Last year I told you all about my amazing experience attending Dreamforce 2016 . This year myself and a small group of technical and business leaders from across our Sales and Service team have just wrapped up four days at Dreamforce 2017. And, if it’s even, possible – Dreamforce 2017 blew last year out of the water.
More than 170,000 people from more than 50 countries joined us for four days packed with hands-on training, break out sessions, keynotes and inspirational discussions with some of the world’s leading experts.
Here are our top 10 moments from Dreamforce 2017.
1. Product and solution keynotes
Attendees were able to dive deep into a range of Salesforce products and solutions. Numerous keynotes helped us see how to make the most of what’s available now and what’s coming up next. We were able meet Product Owners one-on-one, understand the product roadmaps, and truly grasp how each solution can meet our requirements – and help deliver beautiful experiences for Xero customers.
Some of the week’s biggest product announcements that we loved included myEinstein, myLightning, myTrailhead and mySalesforce. The main theme was the growing personalization of Salesforce, making it more of a consumer-experience – and less of an impersonal enterprise system. A bunch of small things will help us make sure that #beautiful is not just something we deliver to our customers – but an experience our employees share.
There was a trend amongst the people we spoke to this week. Many are looking to move away from using several of best-in-breed solutions with integrations. They’re looking to consolidate their business onto the Salesforce Platform to fully leverage the biggest asset they have (data) in one place – and have the machine do the heavy lifting.
Once our team is back in New Zealand, we’ll look at how we can shift from Classic to Lightning, which will enable us to take advantage of Einstein (AI/ML), Trailhead (Learning) and Field Service (Scheduling).
2. Technology as a Force for Good, with Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher discussed what prompted him to co-found Thorn, which builds technology to help fight the trafficking and exploitation of children. His team of engineers have developed a machine learning solution that runs across advertising and the dark web – to track and identify both child victims and the criminals exploiting them.
Kutcher talked about how the world tends to blame technology for both good and evil. In his mind, tech is a tool – humans bring the “evil” or “good” component. He challenged us by asking what we plan to do with the technology at our disposal. Ethics seem to be a common topic in discussions of AI – but really, they are present in all our technology decisions.
This sentiment resonated with me. At Xero, we believe that enabling small businesses to be more successful by using our platform. This means they’ll employ more people, contribute to the economy and pay more taxes… eventually creating better schools and hospitals. That’s what using technology for good is all about.
3. AI for everyone
AI took center stage across the board during day two of Dreamforce. At the “Salesforce Einstein: Blaze New Trails with AI” keynote, we saw new Einstein-powered features that will allow companies to create intelligent experiences.
myEinstein, first announced during Marc Benioff’s opening keynote, enables developers of all skill levels to build and customize AI apps using clicks, not code. Later, the “Future of AI Expert Panel” discussed the state of AI and how it’s transforming the future of business.
Tech startup i.am+ introduced a new platform that is leading the next evolution of computer interaction and voice. i.am+ CEO Will.i.am announced Omega, an AI-based digital assistant designed to power customer service chatbots. Omega aims to deliver both natural and engaging user experiences for enterprise companies. His focus was all on teaching AI to speak to humans – not the other way around.
4. We walked our feet off
The Dreamforce campus is spread over five blocks of the San Francisco city center, taking up 13 buildings and event centers. The surrounding events hosted by partners and customers felt like they encompassed the entire city. We saw grey backpacks and blue lanyards for blocks at a time.
We each walked over 95,000 steps over the four days – the equivalent of 63 kilometers, or 39 miles. It definitely wasn’t a conference for high heels – sneakers and comfy clothes are the only way you can get around quickly amongst the sea of people.
5. Customer Success Expo
Salesforce boasts a massive ecosystem of add on partners who offer custom solutions over an above standard Salesforce products (just like Xero’s App Marketplace). Many of the apps available to Salesforce customers already partner with Xero – along with over 600 other apps offered in our marketplace.
It was an amazing sight. More than 400 partners, with thousands of solutions to any problem you could think of, packed in one massive hall. It can be daunting to find the opportunity that might help your business with so much choice, however, all of the exhibitors were more than happy to spend time walking us through what they had to offer.
We walked away with more than a handful of new opportunities to better our already-expansive Salesforce implementation. We’re excited to improve our Xero customers interactions across our Customer Experience, Sales and Education teams.
6. Einstein Bots
From what I saw, chat-bots are not a “general” AI solution that will sit directly in between customers and content. Rather they will focus on specific problem areas of the business first. You could take a process that currently takes too many steps, script it out, and wrap some personality around it to make it a great experience – but don’t let it try and take the place of a human interaction.
Salesforce had cards with their chatbot research distilled into a few key points. First and foremost was to make sure the end users know they are bots. Bots must support existing experiences, rather than try and replace them.
Every year at Dreamforce we’re lucky enough to also benefit a good cause — and this year’s Dreamfest was no exception. We had an unforgettable night benefiting UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
Fifteen-time Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Alicia Keys was joined onstage by Lenny Kravitz and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, raising $15 million for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
8. A Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama
A highlight of the event was seeing and hearing from Former First Lady Michelle Obama for an exclusive fireside chat with Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff. Mrs. Obama discussed her life growing up on the Southside of Chicago, her life before, during and after The White House and causes she and her husband are passionate about.
She believes the we should consider how our actions impact our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. This starts with quality education, including college for all children. Her session was one of the most engaging, inspiring and uplifting talks I’ve ever attended.
9. Coming together with like-minded people
Like last year, Dreamforce is all about being able to network with other Customer Experience leaders, discover new technology so we can take our support model to the next level, and learn more about how we can continue to leverage our existing tools.
Salesforce powers some of the world’s biggest companies. Looking around at the Dreamforce attendees, you realize the power of using SaaS products. They allow everyone to concentrate on what they do best. People are hungry for new and better things – and SaaS companies are responsible for that shift in expectations. People don’t want to wait anymore – and often we don’t have to. Dreamforce brings together everyone who believes in this, and provides space for these ideas and connections to happen. If you want to see a robot with personality make you a great flat white, come to Dreamforce.
10. Xero Support takes the stage at Dreamforce
Last, but definitely not least, our very own Executive General Manager of Customer Success Nigel Piper took the stage to share how we’ve used Service Cloud to reinvent experiences and deliver world class support to our customers.
There were only three speakers from New Zealand among the 2,700 sessions that were held over the four days. This was a massive acknowledgment of how Xero is leveraging the Salesforce platform and leading the way.
I feel extremely lucky to be able to attend such an awesome event. The hard work will continue back in NZ to turn all we’ve learned and heard into reality and continue providing a world class support service to our customers.