Event Review: Cloudforce 2010 And Why It Is Important For SMBs

For the past few weeks I had been getting overly excited about the impending arrival of Salesforce in London for their annual Cloudforce event. Salesforce position it as the biggest Cloud event of the year, and they take their event around the world, moving on to Paris, Munich, Toronto, and building up to their massive annual bash – Dreamforce in San Francisco with over 20,000 attendees.

I was trying to explain to my wife why I was so excited about this event. I’ve been to a lot of tech events over the years, mainly security events such as Infosec in London. Security is not a business enabler. No-one gets really passionate and excited about having to install security. You can’t imagine consumers getting excited about going to a life insurance exhibition at Earls Court can you?

Cloudforce is different. Cloudforce has an aura of excitement. Once you are booked on you get the feeling that ‘you’re in the know’ and as I jumped on the train down to London I felt as if I was going to meet a lot of like minded individuals – a kind of Cloud Group Therapy.

First three points to note:

1. The event is at the Royal Festival Hall. Not an exhibition centre, but a theatre, with a big stage, and the feel of a concert. Loud music plays out getting everyone motivated, and more than once the event is referred to as a ‘gig’ by Marc Benioff (Salesforce’s CEO). As you watch the Keynote below imagine the music at concert volume – a great experience!

2. There are more suits than I have ever seen at a Tech event. Yes there were plenty of developers, and coders at the event, but the majority of people I met were business people, trying to understand how to make their business grow faster. This for me is what the Cloud is about. The technology has been taken care of – you just need to spend time working out what you want it to do for you.

3. There are more women at the event then I have ever seen at a Tech event. I’ll pick my words carefully here, but in my experience Tech events have tended to be male dominated, because IT and coding is a male dominated industry. But as with the previous point, the Cloud democratises technology and is more about Business. You therefore find a lot more women (and non-techies like myself) are able to get involved and benefit.

The event kicked off with a Keynote by Marc Benioff, the charismatic CEO and Chairman of Salesforce. Whilst I am sure he knows a great deal about the code behind their service he gives the impression that he doesn’t – because he doesn’t need to. His focus is on how the technology helps his business and therefore doesn’t need to know about the code. This is great for business owners to see as it helps them to relax “OK, so I can engage and not feel uncomfortable about not reading code”

We are taken through some very slick demos of Sales Cloud (their CRM service), Service Cloud (their Support Desk service) and Chatter (their newly released Social Networking tool that permeates both Sales Cloud and Service Cloud.)

Deals, Deals, Deals

A key take away from all of the sessions is that this is not about technology. This is about business. If you want your business to grow faster then pay attention. If you are happy with the size of your business then this isn’t for you. Every business, whether private or public, commercial or non-profit, has metrics. Deals, Deal size, Client Satisfaction, Donations, Investments, Cost of Sale. If you don’t know your metrics, or you don’t want to improve them, then Salesforce is not for you. But if you do know them, and you want to make them better, then jump in.

I’m a Small Business, how does this help me?

As part of the keynotes and demonstrations a number of customers were brought on stage to talk through their experiences with Salesforce, and explain how it was helping them with their metrics. These tended to be international organisations like BT, and Misys, and Easynet. It was fantastic to see how the service that we use for a handful of users, can be scaled up to many hundreds of thousands of users.

Also, if you wandered around the Expo attached to Cloudforce there was a wide range of Consulting Partners touting their wares. Companies like Accenture, Deloitte, Astadia, and Bluewolf. These companies have built dedicated Cloud Consulting practices and are helping very large Enterprises to adopt technologies like Salesforce.

If I was the Owner of a Small or Medium business, of perhaps less than 50 employees, I think I might have been a bit intimidated by all of this. Whilst there was talk of the democratisation of technology, and that a 1 user company gets access to the same software as a 100,000 user company, I didn’t see this in practice in terms of the clients speaking, or the partners available to help migrate.

Next Year

If you own a business, or are involved with Strategy at your company then I would urge you to keep an eye on Salesforce.com and register early for next year’s event. The only price of admission is that you want to grow your business faster, and I guarantee that you will come away with some great ideas. I would challenge anyone to leave this year’s event and not want to investigate the Cloud for their business.

Were you at Cloudforce? What did you think? Would you consider going next year?

Charlie Cowan inspires and enables partners at NewVoiceMedia, a Salesforce Appexchange partner routing inbound calls based on CRM data. Unusually for someone in the IT industry, Charlie holds a degree in Rural Land Management from The Royal Agricultural College. He lives and works in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, with his wife and three children.