Jakub Mosur Photography

Dreamforce 2019: Benioff puts data centre stage as protestors disrupt speech

Salesforce founder and co-CEO outlines data integration and data visualisation product vision underpinned by MuleSoft and garnished with Tableau

Marc Benioff, founder and co-CEO of Salesforce, gave “change the world” rhetoric a rest during his opening keynote at this year’s Dreamforce in San Francisco.

Instead, he outlined a “single source of truth” product roadmap, underpinned by the cloud CRM (customer relationship management) supplier’s 2018 acquisition of data and applications integrator MuleSoft, and laced with a suggestion of things to come from its 2019 acquisition of data visualisation specialist firm Tableau.

While Benioff laid off the “inclusive capitalism” rhetoric of 2018, the keynote was disrupted by the incursion of three protesters who objected to Salesforce’s contract with the US Customs and Border Protection programme, which has caused controversy over its separation of Latin American children from their parents at the US border. Salesforce has said its software is not being used for that purpose. 

Early in his speech, Benioff was compelled to stop and allowed a protestor to speak while a clock ran down 30 seconds.

Most of his talk was focused on data, especially the “Customer 360” concept outlined at last year’s Dreamforce and given more substance in a pre-conference announcement.

Benioff said the significance of Customer 360 is the way it embodies the capacity for a company to get a single source of truth across different data sources. Fashion house Louis Vuitton was a reference for this throughout the keynote, with MuleSoft chief marketing officer Lindsey Irvine illustrating how this is done through a feature called Exchange.

Also brought on stage were Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky and chief product officer Francois Ajenstat, who demonstrated the data visualisation software, with a focus on the natural language processing aspect that the supplier calls Ask Data.

But the star of the show was, arguably, the Salesforce Einstein character (pictured below). Benioff brought co-founder Parker Harris on stage to display and demonstrate an Einstein Voice Assistant.

The Einstein Speaker

Behind the winsome physical model shown on stage is a Salesforce Service Cloud and Amazon Connect integration that is said to enable artificial intelligence (AI)-driven customer service for phone interactions. The integration offers the ability to access Einstein Voice from any Alexa device.

In a press statement, Salesforce said: “Einstein Voice Skills will enable developers and admins to build custom voice-powered apps for employees across every role and industry, in just a matter of clicks. In addition, new solutions for service and sales teams will apply natural language processing to voice conversations, and deliver insights that drive smarter, more personalised customer engagement.”

Bret Taylor, president and chief product officer at Salesforce, added: “Voice is a huge shift for the industry and will be as impactful in businesses as it has been in our homes. With Einstein, Salesforce is bringing the power of voice to every business, giving everyone an intelligent, trusted guide at work.”

In September 2019, Salesforce joined Amazon to announce a “voice interoperability initiative”. As part of this, Einstein Voice Assistant and Einstein Voice Skills will be compatible with devices ranging from smart speakers to smartphones – whether it is the Einstein Smart Speaker that was be unveiled at Dreamforce 2019 but not for sale, the new Salesforce Mobile App, or customers’ preferred devices.

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics

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