed the mark. Salesforce seems to be attempting to harness that desire for a greater purpose.
"Crowdsourcing as a trend -- that's going to be big," Narasimhan said, noting that the Salesforce-sponsored Hackathon event at this year's Dreamforce is an example of large-scale crowdsourced development. In addition, social apps that aid department-wide collaboration will likely get a bump at this year's conference.
A final prediction?
"I think Larry Ellison will make it to Dreamforce. There will be a Larry sighting, maybe even on stage," Narasimhan said.