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Salesforce Thunder, Lightning and Wave show new app economy at work

At Dreamforce 2015, Salesforce.com's Adam Gross and Stephanie Buscemi discuss the internet of things app economy and action-orientated business intelligence apps

Salesforce’s Internet of Things Cloud service and an upgrade to its Wave Analytics service are significant developments because they take part in a broader trend of action-orientated apps, according to two of its leading spokespeople.

Chief operating officer Adam Gross runs the supplier’s platform as a service, Heroku. He was the co-founder and CEO of Cloudconnect.com, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2013.

At Salesforces 2015 Dreamforce event in San Francisco, Gross explained the import of Salesforce’s most recent technical developments with respect to the trend, exemplified by car ride hiring company Uber, of “refashioning the customer experience” through apps that are event driven – pushed out rather than pulled.

He invoked a near-future scenario of checking into a hotel, whereby rather than having to check in at a desk, a beacon will detect your arrival and send a digital key to your smartphone. You won’t have to telephone for room service. Instead you’ll press an app button, and food will be delivered within 15 minutes from the hotel or, more likely, its environs.

The technology to make this sort of customer interaction work takes the form, in Salesforce’s world, of Thunder and Lightning. Thunder is, according to Gross, the underlying real-time event processing engine behind Lightning, which is an app development console used by business professionals among the supplier’s customers.

“We provide tools for developers, under the hood. Some of that is based on open-source software, like Kafka and Redis, and some of our own proprietary technology. And it all runs on Heroku,” he said.

“The next phase [of customer relationship management] is to think not of what CRM [customer relationship management] used to mean – you call the support centre or send an email. The next phase turns on the phenomenon of you as a consumer generating a torrent of data. This means we need a new data architecture, a new programming model and new applications to support what connecting to your customers means now.

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“It’s moving from a pull model to a push model – sensing and acting proactively. The IoT cloud infrastructure is about enabling this new computing model, which is event based to operate, and about more proactive and intelligent customer interactions,” said Gross.

He maintains the future is already here in the form of sophisticated companies such as Uber and Lift which are dynamically changing pricing based on demand. Think about all the data being ingested in real time to enable that”.

Much of the technology behind what he sees as the new wave of CRM comes from LinkedIn and Twitter, said Gross, but he cited the IT team at the Financial Times as another example of a Salesforce customer that gets digital in the way that a downtown San Franciscan company would.

The idea that technology interest ends at the IT person’s door is no longer the case
Adam Gross, Salesforce

But he also argued that a key player for companies implementing newer ways of engaging customers is the chief marketing officer (CMO): “More and more we are talking to the CMO. The idea that technology interest ends at the IT persons door is no longer the case. And these CMOs are amazingly sophisticated.

“Technology has never been more strategic or important to the organisation, no question. Either the CIO will evolve to serve that critical function or it will emerge in other places. IT leadership needs to focus on what adds value to the business, be more risk-taking and accept the cloud. It’s hard to see how you can be an IT organisation that satisfies the needs of the business if you are still debating the cloud.

“IT has an essential role in understanding the risk profile of technologies but they cannot do that in an unsophisticated way,” said Gross.

The analytics wave

Stephanie Buscemi, chief operating officer, analytics, at Salesforce, joined the company in 2014 to head up its Wave Analytics business, launched at Dreamforce 2014. She is a business intelligence (BI) veteran of 18 years, with two stints at Business Objects, both as a standalone company and as part of SAP, and one at Hyperion, before and after its acquisition by Oracle.

Speaking at Dreamforce, Buscemi said BI and, more sophisticatedly, analytics, needed to be systematically embedded in workflows that issue actions for sales, service and marketing staff.

“There is a new type of [action-orientated] BI emerging here,” she said. “Our sweet spot is getting analytics to sales and service staff – not analysts, not IT. [Sales people] have historically used [in Salesforce] the operational reporting they get in the sales and service clouds. But they needed a more intuitive UI [user interface] – with the Wave visualisations they’ll now get that through the Lightning dashboards.

There is a new type of [action-orientated] BI emerging
Stephanie Buscemi, Salesforce

Wave Analytics can bring third-party and other data, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) data, to bear on business decisions for salespeople and service staff, said Buscemi. It can be embedded in desktop and mobile apps, she added.

“The other piece is delivering Wave actions. This makes a sales person more productive because they are working within Salesforce, not having to go into email, and it is integrated with Chatter [Salesforce’s collaboration tool].”

But what’s the benefit to companies that already have a lot of BI tools, including some sold by Buscemi herself at Business Objects? “Yes, Wave is a co-exist. But we are seeing customers getting away from selling using PowerPoint, but directly from dashboards,” she said.

She gave the example of Verizon, where global sales senior vice-president George Fischer has implemented Wave for his salespeople to get a complete view of their products.

In the mid-market, she said, Wave is more apt to be a replacement technology for companies that are already using Salesforce strategically.

Wave is not focused on data mining as such, though Salesforce plans to put native predictive capability on the product in the near future to support and measure sales reps. “It’ll be about predictive analytic apps for sales, service and marketing people,” said Buscemi.

Wave also has connecters out to the big data world, in the likes of Hadoop, Splunk and Google, she added, but that is in its infancy. It is also early days for Wave in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, she said, but confirmed Barclays is an early customer.

“Personally, I’m having a blast. It’s great that there are hundreds of predictive analytics startups out there, but this is like being on a rocket ship,” Buscemi concluded.

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