People waiting outside of a "Salesforce Transit" building.
PHOTO: Nick Doty

Salesforce came out with its usual bevy of announcements during last week’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco that featured nearly 200,000 attendees. The news included extended partnerships with Google, the debut of a platform designed to unify cross-channel customer experiences and the expansion of a global alliance with new product integrations that will allow customers to share and synchronize data across Amazon Web Services and Salesforce services

It may be what Salesforce didn’t announce that has people in the marketing technology world buzzing however. Many predicted Salesforce would acquire Sitecore, a digital experience software company, as a response to Adobe’s $4.75 billion acquisition of Marketo. That didn’t happen. But Sitecore does hosts its own customer conference next week, the Sitecore Symposium Oct. 8-11 next week in Orlando — so who knows?

For now, let's focus on what was discussed at Dreamforce. Here are some key takeaways from Salesforce watchers who attended the conference.

1. AI Won’t Steal Our Jobs

Conversica, which provides conversational artificial intelligence (AI) for business, surveyed thousands of Dreamforce attendees. About 89 percent of them felt that AI would not take their job. Another 55 percent are optimistic about the future of AI, followed by 51 percent who said that AI will help improve the quality of customer service. More than a third (39 percent) believe AI will make workers more productive and creative at work. In another interesting finding, 72 percent of attendees said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff should run for president. 

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2. Automation of Data, Analytics a Hot Theme

Brad Noble, vice president of product design for ZoomInfo, said the automation of data and analytics was a hot theme at Dreamforce. “As a whole across the industry, we’re seeing an increase in systems that deliver data, closer to users and in real-time,” Noble said. “Artificial intelligence and machine learning are exciting developments that make data more actionable and strategic.” 

However, bad data delivered in real-time is still bad data, Noble added. “Adding in functionality that automates delivery of bad data only compounds the issues associated with it, and makes those issues more glaring,” Noble said. “As we see the market for real-time data delivery platforms evolve, the trend to automate favors companies with good underlying data.”

3. Data, AI, CX Converge

This year's Dreamforce showcased how data, AI and customer experience is being used by companies more than ever before to increase sales in big ways, according to Andrew Leibowitz, vice president of client services at FLUID. “We are at a key turning point of the digital age and we will look back at this year and Dreamforce and remember when this turn happened,” Leibowitz said. "From big to small brands, the ability to integrate these once robust and cost prohibited tools like AI and big data, they are all now in reach with the offerings from Salesforce. Coming out of Dreamforce, I fully expect that experiences we have with brands will become even ‘smarter’ and tailored to our personal journeys more than ever. Again, this is just the start."

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4. Innovation Around Einstein

Fred Studer, CMO of FinancialForce, said his Salesforce-partner company is passionate about Einstein. Salesforce Einstein Voice, introduced at the conference, is Saleforce’s AI arm, a new platform service that give users the ability to talk to Salesforce. “It was useful and fun to see all of the new innovation around it,” Studer said. “The quality of its analytics and how partners are pushing the platform’s envelope is really exciting. At FinancialForce we have seen that you can do amazing things when your front and back office are on the same platform, and even more when your analytics are native to the same platform. For us, leveraging Einstein has meant doing things in days that other companies can’t do at all. Speed is the new currency, and Einstein is the key to this level of agility.”

5. MuleSoft Acquisition Put to Work

With its 360 platform announcement, Customer 360, Salesforce customers can now implement API-led connectivity across any application, data or device with MuleSoft Anypoint Platform. Salesforce acquired MuleSoft for $6.5 billion in March. 

“It’s important to understand that the roots of Salesforce Customer 360 are grounded in MuleSoft,” said Matt Fleckenstein, chief product officer at Nintex and former VP of product at Salesforce. “It is the Mulesoft acquisition that makes it possible to seamlessly stitch together data and identities from the ever-growing number of Salesforce clouds — sales, service, marketing, community, commerce, etc." Many of the clouds, some obtained via acquisition, run on different data platforms with radically different data schema, according to Fleckenstein. "Mulesoft not only makes it possible to stitch them together, it also enables enterprises to federate other data sources from across their enterprise software stack: e.g., data from their ERP systems, their HCM solutions, or their content management platforms.”