Skip to main content

Dreamforce 2023 - How right does Salesforce get AI?

The News

Dreamforce 2023 has started. It is the first post-Covid physical Dreamforce. The event has more than 40,000 participants from all over the world, which is almost small, considering past events.

As usual, Dreamforce was opened by a keynote that was accompanied by a flurry of announcements. In an interesting twist, the keynote was accompanied by an analyst watch party held by Salesforce’s analyst relations. There was a “competing” watch party by the CRM Playaz.

Not surprisingly, the topic of AI was front, right and center of the keynote after some emphasis on a culture of giving and the celebration of Salesforce as the #3 software vendor worldwide with an expected revenue of $34.8B US while continuing to lead the CRM market by a considerable margin. This is, indeed, quite an achievement.

However, the focus of the keynote was set in the watch party by Salesforce’s Chief Enterprise Strategist Bruce Richardson with the following posting in the chat: “gen AI to boost global economy by $4.4 trillion. Since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, it’s been all over the headlines, and businesses are racing to capture its value. Within the technology’s first few months, McKinsey research found that generative AI (gen AI) features stand to add up to $4.4 trillion to the global economy—annually. Source: McKinsey (August 23, 2023)

Consequently, much of what Salesforce currently does, capitalizes on this opportunity and helps businesses work with this opportunity. The key vehicles for this are the new Einstein 1 Platform and Einstein Copilot that comes together with a low code development environment Einstein Copilot Studio. 

Einstein Copilot is an “out of the box conversational AI assistant built into the user experience of every Salesforce application”. The Einstein Copilot Studio is “an easy way for companies to build an entirely new generation of AI-powered apps with custom prompts, skills, and AI models”. 

Both are residing on top of Salesforce’s Data Cloud and are going into pilot state now.

The Einstein 1 Platform essentially fuses Salesforce’s Data Cloud and Einstein, based on a single metadata framework with the goal of enabling AI powered workflows that raise productivity.

The bigger picture

Everybody, and their dog, are talking generative AI these days (count me in). AI, as in automation, efficiency, and productivity, is an important, if not the most important topic these days. Many a company has made announcements mainly basing on and leveraging the huge buzz that OpenAI has managed to create. Few have delivered outside from some fairly simple to build scenarios, and most of them have concentrated on the same use cases. Nearly none of them speaks actively about, or embraces, the notions of privacy, security, and trust. Yet, most of the systems need extensive access to corporate, or even sensitive personal, data to lead to satisfactory results. I am yet to see a vendor that offers a dedicated AI security architecture, apart from Salesforce. Some may have one, but they fail to talk about it.

The second important topic these days is the increasing importance of conversational, i.e., conversational user interfaces. As I already wrote back in 2017: Voice an text will replace point and click

My analysis and point of view

From a topic point of view, Salesforce clearly gets it. This is clearly shown by the statement “entirely new generation of AI-powered apps with custom prompts, skills, and AI models”. The interaction with applications will shift more and more from a computer centric point of click metaphor to a human centric communication metaphor. Sure, visual user interfaces will continue to have their place – think dashboards or charts – but they will overall blend into a human centric interaction model. To be effective, this needs lots of machine learning that exposes knowledge and functionality via AI models. This will be the case for user interactions as well as interactions with external parties like customers, suppliers, partners, you name it.

The foundation for this is data. Clean data. Acknowledging that data will never be perfectly clean, basing it on an enterprise-wide harmonized meta data infrastructure is the way, also to address the topic of data islands. In my eyes, the underlying “database” of business applications will more and more become a data lake, meaning a lake house architecture for business applications. The challenge for Salesforce will be that the company is not the strong business software vendor that creates a metadata infrastructure. Instead, it needs to compete with the likes of Microsoft and SAP. SAP is especially interesting here as – although seemingly smaller by annual revenue. SAP commands the as per yet most important system that a company has: the ERP. Around which system will companies build their metadata infrastructure, their ERP or their CRM? Related to this question: What will be the core platform? I guess that this is a question that is yet to be answered.

Benioff’s keynote was refreshing from an AI point of view. It was probably the first one this year that did not only rave about the fascinating prospects that generative AI “changes everything”. Yes, he said that, too, even added to it – it changes “everything and anything”.


Salesforce also addresses the number one concern not only of customers but also of executives. Trust. During the keynote, Benioff and Salesforce did not only address the obvious business opportunity but also covered the very valid and real concern that was also an outcome of the recent State of the Connected Customer report.

External AI systems are a major concern for companies that use them. They do not know how the input data, including prompts is used, stored, and proliferated. They also do not know how accurate the responses of especially LLMs are.

In his keynote he said “LLMs are very convincing liars”. I think that is a very apt description.

Again, Salesforce clearly gets it.

Still, there is ways to go. There are many questions that are to be answered when it comes to the effective, efficient, and ethical usage of AI, as I have also written in my recent column article If AI can’t be trusted, efficacy and efficiency won’t matter on CustomerThink. Some major open topics are explainability and the question how, and using which data, the own models are trained. Salesforce delivers pretrained industry specific models yet states in its tenets of trusted, ethical and humane AI that “your data is not our product”. Pretrained models and this tenet are seemingly at odds with each other. This should be possible to be resolved easily. The topic of explainability is a hard one, but needs to be covered, too, as the sixth tenet rightfully says, “transparency builds trust”.



Last Year's Top 5 Popular Posts

Zoho - How a technology company reimagines business software

The News   On May 4, 2023, Zoho held its Zoholics conference in Austin, TX which included a media and analyst track in addition to the customer track. After all, Zoholics is a customer event. During this event, about 80 participants of the former track had ample opportunity to learn about and discuss the latest news at Zoho. We also had the opportunity to listen to - and question - a panel of customers who gave candid answers about their journey with Zoho and challenges they faced. Of course there was plenty of room for mingling and networking with Zoho executives and, of course, with analysts and customers. In addition to the breaks between the tracks, there was a pre-evening reception, a dinner on the event day and a casual brunch at the Zoho farm just outside of Austin.  As usual for Zoho, the sessions were less about feeding us with PowerPoint (or Zoho Show, to be precise. Why would Zoho not use a Zoho product?) but about giving good information and a genuine interest in getting fe

Don't mess with Zoho - A Zohoday 2022 recap

After spending two days in Austin, TX, attending the ZohoDay 2022, it is time for a little recap of this interesting event.  We were 99 analysts and 24 customers and plenty of knowledgeable Zoho personnel. The incredible Sandra Lo and her team organized the event around open and transparent communication. So, there was plenty of access for us to customers and the Zoho team.  Which was very important, as already the keynote session by founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu was quite hardcore. Vembu talked about how strategy and culture need to be one, how culture needs to be the root of strategy, and how Zoho implements this. The Zoho strategy lies on three main pillars ·       Transnational localism, a unique concept that in its essence is about embedding a company into a local community by not only selling into it but also by investing into it. This investment is e.g., by offering high paying jobs in areas where these are scarce, by fostering local education, but also by own local sourcing in

SugarCRM explains how the third wave of CRM adds value

The news On October 4 and 5, 2023, SugarCRM held its Connected event followed by an analyst summit in London. The first day – Connected – was targeted mostly at customers while the second day focused on analysts.  The event started off with an intense speech by Katherine Grainger, DBE , a British rowing champion. Her core messages were about team bonding, the importance of communication, continuous improvement, and perseverance (well, at least that’s my take). This was followed by information about what is new in the software and, more importantly, a customer panel.  The main sponsor, Mobileforce , placed some words about the partnership. In addition, the analysts had 1:1s with customers, partners, and Sugar executives. The second day was filled with information targeted at analysts. CEO Craig Charlton and his executive team shared about financial status, strategy and more in-depth product news. Sugar being a privately held, VC backed company, the financials are of course under NDA, s

Relevance, reliability, responsibility are key for AI – the SAP way

The News A lot is going on in the SAPverse during October and the early days of November 2023. First, SAP conducted its CXLive event with CX-related announcements, then the company reported good Q3/2023 figures, a new version of its CX software that includes new generative AI capabilities got released and lastly, it executed its SAP TechEd event with a good number of AI-, BTP-, and ERP related announcements. As this is quite a lot, I covered the CX world in a previous post and will cover the TechEd related news in this post.  So, what is new at SAP TechEd ? For one, it is enough to fill a 17-page pre-event news guide that SAP sent out. SAP certainly is able to stack up the news for major events. I took the liberty to ask ChatGPT for a summary of the document, which I slightly edited afterwards. Here we are: AI and Development Environments: ·       SAP introduces SAP Build Code with generative AI, improving application development and testing, while new AI capabilities are integrate

How to play the long game Zoho style

The news On February 7 and 8 2024, Zoho held its annual ZohoDay conference, along with a pre-conference get together and an optional visit to SpacX’s not-too-far-away Starbase. Our guide, who went by Chief, and is probably best described as a SpaceX-paparazzi was full of facts and anecdotes, which made the visit very interesting although we couldn’t enter Starbase itself. The event was jam-packed with 125 analysts, 17 customer speakers, and of course Zoho staff for us analysts to talk to. This was a chance we took up eagerly. This time, the event took place in MacAllen, TX, instead of Austin, TX. The reason behind this is once more Zoho’s ruralization strategy, transnational localism.  Which gives also one of the main themes of the event. It was more about understanding Zoho than about individual products, although Zoho disclosed some roadmaps. More about understanding Zoho in a second.  The second main theme was customer success and testimonials. Instead of bombarding us with presenta