Sunday, December 31, 2017

Alfidi Capital at Dreamforce 2017

Salesforce held its annual Dreamforce convention for 2017. I missed attending in 2016 so I definitely had to catch up. This is by far the most complex, high-profile, and costly corporate event I have ever experienced. The spectacle is always impressive. There's a ton of stuff going on all over the city, including affiliated events for people who want the Dreamforce experience but don't need to attend certification sessions. Here come several badge selfies, with summaries of some very rewarding events.

Alfidi Capital at Trailhead, Dreamforce 2017.

The Dreamforce designers had wood carvings and other outdoors decorations all over the ground floor of Moscone West, where the Trailhead exhibits dominated the event space. The chainsaw-made wood sculpture at the front door was such a nice touch. I was a Boy Scout once and I never was very skilled at woodcarving. People who complete Salesforce training modules earn badges that look like Scouting merit badges. It's all so positive and benign, you'd almost think no one is making a buck off people. Dreamforce is an amusement park for techies.

Alfidi Capital at Customer Success Expo, Dreamforce 2017.

The Customer Success Expo was festooned with the latest tech tricks, and a whole floor of exhibitors giving away free coffee and T-shirts. I scored enough coffee and candy to fuel my entire week. It takes a lot to get me excited sometimes, but free goodies never hurt. I got some hands-on time with several AR/VR displays, which are becoming very common at major tech shows.

Fake rock cliff on Howard Street, Dreamforce 2017.

The Trailhead logos and mascots were front and center in many ways. I don't know whether the real Albert Einstein ever went to the woods, but Salesforce has him climbing fake rock cliffs with fake animals. Pop music tribute bands played on the outdoor stage. I wonder which Dreamforce attendees came just to goof off on Howard Street and not tell their head office back home. I only had time for the free coffee and snacks at various places on Howard Street, because that's how I totally score in between events at Dreamforce.

Radius B2B Champions Club, Dreamforce 2017.

I attended the Radius B2B Champions Club affiliated event to get a fresh perspective on, what else, B2B sales. The new B2B buzzwords are revenue operations (RevOps), Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Product Officer, and Account-Based Marketing (ABM). The CEO's span of control is expanding as executive suites decide they need more complex teams enabling their work. Marketing ops people can join MOCCA for the full flavor of sales tech buzzwords. Remember ABM because vendors are building services around the concept.

I believe DevOps teams have become a mechanism for discovering new revenue sources via ABM, using IT systems to establish links between sales (account managers) and marketing (product development). They find data to demonstrate new sales opportunities. DevOps generally means integration of different functional silos' contributions to the enterprise's strategic plan. It matters because goals are now aligned and validated by data rather than assumptions.

Here's new math: sales + marketing = revenue ops. Hmmm . . . DevOps + RevOps = Bonanza! I cannot claim to have coined the term "RevOps" because revenue operations is already in action at firms doing ABM.

Listening to sports marketers talk about how they use tech made me smack my head. I can't believe that old-school pro sports talent scouts still refuse to use Moneyball metrics. Sometimes adoption of new techniques unequivocal management support to either use the new method or be fired. Jeff Bezos did this at Amazon to make development products compatible with public interfaces, thus paving the way for Amazon Web Services and the cloud.

Executive Briefing Center, Dreamforce 2017.

The Dreamforce Keynote with CEO Marc Benioff was more low-key than I recall from years past. It's always cool to hear Mr. Benioff talk about love, family, and magical mahalo stuff. People love the guy when he does that. Giving props to Salesforce's big corporate clients enhances his persona as the noble bringer of light and wisdom. My goodness, no wonder Dreamforce is such a costly spectacle, because it costs a fortune to buy such an image of generosity. I trust the guy, and I understand the need for a spectacle to convince everyone else that doing the right thing is worthwhile. Using relatable people as expert examples of Salesforce power users in the keynote's vignettes is a very effective way to make emotional connections in marketing. I have to hand it to Mr. Benioff and his image consultants for pulling off this masterstroke of sincerity.

The keynote rolled out the Trailhead learning platform as some white label solution, much like their Einstein AI predictive analytics solution. Co-Founder Parker Harris did not wear a costume this year. I was disappointed that he had no skit to play. The good news is that Salesforce is now attached to some Google platforms. I'm sure I'll know more about that once I complete some of Google's free training modules. I tried not to LOL that their vignette touting a mobile sales platform used the same scenario (shopping for customized athletic shoes tied to a celebrity's brand) that Oracle OpenWorld 2017 used in a major product keynote. I can't make this stuff up.

Ops-Stars, Dreamforce 2017.

I spent some time at the Ops-Stars affiliated event. I really wanted to hear what a VC had to say about his investment criteria, and he surprised me by emphasizing a "go-to-market architecture." The cloud sector's declining costs and increasing quality must make it easier than ever for startups to immediately have world-class IT architecture. The VC guy clearly used the term "RevOps," so my chance to claim ownership of the term vanished into thin air. Oh well, my genius is sufficiently expansive to pioneer other concepts. Any ops team is the CEO's direct strategic presence within a functional silo, so the innovation of RevOps removes the thinking and planning function from sales and aligns marketing with sales in a fusion cell. If you can follow my paraphrasing of that VC's wisdom, then congratulations, you may be qualified to work in RevOps.

It sounds like integrating DevOps and RevOps into an enterprise's strategic plan requires a knowledge management officer (KMO) to synch them. An integrated approach to participating in different functions' working groups is definitely under a KMO's purview. RevOps still uses recognizable KPIs like LTV and CAC, so we don't need a completely new vocabulary.

Alfidi Capital at Sales Enablement Soiree, Dreamforce 2017.

The Sales Enablement Soiree was another affiliated event that I found intriguing. I had never heard of the "sales enablement" discipline. I worked in sales once and we had "sales support" people who programmed product training. The sales systems have obviously evolved. The Salesforce people were on hand talking up Trailhead for employee on-boarding. It is hard to believe that business leaders still need to "buy in" to enablement, or maybe that imaginary obstacle is just more rationale for an upsell into Trailhead. I cannot find an industry standard definition of sales enablement, so I'll offer my own. Sales enablement is an internal function ensuring sales teams are trained on product knowledge, certifying them on the corporate message, and collaborating on content production.

Other Salesforce keynotes back at the main Dreamforce event clarified a few things. A "Trailblazer" is someone who uses the Trailhead platform. Customer service systems can now instantly perform multifactor ID authentication (i.e., facial and voice recognition) on mobile. The Einstein AI auto-generates graphs produced from the user's data priorities. It's all so pretty to watch from the audience. It must be even more fun up close for users.

Mascots dance at Equality Keynote, Dreamforce 2017.

The Dreamforce Equality Keynote had something to do with art and activism. Expect professionally unqualified cultural icons to assume leadership roles when political leaders' inaction leaves a vacuum. Americans follow celebrity leadership anyway, so most people won't notice the change. One of the celebrity panelists argued that setting political speech to music gives it mass appeal, moving the media and politics. We saw in 2016 and 2017 how extremists can use the same techniques to promote bigotry and hatred. Look no further than the foreign bots pushing derogatory memes on social media to divide Americans. If artists are fighting back in the name of freedom and equality, then they're doing the right thing for America.

Einstein AI solution, Dreamforce 2017.

The Compassion in Action Keynote was difficult for me to witness. I have experienced that building compassion into organizations denies human nature; productive people are grasping, vicious, and cutthroat because our species evolved to favor those qualities. Even advocates for compassion recognize how humans respond to transactional initiatives, because generosity must have some self-interest payoff to be sustainable. Allow me to set aside my skepticism for once and recognize some truly good things in this keynote. It's good that we now have evidence that people want to work for companies that offer compassion, meaningful work, and support during adversity. It's classic Stoicism to identify one's own emotional triggers and rehearse a controlled response that is productive and maintains emotional equilibrium. These Dreamforce keynotes do offer good life advice. Marc Benioff brought out a surprise guest at the keynote's end: Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Mr. Benioff convinced Metallica on short notice to headline a relief concert for the Santa Rosa wildfire victims. I totally agree with Mr. Ulrich's stated formula for enduring success: look forward, be open to inspiration, and have empathy when working with others.

Dreamforce 2017 was a winner. It is the place to be for ginormous amounts of free wisdom. The outside world gets to see San Francisco and Silicon Valley at their best when sales and marketing types converge at Dreamforce. Sometimes getting people to do good is as simple as cajoling them into a decent mindset.