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What’s Behind the “Internet of Things?” and Other Thoughts from the Dreamforce Keynote

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Dreamforce kicked off in earnest yesterday with Mark Benioff’s keynote address.  (Well actually it kicked off with a surprise performance from Huey Lewis and the News.  I’m a fan, for sure, but there’s something a little unusual about live rock music at 9:00 am).  It was a great session and I came away thinking about three important and interesting things.

Integrated Philosophy

Yesterday’s event highlighted the work Salesforce has done with the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital & the people of Haiti as they rebuild after 2010’s devastating earthquake.  Petra Nemcova, former super model and survivor of the 2004 Thailand tsunami, spoke about how Salesforce is working with her organization, Happy Hearts Fund to rebuild schools and provide technology for areas devastated by natural disasters.  Salesforce devotes 1% of its resources, technology and people to help improve communities around the world.  This means that they’ve given over $53 million in grants, 525,000 hours of community service, and provided product donations for over 19,000 nonprofits.  Benioff calls this the 1/1/1 model and he urged every business to adopt it.

“The Internet of Customers”

After another great performance by Huey Lewis & the News the conversation moved to a rethinking of the phrase “The Internet of Things.”  To be sure, Benioff and his team agree that our physical objects, everything from toothbrushes to running shoes, will soon be “IP enabled,” meaning they will be able to receive and generate data and will be connected to the web of information we call the Internet.  “The Internet of Things” gets a lot of attention, but Benioff reminded us that it’s not really the “things” that are important.  What this exciting new landscape of technology does is connect people and if you are in business, people = customers.  He challenged businesses to use this new capability to get closer to customers.  To provide them useful information and offers, when and where they provide the most value.  He lauded Amazon’s Mayday button which connects Kindle users with support with the touch of a button.  (I wonder if he knows that ShoreTel Sky has been doing this for years.)  His point was well taken.  Sometimes technology enthusiasts get so excited by what we can do that we forget why we are doing it. It has to be about the customer. HubSpot has a good operating philosophy around this too: SFTC – Solve For The Customer.

Salesforce 1

Understanding that makes yesterday’s product announcement an obvious next step for Salesforce.  Salesforce 1 is a platform designed for the modern world of connected customers, devices and data.  The platform includes new API’s and mobile tools to make a customized Salesforce experience available on any device.  The crowd was particularly fond of the related “Salesforce A ,” an app for Salesforce administrators.  More details about the platform will emerge, but it certainly generated a lot of excitement among the attendees.

As “The Internet of Customers” emerges, Salesforce intends to be a major player in helping businesses get to the future.   With 130k+ registered attendees at Dreamforce, I’d say they have a pretty good shot.