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May 19, 2016

Salesforce World Tour: People are the priority not technology

Analysis: The good news keeps rolling in for Salesforce as profits rise.

By James Nunns

Enabling customers was the theme of the day for Salesforce as the company descended on London for the latest leg of its World Tour.

The Customer relationship management (CRM) company that has forged a success path to cloud disruption took to the Excel centre to talk about individuals, the customer and, well, not really anything about technology.

Well, technology is the backbone of everything, but for a conference keynote it was enjoyably lacking in product pitching, at least not in the typically manner.

The show was all about enablement and helping others to reach their customers better, which is why the company took a long time focusing on customer stories – this took up about 80% of the hour and a half presentation.

Polly Sumner, chief adoption officer, Salesforce, took control of proceedings and set the tone early on by saying: "The tech isn’t important, what’s important are the people connecting to it."

That’s the message that Salesforce wants to get across, use our technology to better serve your customers.

This isn’t a new message, in fact it is typically rolled out at every opportunity by the majority of tech vendors, but what Salesforce did differently during its keynote is to almost ignore the technology.

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Yes there were remarks about how the Salesforce tech has enabled businesses to better serve customers, and there were the obligatory live demos (role-playing buying an Aston Martin and having a high-fiving robot were good ideas) but it simply didn’t have the same feel as an EMC talking about its new appliances for two hours.

This was a new style of pitch that was designed to appeal more to any size of business. Cloud is meant to take away the complexity of knowing everything, it is simply designed to enable and this is what Salesforce was getting at.

The CRM company ran through the benefits of using its platform, with Paul Smith, GM, Marketing Cloud, EMEA running through what Aston Martin is doing.

Aston Martin is a near perfect story for Salesforce, the luxury car manufacturer deployed Salesforce six months ago and it is using the technology as the spine of a transformation.

The technology has helped it to produce its latest car, the DB11, and to effectively build brand loyalty and customer engagement through the tracking of data.

Aston Martin is a 103 years old, but it has only has only been profitable for three of those years and has gone bankrupt seven times, this is something that it wants to change and it is using technology from Salesforce to do that.

In addition to making the majority of attendees want to own an Aston Martin, Salesforce effectively portrayed itself as a force for positive change.

Salesforce Aston Martin

This is a model that appears to be working for the company, if you look at its 2016 Q1 financial results that is.

The company reported a 27% increase in its revenue for Q1 up to $1.92bn, with subscription and support revenue rising by 26% year-over-year to $1.78bn in Q1 and professional services and other revenues up 33% $141m for the quarter.

Further good news came from Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff who said: "Given the strong response to our Customer Success Platform, we are raising our fiscal 2017 revenue guidance by $80 million to reach $8.2 billion at the high end of the range."

The tagline of the ‘age of the customer’ further highlights the focus that the company is putting on gaining positive outcomes for its users and it is using this to plan for the future.

Salesforce world tour

A significant amount of time was allotted for talking about STEM and how the company is supporting STEMettes. The importance that Salesforce places on this was emphasised by the placement of STEMettes CEO in the billing.

Featured in CBR’s most influential women in tech feature, Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of STEMettes took to the stage as the first guest of Sumner and spoke of how Salesforce has helped it to run hackathons and effectively track the attendance of 10,000 girls over the past three years.

By using its technology, STEMettes has been able to more closely help young girls to build a foundation to break into the science, technology, engineering and maths.

Clearly the company is happy with what is it doing, which is perhaps why the cover band that kicked off the keynote sang Nina Simone’s ‘classic ‘Feeling Good’ because that’s how Salesforce feels.

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