The Force is strong in this one: CloudForce London 2009

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In a previous post I have introduced Cloud Computing as one of the ‘Next Big Things’ in the internet world. Without realizing it I have been using the Cloud for several years (GMail, WordPress) but now it seems to really take off. Some people say Cloud Computing is just a new hype, a new marketing term for something already existing for a long term. Or that Cloud Computing will eventually die due to all security issues. And let’s face it, the recent outage of Google’s services which prohibited GMail users access their mail for a few hours doesn’t help. Thought that may be so, it still remains a fact that more and more people are using these applications online and that even Microsoft is developing a cloud OS.

If one company has put the term ‘Cloud Computing’ on the map, it certainly is Salesforce.com. My first encounter with Salesforce was years ago on a congress, albeit I didn’t pay a lot of attention at that time. More recently, with the development of our innovation platform, Salesforce appeared on the radar again. We have recently done a QuickStart with them which is based on their Ideas platform. But more about that in a later post. Now I want to tell you how Salesforce puts their message in the market and claims ownership of the cloud.

Claiming the Clouds
Since we are a customer of Salesforce we got an invitation to participate in the CloudForce. The CloudForce is a gathering of (potential) Salesforce customers, this time in the ExCel centre in London. It basically is a roadshow based on their DreamForce event in the US, a three day congress on all things cloud. The main purpose no doubt is to inform customers about new developments on their platform and to give their third party developers an opportunity to showcase their apps. But overall I also think it is to impress. To claim their space in the cloud. And impress they certainly did. In a distinctive US marketing way they completely covered the ExCel Centre into blue and white, with catchy slogans and Web 2.0-ish logos. They even had walking ‘No Software’ logos greeting you at the entrance. Micky Mouse would be jealous. 

Clouds all over the place

Clouds all over the place

MarcNote
The morning session was reserved for a keynote by Salesforce’s co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff. Clearly inspired by Apple’s Keynote and Steve Jobs’ performance -big hall, thousands of people, black curtains, bright logos, large screen and inspiring music (OK, turtleneck, jeans and sneakers were missing), Benioff gave a passionate presentation about his platform. This was a brand new presentation and since he wanted feedback he exceptionally allowed people to have a handout. He focussed on three main subjects: the Sales Cloud, the Service Cloud and Your Cloud. These three Clouds are then combined in the ‘Real-Time Cloud’, i.e. all is happening right away, information at your fingertips.

Marc's SteveNote

Marc's SteveNote

The Sales Cloud basically is the tradional sales module. Managing accounts and contacts, sales reporting, automation of lead capture and close opportunities, forecasting, etcetera. They must have thought that while copying Apple for the look and feel of the keynote, they might as well inspire themselves by other Apple goodies. And so the Genius was born. I didn’t really get the idea but to my understanding you can find similar content with one push of a button. Where have I seen that before?

The next member of the family of clouds is the Service Cloud and consists of several services, such as Call Centre, E-mail to Case, Chat, Customer Portal, Ideas, Partners, Google and Social. Social is quite interesting and can no doubt be considered a new and innovative way of using the cloud for Customer Service purposes. So what is it? In Salesforce’s opinion, the way companies have set up their Customer Services really is a thing of the past. Customers don’t call the company when the encounter a problem with one of their products. Instead, they place a comment on Facebook, tweet in Twitter or post on a forum. In other words, social all over the place. And the chance that the problem is solved in no time by fellow bloggers, Facebookers of Tweeters is pretty obvious. Traditionally companies can not tap into that ‘social knowledge’. Not so when they use the Service Cloud. Using an interface between the Salesforce platform and social netwoks such as Facebook and Twitter companies can interact with the questions and directly transfer the question and answer to their own database, to be used for future queries. Clever solution which will no doubt appeal to many companies.

Your Cloud is then the assimilation of cloud services from the previously described clouds, using the elements you want.

Full house

Full house

 

No Idea?
Unfortunately little was mentioned about Ideas, the module we’re using. It seems that everytime the word ‘Ideas’ is used ‘Starbucks‘ and ‘Dell‘ coincide within the same sentence. No doubt considered A-customers. I do have the feeling that this module doesn’t get the attention it deserves. At least not on this convention, and if you look at Ideas itself you might find yourself drawing the same conclusion. 

The second part of the day was reserved for breakout sessions. In 5 tracks participants could join the discussion about a certain topic: Using the cloud the grow sales (always works for executives), Using the cloud to improve service and lower costs, Cloud computing for IT pros, Developing applications in the cloud and Simple Steps to CRM success. I did participate in the Service cloud session but did not find it an added value compared to what I had already seen, apart from the fact that you were able to ask questions. The last session I went to dealt with VisualForce, the visualization module making your Salesforce sites ‘look nice’ by changing just about anything. Lines of codes where popping up and off the screen, so way to cloudy for me.

 

No bitterballen for us
The show ended at 5pm but we were gone to our next meeting at 4pm. Later we learned that the Dutch country organization of Salesforce had invited the Dutch participants for bitterballen and beer. But when sending out this invitation only one day prior to the event one might expect some clash in agendas. It was certainly worthwile to visit CloudForce, if it was only to see the dedication Salesforce puts into this fast growing segment. Don’t know if I will be visiting again though. Depends a bit on the decision whether we contineu with Salesforce or not. But even in that case it could be interesting to follow this company. They certainly seem to have a vision on the next iteration of business software. And they’re not afraid to shout it out loud.

Other resources:

Twitterfeed

Keynote

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