What we learned at Dreamforce 2019

A roundup of the key news and announcements from Salesforce's big jamboree in San Francisco this week

Cloud CRM giant Salesforce took over the area surrounding the Moscone Centre in San Francisco again this week to chat software, sustainability and skills, and were joined by some pretty special guests. Here are our key takeaways from a week on the ground.


Marc Benioff is interrupted by protesters during his keynote

Chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce Mark Benioff was interrupted multiple times during his Tuesday keynote by protestors, giving one of them 30 seconds to say their piece before they were escorted away. In the room it was unclear what they were protesting but since then it appears they were focused on Salesforce's controversial contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“I want to tell you why I stopped the program and let him speak for 30 seconds. It’s because I value free speech in this country. I value everybody’s speech," Benioff said after the interruption.

During his keynote Benioff was in a less evangelical mood than last year, instead getting back to business and talking about Salesforce as a platform which can deliver a “single source of truth” by combining its core CRM with recent acquisitions Mulesoft and Tableau.

Branded Customer 360 Truth, the vendor promises "the holy grail of CRM: a single source of truth," by bringing together data from sales, customer service, marketing, commerce and external sources (via Mulesoft) to deliver a single 'Salesforce ID' for each customer.

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Tableau is welcomed to the Ohana

Salesforce welcomed its newest acquisitions: the analytics vendor Tableau, which it acquired for $15.7 billion in an all-stock deal in May this year, to the family with an appearance from CEO Adam Salipsky during the main Tuesday keynote and its own keynote session on Wednesday.

Read next: How Tableau is fitting into the Salesforce family

Many would have expected lots of Tableau during Dreamforce this week, but where Tableau really fits into the Salesforce stack remains pretty muddy, which could be good news for customers of the tool who don't want to see it tampered with too much.


Apple partnership

After announcing their partnership last year, Apple was again front and center at Dreamforce. Two iOS app announcements were made and Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with Benioff on Tuesday to talk about how the company is moving more towards the enterprise, as well as Apple’s commitment to user data privacy. Benioff also admitted to Cook that he runs his business solely from his iPhone, and hasn't touched his laptop in years.

The app announcements focused on a redesigned Salesforce Mobile and a new training app Trailhead GO, and an enhanced Salesforce Mobile SDK to allow developers to build and deploy iOS apps on the Salesforce Platform.


Einstein voice enhancements

Announced in 2018, Salesforce continued to push its Einstein voice capabilities this year.

Read next: Salesforce to expand Einstein Voice Skills so users can create custom voice apps

Last year Salesforce introduced Einstein Voice Assistant to allow customers to make queries of their Saleasforce data using voice commands, and now has extended this across its product portfolio with customisable Einstein Voice Skills.

Both Einstein Voice Assistant and Einstein Voice Skills will be available in beta in February, with a full rollout not expected until 2021.


AWS partnership

Salesforce made a trio of announcements regarding its partnership with public cloud vendor Amazon Web Services, including a contact centre solution which links Service Cloud and Amazon Connect; the introduction of an AWS pathway on its learning platform Trailhead and an integration which will allow people to ask questions of their Salesforce data using Einstein Voice Skills using an Amazon Alexa device.

Amazon Connect is a suite of service centre software which uses AWS AI services like transcription and translation to help service agents understand and respond to requests across multiple channels, and Salesforce is integrating these capabilities within Service Cloud as part of this partnership.

"For years AWS and Salesforce have had a deep relationship, and we share a commitment to integrate our services to provide customers with industry leading, enhanced solutions," Ariel Kelman, vice president at AWS said in a statement. "We are delighted that Salesforce has chosen Amazon Connect as its preferred contact center technology and by bringing AWS content onto Trailhead, we are continuing to enable businesses to leverage the full power of both platforms to provide world-class customer service."


Barack Obama draws a crowd

Ex-president Barack Obama got top billing on Thursday for a special guest keynote. The session was extraordinary popular as the statesman talked about his efforts to support the next generation of leaders through the Obama foundation.

In conversation with Marc Benioff, the ex-President touched on a lot of topics, from progress on his new book to the trials of parenting and his biggest projects after leaving office.

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Scott Carey/IDG

Fleetwood Mac played the ballpark

The Dreamforce concert has had its fair share of big names over the years, and this year's headliner Fleetwood Mac certainly didn't disappoint. It was a pretty big coup getting a band that the Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis once said was "too expensive" to book.

The concert was back at the home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, a stadium which Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block couldn't bring himself to say out loud during his keynote (hint: he worked there for 25 years).

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Customer perspectives

We like to hear from customers at these events and found some great examples of the integration specialist Mulesoft paying dividends for the likes of HSBC and BMW.

HSBC for example is building an API portal for developers using tools from Mulesoft and Salesforce, and BMW is looking to personalise all of its interactions with customers by bringing together data using the whole Salesforce platform.

Read next: Inside HSBC's mission to build the best API develop portal

In terms of reference customers on stage, insurer State Farm was given top billing as part of the Customer 360 story and luxury retailer Luis Vuitton presented the work it is doing with Commerce Cloud to personalise the shopping experience for online customers.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.