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Analytics and Community at Salesforce’s Dreamforce

by Cindi Howson  |  November 21, 2017  |  2 Comments

I attended my first Salesforce Dreamforce user conference earlier this month, along with 171,000 of my other friends!

As it was my first time attending, I was overwhelmed but impressed by the size, the style, and not-so-subtle messages of community.  CEO Marc Benioff kicked off his keynote by thanking his customers and recognizing the trailblazers—the champions within each organization. He said, “I’m trusting this future with you. You are the trailblazers. You are steering your companies. I’m confident with what is in your hearts.”


He spoke about the 1-1-1 model, with Salesforce donating 1% of time, 1% of equity, and 1% of product back to community. He chuckled that 1% of equity in the start-up years was not a big deal compared to the now $168M in grants the company donates. This sense of community and doing good was a theme of multiple keynotes and events. With a daughter in Miami (who barely evacuated in time to avoid hurricane Irma) and as Houston was once my home, I particularly liked World Vision who was packing back packs for school children struggling to recover from multiple hurricanes.

Einstein was everywhere. Einstein is Salesforce’s artificial intelligence initiative. It’s not a single product, but rather multiple capabilities and products.  To this end, there is some confusion among customers. For example, Einstein Prediction Builder is new.  The demo was pretty cool. In a few simple clicks, a novice user can add an “attrition” predictor to a dashboard.  With that said, Einstein Discovery also has predictive capabilities, while Einstein Analytics (formerly Wave) may or may not (see the Critical Capabilities for strengths and weaknesses).

Ketan Karkhanis, SVP and GM of Analytics Cloud, led the analytics keynote saying, “artificial intelligence is about augmenting your knowledge and expertise. AI is about making things simple and helping you.”  He described the company’s goal for a revolution, not an evolution, with Salesforce rebuilding the whole analytics stack in the last two and half years and putting AI in the center. For sure, BeyondCore, whom Salesforce acquired in 2016, was early to this wave of disruption that Gartner refers to as Augmented Analytics.

Four elements of Salesforce’s vision for AI and analytics:

  1. You don’t have to find data; data finds you.
  2. Analytics is no longer a reflection tool to measure how you did; instead, it’s a guidance system that helps you do better every time and shaping winning behaviors.
  3. It’s not just about data, numbers, and predictions; it’s about recommendations and trusted transparency.
  4. At every customer interaction, you need actionable insights to be able to answer, what, why, what’s likely to happen, and what to do. (from descriptive to prescriptive).

The biggest announcement in this keynote was about bringing AI to operational reports with Einstein Data Insights.  This bakes AI right within an operational report, putting smarts in the hands of front-line workers (see the pane in the right of the screenshot). Einstein Data Insights is currently in a pilot phase; pricing and packaging were not announced. I also really liked the new Explorer that provides a search/NLP interface.  Einstein Data Insights

I caught a number of the customer track sessions with VMWare sharing their Einstein Analytics journey and U.S. Bank sharing their Einstein Discovery story.  Indeed, I chose the VMWare session over hearing Michelle Obama speak– tough scheduling! With over 2700 sessions and huge exhibit hall (I got lost), there was a lot to choose from.

Girl Scouts at Dreamforce

So as I post this blog a few days before the U.S. Thanksgiving, I will add that I am thankful to work in such an innovative and exciting industry. I wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving!

Cindi Howson




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Category: business-analytics  business-intelligence  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Analytics and Community at Salesforce’s Dreamforce

  1. Ziad Fayad says:

    Hope you had a blast at DF17! it can be overwhelming the first time! “innovative and exciting industry” is exactly how i would describe it too. Looking forward for Gartner BI this year and the must see bake-off session!

  2. […] keynote speakers was taken up a notch. SAP hosted both former first Lady Michelle Obama (as did Salesforce) and former President Bush, and ThoughtSpot hosted former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in […]

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