Whilst it might not be as long-running as the Dreamforce annual customer event that announced it, Salesforce revealing the latest part of its long wished for – and often trailed – real time customer data platform is the culmination of a decade of incremental progress (and no small amount of M&A activity). The journey that started with sales, grew exponentially in scale and scope with marketing, now promises real time insights to all corners of the Salesforce-enabled organization.
A splashy announcement belies decade of incremental progress
Salesforce has never been an organization which believes that it should shroud its vision in secrecy, rather it likes to tell you exactly the direction it’s heading at every available opportunity. With that in mind, what’s been announced with Genie is the culmination of at least a decade’s worth of incremental progress building on top of the core CRM product through both organic development and a significant volume of acquisitions (of relevance here includes ExactTarget, Krux, Mulesoft as the most significant, at the head of a much longer list).
Of course, data was always the point of a CRM and using sales data to help inform ongoing support and service relationships was the first early tenet of that expanded vision, but it was when marketing data was added into that mix – a massive increase in both volume and variety – that the requirement for significant additional tooling became apparent. Investments in analytics and reporting, additional management, automation and segmentation tools followed. All directed toward a clearer understanding of the customer throughout their lifecycle at a fully Salesforce-enabled organization.
What Genie enables such an organization to do is to more easily orchestrate that not-insignificant set of expensively assembled tools to understand and act upon every micro expression that a customer might exhibit and perform appropriate actions as a result. This has long formed part of the extensive use cases that Salesforce has demonstrated at customer events through this period. Genie seems to draw those use cases closer for their heavily product committed customers.
Genie: What’s in the bottle?
Salesforce demonstrated that at the heart of the Genie, is a Command Center providing an overview of all the sources of data to which it has access. Central here is data which comes from both those historic core parts of the salesforce world – sales and service – and data streams of volume and variety that come from other tenets of Salesforce; marketing and commerce.
It’s those data streams that are the key to the “real-time CRM” phrase that accompanied much of the high-level discussion of Genie, although much that was demonstrated came from its own Marketing Cloud platform, Salesforce is able to lean significantly on the data integration smarts it acquired through Mulesoft for ingesting and normalizing non-Salesforce managed sets of data. These streams can then be mapped through the existing Salesforce CDP to enable live customer profiles based on all those sources of data, which the company is calling the “Real-time Customer Graph”. Events within those streams, such as the opening of a new support case or a product purchase activation can then be used to trigger stages within an automation built on Salesforce’s Flow low-code platform, enhanced with potential interventions from the Einstein AI platform. All designed to offer the chance to build better experiences for customers whose data is being channeled through these services.
What Genie really enables is the ease of traversal of the various existing platforms, it allows customers to operate the data operations side of the Salesforce platforms in a way akin to a templated “wizard” approach. However, Genie is represented by a cartoon rabbit, and given rabbit warrens are renowned for their complexity that would be hard to explore without a native guide, it’s no wonder that the rabbit itself was chosen to be your orchestration familiar here.
Genie: Do customers get what they wished for?
Central here is whether you are a true believer in the Salesforce view of how the world works, because to start to extract value from Genie, you’ve got to be pretty heavily invested – both intellectually and as a result, financially – to make your wishes come true.
If you’re already there and your wish was “I want all of this to be easier for me to quickly adopt”, then you’re already in a better position than you would have been before the rabbit appeared in your life. In fact, for a truly actionable “Customer 360” view to be enabled in the way envisioned by Salesforce, you’ve got to be heavily invested in managing all of that within the Salesforce extended cloud universe or be happy with opening up those non-Salesforce parts for eventual ingestion and analysis pretty rapidly. The continued growth of the company seemingly against any prevailing headwinds suggests that belief is significant and enabling an ease of adoption should always be lauded.
For those Salesforce customers who have so far resisted the promises of “real time”, Salesforce is providing an attractive on-ramp to be able to consider adoption on top of what they may have invested in sales or service. It is however only for those customers – or prospects – that have the sort of data streams that require augmentation against customer records.
Salesforce cited patient data, HR data and telemetry data during the announcement, along with “ethical guardrails” for protecting that data; details of which will be of significant concern for those looking to potentially connect existing, legacy sets of data. That’s not of course specific to Salesforce; that’s the case for opening up any data source from an existing safe harbor to be analyzed somewhere new.
What does Genie allow us to see in Salesforce?
As hinted at previously, Genie represents the culmination of a decades worth of effort for Salesforce to extend itself from the rows and columns of the CRM and towards managing and manipulating much more ambitious volumes and varieties of data. As an organization, one of the most surprising elements is its predictability and that is one of its least appreciated strengths. The way in which Genie allows Salesforce customers to traverse the various moving parts of that decade of building, buying and integrating aligns almost perfectly with the forward looking vision that the company told everyone that it was building towards. Salesforce has been demonstrating piece parts of this vision throughout, often signaling where the next M&A move might be in the process and for the majority of customers, this predictability of vision is key in them not buying, but investing into the Salesforce view of the world. That Salesforce is quick to capture and remove missteps along the way, whilst retaining that direction of travel too, similarly reassures.
That predictability might at times run counter to what the razzamatazz of an event like Dreamforce might otherwise indicate. However, the real magic is in telling everyone what you’re going to do, doing it and then celebrating what you’ve achieved.
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