An Overview by
Hubert Selvanathan, Partner

 It was clear from the sheer scale of the recent DreamForce conference that it has become the de-facto industry event for SaaS and the broader cloud computing industry. With over 170,000 attendees, several hundred exhibitors, and more than 1,000 conference sessions, this year’s event was bigger than ever.  For those in the tech industry that weren’t able to attend, following is a quick summary of five key themes from the conference:

1. It Is All About the Customer Experience in SaaS Offerings

Salesforce announced the Lightning-enabled refresh of the UI for its core CRM product Sales Cloud.  The new UI is built to deliver a better end-user experience and includes enhancements such as easy-to-use drag and drop features and faster UI performance. The development effort underpinning Lighting and the prominence it was given during DreamForce highlight the strategic importance of delivering a remarkable customer experience. It underscores that even industry leaders such as Salesforce are re-thinking the end-to-end customer journey and striving to offer a highly differentiated customer experience. This trend is very consistent with what Waterstone sees within our client base of enterprise software providers.

2. Customer Success Is Front and Center for Subscription Businesses

Building on its 2014 re-branding as “the Customer Success Platform,” Salesforce continued to emphasize the Customer Success branding across its increasingly broad portfolio of products.  Salesforce’s Customer Success platform now includes the Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Services Cloud, along with several new clouds announced this year. Salesforce’s positioning and emphasis on Customer Success affirms Waterstone’s perspective that Customer Success is core to driving financial value for SaaS providers.

3. IoT Offers the Opportunity to Re-think How Best to Serve the “Connected” Customer

Salesforce announced the launch of IoT Cloud, an application development platform that connects with devices and sensors on one end and integrates with Salesforce’s Services Cloud and its other clouds on the other end. This new offering, which is slated for formal launch in 2016, is powered by Thunder, Salesforce’s real-time event processing engine for ingesting and processing massive amounts of sensor and device data. Salesforce views this as an opportunity to help its customers re-define and personalize the way they sell, market, and service in today’s world of increasingly “connected” customers. These customers are always-on and interact in a variety of ways using a plethora of devices beyond PCs, tablets, and smart phones, including connected cars, smart homes, wearables, etc. With this new offering, Salesforce has catapulted itself to become a credible player in the IoT space, well poised to capture a portion of the massive value creation potential offered by IoT.

4. Ecosystem Growth Hinges on Thoughtful Evolution of the Platform

Without doubt, Salesforce’s CRM platform is already the leading SaaS platform in the industry with a massive ecosystem that has been well established via the AppExchange marketplace. To further scale and grow the ecosystem, Salesforce is re-positioning its product portfolio as a set of platforms, organized around distinct functional capabilities. Referring to each of its platforms as a “cloud,” Salesforce now offers seven platforms, including the Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, IoT Cloud, Analytics Cloud, Community Cloud, and App Cloud. This platform strategy allows Salesforce to foster independent ecosystems around functional topics while at the same time enabling cross-ecosystem integration that ultimately should drive a high degree of stickiness to the overall Salesforce Customer Success Platform.

5. Strategic Importance of Analytics and Business Intelligence

Salesforce’s announcement of its revamped Analytics Cloud offering emphasizes that making analytics available at the point of use has become table-stakes in the enterprise software industry. The next gen of its Wave Analytics product not only embeds insights directly into Sales Cloud, but will also power a slew of new pre-built sales, service, and third-party analytical apps. Apttus, for example, offers a Quote-to-Cash Intelligence App to give sales teams actionable insights into customers and maximize winning contracts and meeting revenue goals. FinancialForce offers an ERP Wave App that gives users insight into financial and supply chain data so they can take actions that help optimize business performance.

It is clear from the themes above that this continues to be a time of great change and opportunity for the software and SaaS industry.  At Waterstone, we believe that this presents tremendous opportunities for reinvention and growth, both within and outside the technology industry.

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If you would like to discuss these takeaways in greater detail, feel free to contact me at hselvanathan@waterstonegroup.com.

About the Author
Hubert Selvanathan

Hubert Selvanathan is a Partner at Waterstone. At Waterstone, Hubert’s work with Software businesses focuses on transitioning to and optimizing Subscriptions business models, including pricing of subscription offerings, re-aligning post-sales organizations, design of key customer facing processes, and improving Customer Success and Support models.