Cloudforce 2012: Praise the cloud!

One thing you can say for certain about Salesforce.com, these folks make CRM (Customer Relationship Management) interesting in a way no one has ever achieved.

At the end of last week, Salesforce's annual convention, Cloudforce, was held in New York. Marc Benioff delivered his typically mesmerising keynote and shifted between cheerleading CEO and master of ceremonies with a line-up that included everyone from gospel singers to bankers.

Praising the cloud

Cloudforce got off to a rollicking start with the Harlem Gospel Choir performing a rousing rendition of the classic hymn, "Oh Happy Day." And a happy day it is for Salesforce. With cloud computing as the new norm, social networking a business must-have, and the ubiquity of mobile devices, Benioff had a lot to crow about the success of Salesforce.com – a $3 billion (£1.9 billion) industry that is considered the number one, fastest-growing SaaS company.

Benioff's main message in this year's keynote was more or less a revamping of last year's message about the importance of "social enterprise." This year, Benioff's key phrase was "Business is social." Success in business today is all about connections: Connecting customers, partners, and employees into a social networking platform that works like Facebook, but is more secure.

Speaking of Facebook, did you know Facebook uses Salesforce's Work.com? As Benioff pointed out, Salesforce's social CRM is being used by those who created social media. A number of CEOs representing several companies around the world were trotted out to speak, or at least a video was shown of them talking about how much Salesforce has helped them with business growth. These companies included Estee Lauder, Toyota, Australia's Commonwealth Bank, and Coca Cola.

Among other benefits, using Salesforce.com has brought one notably big boon for Coca Cola, that of giving Coke drinkers the ability to create their own soda beverage recipes from "freestyle machines." These are soda dispensers that tie into social media where a customer can order a mix of something like Diet Coke, Sprite, and Fanta. Send that request via social media and out pops the horrid-sounding concoction from the freestyle machine. Ain't technology grand?

More serious note this year

The CEO also devoted time to speaking about the philanthropic model Salesforce.com has embraced. Indeed, helping your fellow man was a main theme in the keynote – it's all part of what Benioff calls "social revolution." It does sound like Salesforce is committed to not only dominating CRM, but also giving to worthy causes, a commendable effort.

Benioff was a bit more sombre (without losing any of his usual enthusiasm) compared to his frenetic keynote last year. He paid tribute to Steve Jobs in a poignant moment, thanking the late Apple CEO for "showing what would be possible in a mobile world." He heralded the PC age and gave recognition to Bill Gates and sometime-nemesis Larry Ellison for leading the PC revolution. Of course, Benioff also did not hesitate to mention that in this new computing age, "Windows is dead."

Here are a few interesting takeaways from the keynote:

  • The newly rolled out Data.com links social identities of customers to data within corporate systems.
  • Salesforce Touch has been released. It's the first fully mobile sales application that can run on any mobile device, even the Kindle Fire.
  • Partner Communities is a new feature allowing business to socially network with partners.
  • Salesforce Chatter Communities provides communications between employees, customers, and partners.
  • Before 2012 is out, Salesforce will release Salesforce Identity, which will give single sign-in and one identity to users across all Salesforce platforms.
  • Salesforce has introduced Heroku Enterprise for Java.