Holding Dreamforce online is like kissing your cousin. Obviously, you aren’t in San Francisco — and beyond that everything is shrunk to the size of the screen you’re watching, and the format and duration are more made for TV than collegial interaction. I thought of initiating Dreamforce akin to the founding of the Royal Society, a group of people seeking to exchange ideas and advance the frontiers of science.
Dreamforce has been more like a firehose of information and a gaggle of people taking over a city. But it serves the same purpose, and this year’s virtual-only proceedings can be viewed as a perhaps necessary taming of the gusher into a manageable torrent.
Three announcements tell a credible story of the future in which algorithmically driven assistance drives business — and much more. As I mentioned in an earlier piece, from an application perspective there isn’t a lot of difference between CRM and employee management; or between front to back office integration and all of the non-financial reporting that the aborning stakeholder capitalism needs to take flight.
All of this rests not squarely on CRM but on CRM’s platform, a higher level of abstraction that generates the code responsible for knitting together disparate systems and data, as well as the algorithms that run things. In this, CRM is the demonstration project or prototype. The three big announcements from Dreamforce provide a glimpse into that orientation.
What a name. Shadows of vintage 1990’s Power Rangers attach to this otherwise innocuous moniker. To boil it all down, it’s Salesforce’s complete platform available on major public clouds. It’s a good idea too.
Hyperforce means that Salesforce doesn’t have to be tightly wedded to its own infrastructure and the cost and effort it takes to plant a new datacenter in a specific geography. That’s gone, and with it Salesforce can more easily scale to global utility proportions. It also means there will be strange bedfellows aplenty, like Salesforce on AWS (already happening) and Salesforce on Oracle Cloud.
I’ve been writing about the evolution of an information utility for some time and this is a major development for the Salesforce platform, its customers, and almost anyone. Hyperforce may be a necessary condition but it is not sufficient to usher in an age of IT Utility. For that you need more announcements.
Developing an IT utility is way harder than being able to store data anywhere you want. IT is about process and process is about integrating diverse systems. For decades we tried to achieve this goal by writing hard-coded integrations. But they lasted only as long as nobody made an upgrade or fixed a problem, thereby inadvertently clobbering some seemingly unrelated part of the system.
Clearly that doesn’t work. But getting to a better place ultimately requires us to admit that people are not equipped with the ability to change so many systems and their integrations as often as needed.
Einstein Automate provides automated capabilities that build intelligent workflows. That’s not exactly integration, for that you’d also need MuleSoft, but with Einstein automate you can build bots and other functionality that integrates processes between disparate apps. If those processes are used frequently enough that more thorough integration is necessary, you can use MuleSoft. This naturally applies to the world of applications at large and to the thousands of apps available on the AppExchange that are also written using the Salesforce platform.
The net of this is another necessary but not altogether sufficient condition for declaring an IT utility. It gets us tantalizingly closer though.
The thing you don’t see in an electric utility is all of the calculation and management decisions needed to meet peak load requirements on a hot summer day when everyone wants more than their fair share of air conditioning and one of your generating stations is down for routine maintenance. There is, of course, a business equivalent.
At the business level — and especially for workforce engagement — Salesforce introduced a solution that supports intelligent dynamic forecasting, capacity planning, and agent engagement strategizing. That’s what Service Cloud Workforce Engagement product does. The name is not as sexy as anything from the Power Rangers, but for this kind of thing boring might be better.
My Two Bits
I don’t know how long these solutions have been gestating. I do know that when the pandemic hit, Salesforce scrapped most of its annual plan to re-strategize products aimed at the work at home crowd, as well as how to eventually bring them back into the building safely. Going back into the building will require a vaccine and even then, we may have paced out new paths to work and productivity that ensure that we’ll never go all the way back to that reality.
That being the case, better articulating the IT utility is one of those things that will mark COVID-time as a major inflection point in how we organize ourselves, work, play and live. It’s also a major marker in the evolution of shareholder capitalism with its non-financial reporting requirements coming into view.
We’ve long known that we can’t manage what we can’t measure, and measurement requires data to deliver real information. These announcements provide an insight into how that gets done.