Previewing Dreamforce 2019
Yes, Dreamforce is next week. Once again, the sold-out show will be headquartered at San Francisco’s Moscone Center and overflowing to the ballrooms of neighboring hotels. Over the years Dreamforce has become, in my mind at least, the Las Vegas of trade shows in one important respect. Both are famous for being bastions of excess. Vegas has excesses of the sensual kind while Dreamforce offers a business and technology equivalent.
I’ve given up counting the keynotes (one per cloud–at least) the themes like equality and Customer 360, the tradeshow floor, the Trailhead floor, and the classy touches. For instance, I know Marc Benioff will have a fireside chat with President Barak Obama and the big entertainment will be courtesy of Fleetwood Mac. You could have a full stop with just that, but there’s a lot more.
I have been hugely impressed with the company’s orientation towards giving back to the community, which, at this point, is the world basically. They’ve innovated a Philanthropy Cloud which is a 21st century tool for bringing together donors, resources, and charitable recipients. What’s impressive is that it provides a way for any individual and any company to become more involved with philanthropic giving without imposing a lot of overhead on the business or its balance sheet.
Philanthropy Cloud gives organizations ways to offer community involvement to employees. They aren’t forced into activities that foster community improvement, but the system makes it possible for those interested in specific philanthropic activities–from working in soup kitchens to restoring wilderness–ways to find opportunities, kindred spirits, and to volunteer their time.
There’s good reason for offering philanthropic opportunities to employees. Research shows that a company’s attitude toward philanthropy is both a hiring tool and something that engages employees and encourages them to remain with a company instead of seeking new jobs. In a tight job market what can be more useful? Moreover, even when there aren’t more jobs than candidates, having a retention tool that helps businesses keep their most valued people, is a very good thing. It’s also a great way to raise a company’s public profile without a lot of expensive advertising and PR.
I’ve been involved with the Salesforce philanthropy group for several years and I’ll be hosting a panel discussion at Dreamforce with three executives who’ve implemented their own philanthropy ideas and who work with the Philanthropy Cloud and United Way to give back to their communities.
Most of the data about corporate giving that I’ve seen has been gleaned from the Fortune 1000. But what’s cool about the panelists is that they’re from mid-size companies, they don’t have big budgets for philanthropy, and they got their efforts going thanks to the vision of their executives, not because some Salesforce person called on them and sold some software.
I’ve spoken with the panelists and it’s impressive how much demand is out there for corporate sponsored philanthropic activity and how many executives and founders have made it a personal challenge to do something for their communities. Our panelists include Tim Britt, CEO of Synoptec, Melissa Grimes COO of Nextep, and Orv Kimbrough CEO of Midwest Bank Center. Each has a unique story to tell and their stories come together around the ideas of executive leadership, developing programs that are based on a business’ strengths, and some technology that can remove a lot of the overhead that can make extracurricular activities costly and unworkable.
The Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud reminds me that the company is increasingly becoming a platform and tools company and I know we’ll se many examples at Dreamforce. There’s no doubt Salesforce will continue in its CRM ways for a very long time. But CRM was the first demonstration project for the tools and platform and now philanthropy is the second. Perhaps that’s the most important idea for Dreamforce this year.
It’s been true for a long time that Salesforce had a powerful platform and the thousands of independent vendors offering tens of thousands of apps through the AppExchange (and the millions of downloads) that are based on the platform is ample evidence of the platform’s power. Combining all that with corporate social responsibility will only further cement Salesforce’s attractiveness in the boardroom.
If you’re at Dreamforce next week, look up our session. It’s on Wednesday 10 AM at the Union Square Hilton, but confirm it on the Dreamforce app, just in case it’s (probably) full. If philanthropy is on your radar this year, and it kinda should be, please stop by.
The CRM-ization of Healthcare
We’ve been watching this for a while. A few years ago, Salesforce embarked on parallel paths; the obvious option was to build tools that enabled users to craft systems of engagement. The second started when the company also began reaching out to various industrial sectors with its technology and those of some partners. The result has been a vibrant vertical industry approach and a plethora of apps that do more than capture and store data, a.k.a. systems of record. Today, Salesforce and partners are deeply involved in delivering systems of engagement in specific industries.
Many of the industrial apps apply CRM techniques to unique situations and the CRM aspects of marketing ideas and serving customers are easily translatable. But along with that, Salesforce has also touted its platform as a general-purpose development tool capable of supporting systems of engagement in a variety of areas that are sometimes distant from the original CRM mission.
Healthcare is one of those areas. CRM works remarkably well with some aspects of healthcare, for example, using call center tools and techniques to proactively remind patients of a pending appointment or to take their meds. With this we’re witnessing CRM invade one of the most conservative areas of IT. Salesforce is catching healthcare at the moment it appears that people are awakening to the idea that they need to be wise consumers of healthcare just as much as they need to pay attention to the details of buying a car. It’s also a time of transition from a paradigm of “fixing” broken patients to one of keeping them well, and you need systems of engagement for that.
A recent research report (Connected Healthcare Consumer) from the company says as much. Customers or in this case patients, are demanding the same kinds of access to their healthcare vendors as they’ve demanded elsewhere. For instance, 94 percent want access to walk-in clinics, 76 percent want in-home visits–something doctors used to do routinely. Also, 68 percent want mobile apps for health coaching. That’s all CRM and we’ve seen this kind of thing playout in other industries as they adopted cloud-based CRM and demanded more purchase options and advice online.
The drivers for all this are also common. There’s a distinct need for the healthcare product or service to come to and fit into the busy lives of customers. We saw a wave of e-commerce and omni-channel service and support evolve while medicine remained static. Medicine needed smarter systems and they had to be cost effective and secure. Today AI is providing the smarts and platform is delivering the tools.
What do patients want?
Aside from paying for care, which CRM by itself isn’t in a position to affect though 64 percent rated paying as somewhat or very challenging, challenges reported included taking time off from work which 51 percent found somewhat or very challenging and 44 percent said finding health services nearby was somewhat or very challenging. The current crop of healthcare systems of engagement are designed to help with these and other challenges.
Today a lot of service or information that patients might need doesn’t need to come directly from their healthcare providers. So in addition to bringing systems of engagement to the bedside, Salesforce just announcedinnovations to bring pharmaceutical and medical device teams closer to their customers. For instance, the Connected Healthcare Consumer report noted above also says that “62% of healthcare consumers say it’s very important for pharmaceutical companies to educate them on how to get the most from their medication.” That’s certainly something that a doctor or nurse could do but over the years we’ve become expert at finding our own answers.
Sure there are situations where patients could go too far with the information they can access online but that was always a risk. Perhaps a greater risk, though, is for providers to not have information because data is spread out across silos. The Salesforce Health Cloud is designed to help by transforming the patient journey – giving organizations actionable information in one place for improved internal and external collaboration and smarter, data-driven decisions.
Finally, in the medical device arena, CRM is front and center with tools that help build customer relationships between device makers and their professional consumers. There are new solutions for sales agreements, which can be lengthy and detailed, and account-based forecasting for helping improve the accuracy of sales forecasts which can be long affairs.
My two bits
All of this by itself is a drop in the bucket of healthcare IT but it’s amazing how many drops have already reached the bucket and how many good ideas are out there. To be honest it’s also amazing how much low hanging fruit is available for the picking.
Healthcare is 1/6th of the US economy. One in every six dollars of GDP goes to clinics, doctors, pharmaceutical and device makers, and others. The US also has some of the most expensive healthcare costs among its peer industrialized nations. The US spends upwards of twice as much per capita as its peers. There’s intense interest in lowering costs to make the nation more competitive and believe it or not, IT is an important gatekeeper.
Inaccessible siloed information often has to be duplicated to provide effective treatment (translation: we’ll re-do that lab work). When the information can be accessed it often has to be transmitted by fax machine. So, yes, IT will be an important part of fixing US healthcare. Converting aging healthcare IT requires approaches that surround old technology with better and newer systems while enabling old systems to continue functioning. Cloud systems of engagement based on powerful and easy to use platform technology will be a big part of the solution.
DevOps for Salesforce Lightning
The tools you work with have a lot of impact on what you can accomplish and the more sophisticated the tools the better, especially in software. Beagle Research (my company) just completed a study into using a DevOps strategy with the Salesforce Lightning Platform. The work was sponsored by Copado a DevOps solutions provider. DevOps is a strategy for building, changing and deploying enterprise software that can also be used with a Scrum or Agile methodology as well as others. More than concentrating on code and coding, DevOps is more holistic looking at culture and infrastructure in its broadest manifestation.
Even if you’ve never built systems you can surmise that planning, developing, assessing, testing and deploying software are all critical milestones and they’re often spread across technical departments of IT like development and operations, hence the name.
It can be challenging to compare enterprise software strategies. For instance, using an on-premise hardware and software stack has been common for decades but with the development of cloud computing, users find they can eliminate having to care about a good deal of their development environments leaving it all to the cloud vendor. How do you compare overhead and costs between cloud and on-premise? What are the effects on speed to market, reliability, security? To control for some variables and enable us to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we chose to research only companies developing and maintaining systems using Salesforce Lightning and a DevOps strategy.
Companies ranged in size from fewer than 100 employees to more than 10,000. There were similar measures for number of salesforce users and number of developers as well as the number of production orgs. Two-thirds or 67 percent said they run between 2 and 7 production orgs. Most of the respondents were C-level executives (48 percent) or upper management (40 percent).
We found that DevOps is delivering value for most of its users though the larger organizations have greater challenges, more on that in a moment; 17 percent claim over $5 million in benefits from using a DevOps strategy. These people have a good understanding that software flexibility drives business agility and impressively, 54 percent say their lead time for making changes to their Salesforce orgs is between one day and one week. Compare that to a more traditional process that takes weeks or months.
But we also identified an elite group that operates even faster–21 percent say their lead time for making changes is less than a day, and 8 percent say it takes less than an hour. Taken together 83 percent can make changes in a week or less.
In other recent research I’ve been involved in, delivering running, tested and deployable code was much slower. Clearly, if a business depends on its ability to quickly change to meet changing market demands this is where you want to be.
On the other hand
As you might expect though, the benefits of a DevOps strategy were not evenly distributed across all users. Generally, smaller businesses with smaller development groups did better overall at establishing DevOps programs and at excelling within them.
The most successful businesses using DevOps are those that use a well-integrated set of tools to move through development and deployment. Many organizations, especially smaller ones, use a combination of in-house developed and opensource management tools. At best the great variety of tool choices suggested to me that some best practices are still being worked out.
Even with Salesforce Lightning and a DevOps approach you can still have issues and almost everyone had the experience of deploying a release to a production org and having a service degradation. A plurality of respondents, 43 percent, said a problem occurred up to 15 percent of the time and the vast majority or 86 percent said service degradations happen less than half of the time. This is an important snapshot of the state of the industry. Speed of delivery slightly exceeds stability of releases indicating a need to bring the two metrics more in alignment.
Some best practices considerations
- A strong majority (60 percent) say each developer in the business has a private development environment.
- Also, 77 percent say they use version control to store code and click-based Salesforce customizations.
- Most synchronize their development environments with the latest changes from other teams with 41 percent doing this on-demand or at most once per day and 42 percent saying they do this between once per day and once a week.
- 75 percent say changes made in version control trigger automation tests.
- 87 percent have confidence that when automated tests pass the software is ready for release. However, meta-analysis of the data strongly suggests that the greater a team’s confidence in their tests, the higher their change failure rate. Skeptics who were neutral on this question experienced a 40% lower change fail rate than those who expressed strong confidence in their tests.
It’s good to be skeptical.
Part of the allure of the digital disruption is having the capacity to change a business process to take advantage of changing market conditions and many businesses are already having that experience. Big data and analytics tell us what needs attention but then we still need to change our systems’ behaviors. Flexible software contributes to a business’ agility and that’s good. But that speed and flexibility need to be balanced by security and what I can only call the bulletproof-ness of the new or changed code.
The businesses most able to reap the rewards of DevOps tend to be smaller though large enterprises have their bragging points. While larger businesses already see benefits from a DevOps strategy, they are the ones with the greatest potential to do more. What’s holding them back?
In any organization size breeds complexity which causes business friction. We don’t have all the data to say so unequivocally, but it seems that bigger organizations have more walls to break down.
It looks to me like the development tools are pretty good. Not enough businesses have well integrated management suites to handle the complexity and it also seems like culture forms stovepipes which causes less stellar performance. If that’s so there’s still some cultural work to be done enhancing communications within and between developer groups and the business. DevOps tools can be a big part of that help but as with the psychiatrist trying to change a lightbulb, the bulb still has to want to change.
The force may be with Microsoft
Last week the Pentagon might have awarded its $10 billion contract for cloud computing to Microsoft. The program goes by the acronym JEDI for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure and it has been attracting vendors like a dog attracts fleas for several years. It has been marked by fierce litigation too, so the award may not be the end of it.
Oracle sued over the process claiming it was unfair and focused its ire on Amazon which appeared to be the leading candidate. CTO Larry Ellison made a point of showcasing the benchmarks of Oracle’s Autonomous Database against Amazon at multiple OpenWorld conferences to show Oracle’s technical dominance. Amazon had been making a market share argument of the variety that we have the most datacenters so we’re the best. But cloud computing is a 3-leged stool and you need infrastructure, software and tools to really be a contender.
Then Donald Trump got involved as only he can as the Commander in Chief. There’s no love lost by Trump with respect to Bezos who also owns the Washington Post which Trump dismisses as the Amazon Washington Post in not so sharp distinction from his description of the failing New York Times.
According to an article on CNBC from Saturday, “An upcoming book on James Mattis’ tenure as secretary of Defense claims President Donald Trump told Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of a $10 billion cloud contract for the Pentagon.” Mission accomplished, I guess. If true, that looks like self-dealing rather than putting the concerns of national security first and foremost, but I digress.
But more than all of the gossip about who gets the contract there ought to be questions about what the contract will do to shape the cloud industry. Where to begin?
Microsoft and who else?
First, is Microsoft the only contractor in this deal or is it the prime? The difference could be big. If the company founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen is the prime it leaves the door open for the losers in the derby to make strategic contributions. For instance, it defies logic to think that the Oracle Autonomous Database would be excluded from delivering its functionality for national defense. In my humble opinion it is the most performant and secure thing in the cloud, and I say this not to dispute other products’ greatness but only to point out that Oracle has delivered a hardware and software solution to market that achieves that purpose.
But this brings up a thorny issue. To get the most out of Oracle’s technology you really have to buy its Exadata storage system and maybe some other pieces. It’s a standard part of the Oracle cloud system now being deployed but it might raise concerns about vendor lock-in for a customer that likes to have no single point of potential failure. For Oracle to get a piece of the contract it might have to bend a little by making its solution more open.
That’s not far-fetched. Over the summer Oracle and Microsoft have been cozying up with grand strategies to make their systems more open to each other. A coincidence? I think not. It’s interesting to me that Oracle quit making headlines about its JEDI lawsuit after August. More interesting is that as much as Trump wanted to “screw” Amazon, he didn’t seem to offer help to his friend Safra Catz who is now CEO of Oracle.
The cloud computing utility
I’ve written frequently that the IT industry is commoditizing and that a utility is forming. Like the electricity industry in which many vendors adhere to accepted standards and present the appearance of a continental grid (it’s not a single grid though but that’s a story for another time), an IT or cloud computing utility might look similar.
If all that’s true then Microsoft sits in position to become the standard setter and gate keeper. There would be a lot of contention over databases but perhaps the Oracle product might be used in large, ultra-secure situations. Maybe Oracle and Microsoft would also agree on the central importance of Exadata as the hardware foundation too. There are lots of permutations but most importantly JEDI might force a truce and foster better interactivity standards, some of which are clearly underway.
In that kind of environment there might also be room for IBM’s Watson and Amazon’s datacenters as well as other advanced technology.
My two bits
I can’t fathom how the award is the end of the story. In a lot of procurements, the government puts itself in the position of choosing the best and most viable vendor and of telling all the others the equivalent of your baby is ugly. That’s not the case here. America brims with technology talent and products (a consequence of the government sponsored space race, ultimately) so each contender could have done a credible job of at least being the prime contractor.
The big impact of the deal will be on how it shapes cooperation among the oligarchy that now controls much of our technology future. In the 1980s the CIA bought relational database technology from a startup named Oracle and a relatively young Larry Ellison became its chief support person, at least for a time. Relational databases were much better at managing data and reporting than the flat file systems then in use. Even Oracle’s company name suggests being able to predict the future in the way that the ancient Greek Oracle at Delphi did.
That win spawned the RDBMS revolution, we all became SQL fluent and Oracle never looked back. The JEDI contract feels like one of those moments when a government procurement can change an industry. That’s why it was so closely contested and why I think we’ll now see the industry coming together and creating new interoperability standards.
A new business model with help from CRM
I have been writing about Salesforce for 20 years. That’s incredible for me because aside from marriage, there’s nothing in my life I’ve done so consistently for so long. Perhaps like a marriage, the thing that’s been attractive about Salesforce is its constantly changing nature.
The company went through a more or less typical adolescence for a startup but beyond that it always had a sense of mission that it was changing the world. It was the first successful cloud company and in its rise most of its early competitors fell by the wayside leaving it with the uncomfortable position of being a small branch on a big tree. It was susceptible to strong winds that luckily never materialized and so a new generation of cloud companies joined it eventually.
Along the way Salesforce began branching out beyond simple cloud apps. It became a marketplace and a development platform, and in the process remade itself many times. It is still remaking itself today though, guided by co-founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff, it is more outward looking than ever.
For several years now, Benioff has dabbled in the changing aspects of economics and business theory. Starting with his advocacy of a Fourth Industrial Revolution in which he argued for a new beginning in the tech sector based on analytics, machine learning and IoT. Today he’s also trying to assemble multiple parts he sees in society into a new vision of business.
In his new book, “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change,” Benioff is combining his significant knowledge of business and economics with his long term affection for philanthropy into a vision for what Capitalism can become. He’s been vocal recently in telling us about the end of capitalism. In so many words Benioff recently told an audience in San Francisco that “capitalism as we know it is dead.” He also reiterated those views in a New York Times Op-Ed this week.
His opinion is well informed. Benioff was referring to the profits-only focus of the mid-20th century, Milton Friedman era and suggested that a new capitalism based more on a statement issued by the Business Roundtable, of which he is a member, was coming into view. Simply put, the statement said that the monolithic corporation, oriented only toward making profits for shareholders, is passé.
The roundtable embraced the idea of corporations having multiple stakeholders: obviously shareholders, but also customers, employees, partners and suppliers, and importantly the communities where corporations abide. With that orientation it’s just as unacceptable to think about profits without thinking of employees and their welfare, as it is to consider production without also contemplating its impact on the environment.
Some might complain that this positioning is just a distinction without a difference, but it is more. We do what we think about and we achieve what we can model and the Business Roundtable statement on the purpose of a corporation is a new model for new times.
Benioff and his book are about change and it must be said that change isn’t always the order of the day. Social scientists have a term that fits just right here, “punctuated equilibrium,” which simply means that there can be long periods where little changes and others when everything is up for grabs. To exemplify, consider your EKG. We think of our hearts as constantly beating and that’s true but there is a relatively long period of rest between beats. The rest is the flat line, an equilibrium, and the beat is the punctuation.
In business we’ve been through a period of orderly progress, thanks to Moore’s Law, of improvements on the basic idea of a computer on a chip. Chips got more dense and powerful and, yes, less expensive, during that time, but the overall direction has been a more or less straight line.
Today is different. We’re confronted by multiple global challenges and global goals that will take all of us to invent our way out of and most of them don’t directly involve computers and software. But they all involve coming together and thinking outside of the box we’ve become comfortable in.
The vision of a new capitalism isn’t secure, at least not yet. An article in Harvard Business Review about a month after the BRT statement observed that,
“Despite clear opportunity, CEOs in 2019 acknowledge that business execution is not measuring up to the size of the challenge of the Global Goals—or to their previous ambition.”
The sticking point is investors. The old school Milton Friedman-esque purpose of a corporation still obtains. According to new research from Accenture and the UN Global Compact, that examines attitudes of 1,000 global CEOs, “The Decade to Deliver: A Call to Business Action,” which was quoted in a Harvard Business Review article “What 1,000 CEOs Really Think About Climate Change and Inequality,”
“No matter what the BRT statement says, most companies won’t act aggressively unless they believe investors value their sustainability efforts. And while there is actual movement in the investor community of late, as CEO of EDF Energy, Simone Rossi, says ‘There is a great disparity between the public statements put out by banks and investors and their apathy towards sustainability behind closed doors.’ No wonder only 12% of the CEOs cite pressure from shareholders as a motivation.”
Whether you call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution or something else–I reckon we’re beginning the Sixth Industrial Revolution but why quibble? The dominant theme of the next few years is likely to be change, the punctuation. New models are likely to proliferate and what’s not to like about one that recognizes the primacy of ordinary people as stakeholders? It’s the ultimate act of CRM.