Dreamforce 2012 Trip Report

Overview

Last week’s Salesforce Dreamforce event had to be the largest conference I have seen at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. It covered Moscone North, South and West plus several hotels. And if that was not enough, Howard Street was turned into a lawn area complete with concert stage, outdoor lounge area and exhibits. Dreamforce presented a great opportunity to learn more about the Salesforce community…and a number of missed opportunities.

Walking the expo floor, one thing becomes clear very quickly: Salesforce is the largest exhibitor. Taking up 25-30% of the expo floor the Salesforce area maintained focal points around sales, marketing and service. Surrounding the Salesforce area were partners in their ecosystem. Some based on their Force.com platform, while others with their own platforms. There were solutions for all types of needs. Unfortunately, the different subject matter was intertwined throughout the floor (Sales next to Service next to Marketing). Salesforce is a broad platform. If you were interested in a specific aspect of Salesforce-based solutions, it was hard to find the related solutions. Interestingly, consulting firms held some of the largest booths outside of Salesforce.

Moscone West held the Developer Zone with less structured community areas for folks with similar interests to gather. Multiple presentations were taking place in the Developer Zone non-stop. In addition to the Unconference area, there was plenty of space for folks with common interests to gather around tables complete with power and Wi-Fi.

The 750+ sessions provided a wide range of presentations from how-to to case studies. In addition, there was a good mix of detailed to high-level session depending on your particular interest level.

Ecosystem

Dreamforce is a good example of the maturity of Salesforce’s ecosystem. However, the large prominence of consulting firms provides a bit more contrast to that statement. Just walking around the expo floor one could get the impression that there is a solution to every problem imaginable. Not true and several of the basics are still woefully absent. Many of the solutions are excellent point solutions to address specific pain points.

Unfortunately, there are two aspects missing: Integration and Accessibility. Earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of onramps. At the expo, I randomly sampled several folks walking the show floor to get their thoughts. The theme was consistent: Great solutions, but each of them looking for an integrated solution. And it was not clear how they get from their current state to a future state leveraging the innovative solution. The prominence of consulting firms could serve as both a solution and further validation. Consulting firms provide a good short-term solution to the integration and onramp problem. However, the both issues need to be baked into the ecosystem’s solutions to sustain the ecosystem long-term.

Summary

Are conferences like Saleforce’s Dreamforce valuable to attend? In a nutshell…yes! If you knew very little about Salesforce before last week, Dreamforce presented a great opportunity to get an overview of opportunities, dig further into specific details and network with peers. If you were already an established customer, there is plenty of innovation still coming from the ecosystem.

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