Founded 1999 | HQ San Francisco, CA | Employees 73,000 (approx.)
Genie demonstrates that Salesforce has been able to build the technical underpinnings to support their original vision of Customer 360 and unified, single views for enterprise customers with the necessary skills and technical commitment. It’s specifically targeted toward customers wanting to reconcile separate Salesforce clouds for their critical use cases.
During Salesforce’s first decade, issues around analytics and data management were limited to reporting on low-volume data sets for their initial customers concerned primarily with business-to-business (B2B) sales activities. At that stage, Salesforce was a single database and while collating reports from that database could be complicated – indeed, creating the first challenge taken on by external ISV partners – the scale, rate of change, and variety of data were largely manageable.
This began to change when Salesforce launched Service Cloud in 2009, then started to assemble Marketing Cloud in 2012. This not only increased the amount of data that Salesforce was managing, but the move from B2B into business-to-consumer (B2C)-scale data created an exponential challenge for the platform’s data and analytics reporting ability. Salesforce first took on that challenge by launching its Wave product as Analytics Cloud in 2014 before starting first-party development for a customer data cloud that eventually led to the launch of Genie at their 2022 annual Dreamforce conference.1
Unlike the company’s distinct Sales, Service, Marketing, and Commerce Cloud platforms, this current approach to data and analytics is hard to pin down, primarily due to the complexity of the challenge Salesforce has chosen to manage for its most committed customers, cutting across a wide swathe of business logic and infrastructure.
Genie is Salesforce’s long-awaited unified data platform, allowing customers that have invested in multiple Salesforce Cloud platforms – and potentially hold additional data sets outside Salesforce – to assemble unified customer profiles and use that reconciled data for detailed analysis, to launch marketing campaigns, and to build predictive business models.
Understanding Genie requires understanding where it fits within the broad development platform Salesforce provides to support the “Customer 360” vision. That 360-degree view has become more complex in direct correlation with Salesforce’s increased scope from sales to service, marketing, commerce, and all associated aspects with its analytics and AI. While the concept itself is not by any means limited to Salesforce – “unified view of the customer” was a staple of vendor presentations around digital marketing in the middle of the last decade – because it had made significant first-party stakes in the operational pillars of Sales, Service, Marketing, and Commerce, the company needed to “walk the talk” by finding a technical way to achieve such a view.
Genie sits at the lower end of a logical stack of technologies that enable that Customer 360 promise (see Figure 1). It sits upon the Hyperforce Infrastructure (announced in 2020) which enables customers to have workloads managed by Salesforce platforms within public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Above Genie sits the Einstein Intelligence layer and above that are automation (Flow Automation) and app development and presentation (Lightning) layers.
The move to Hyperforce had a number of implications including those around data governance and regionality – for Genie, it assisted interoperability of data between Salesforce and the rest of an enterprise’s data. The Salesforce walled garden now had a much bigger gate. Managing that gate was the primary reason for acquiring integration and API management platform MuleSoft in 2018; this enabled the connection of datasets regardless of which application was managing them and where they were located (on-premises, public or private cloud). This move also improved extensibility for a wider range of third-party partners, especially for the initial target of this new data infrastructure, Marketing Cloud.
As previously mentioned, the assembly of the predominantly B2C-focused Marketing Cloud – primarily through acquiring ExactTarget in 2013 – was the catalyst that drove Salesforce to embrace data at the scale that it now expects to manage through Genie. Indeed, Genie, an organic innovation, itself builds upon the 2020 launch of the Customer Data Platform (CDP) for Marketing. Genie integrates with other acquisitions (including Krux and Evergage), and was designed to create audience profiles based on that 360-degree vision that could be activated to third-party advertising partners (e.g., Epsilon, LiveRamp, Neustar, LiveIntent) through that newly opened data infrastructure. This concept had been heavily featured in the Marketing Cloud vision since it launched; that it took nearly a decade before Salesforce felt comfortable enough to nail that intent to a specific product launch underlines how difficult realizing it turned out to be. Genie in essence takes what was developed as that Marketing-focused CDP and extends the available use cases beyond the current Marketing use cases and predictive outcomes, formally extending the reach across all those business clouds.
As outlined in Figure 2, Salesforce sees Genie as providing a multi-step process to onboard data sets into the platform so they can be unified and then fed toward other end points for appropriate actions. It refers to Genie as “A Multi-Modal Store for All Data Processing,” but it’s clear that it intends for Genie to be the platform of data assurance, labeling data sets from bronze through gold quality as they pass through the recommended processing steps (connect, prepare, and model). The steps of “match and reconcile” – which Salesforce suggests can occur through both batch and real-time processing as appropriate – hold the overall vision together by generating that single version of the customer across data sets from within those Salesforce Cloud platforms as well as assured external data.
The payoff from this is in the actions (and triggers) that can be generated from that reconciliation process. Given Genie’s origin story and how it has been utilized by customers to date, it’s unsurprising that its focus now is the activation of campaigns, driven through both first-party (owned) and third-party (bought) advertising platforms. Now that those triggers are available to fire automations, for example within Commerce Cloud or Flow Automation, it’s not hard to envision another rapid set of outcomes becoming available to customers who’ve invested in those two technologies.
The Tableau product name used within recent announcements may cause some confusion: “Genie Customer Data Cloud, Now Powered by Tableau.” Tableau – like other acquirees MuleSoft and, more recently, Slack – continues to retain its own brand identity within Salesforce, in part because its use within that ecosystem is part of a twofold commercial approach. It continues to be a standalone enterprise business intelligence product sold to non-Salesforce customers as well as providing what it calls “CRM analytics” within the Salesforce stack. To be clear, beyond the exercise in promoting the brand here, Tableau is a downstream recipient of data from Genie.
If this all sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Genie cannot be viewed as a standalone platform because it’s designed to be a critical part of cross-cloud augmentation (to enable that 360-degree perspective) for engagement with customers across all touchpoints and channels with first-party and third-party applications. It is dependent on upstream data sets or data federation across other data assets like data warehouses. MuleSoft, Tableau, and external partners are key assets for upstream data integration, downstream analytics, and engagement applications to deliver customer value. It’s bringing enterprise weight here to help big enterprises meet their big challenges.
For their upscale customers with long-term commitments to multiple Salesforce cloud platforms and with the IT support, whether local or through systems integrators, to enable Genie, this is a potentially achievable panacea. For most of Salesforce’s customers in small and midsize organizations, for now at least it’s largely a window into the lives of the rich and famous.
Genie demonstrates that Salesforce has been able to build the technical underpinnings to support their original vision of Customer 360 and unified, single views for enterprise customers with the necessary skills and technical commitment. The Genie name and recent announcement belie the truth that Salesforce has traveled a long – if well signposted – road from the moment it took on consumer-scale data with the birth of Marketing Cloud. That Marketing Cloud was the initial internal customer for what became Genie is no surprise, and therefore the demonstrable customer outcomes from Genie right now are targeted toward activating advertising campaigns and other acquisitional activities. Genie is likely to be the preserve of long-term, multi-cloud enterprise customers for Salesforce as only customers with that combination of scale and commitment can develop the requirement and service the ongoing need for Genie.
Advice to Buyers
If you’re an organization that is looking seriously at Genie, then this presupposes that you likely have serious existing investments in multiple Salesforce cloud platforms or are managing data at a scale that could realize the benefits of data unification for specific customer targeting. If you’re not, and your interest is anything beyond intellectual investigation, then for now the business case for Genie is less easy to establish. To be fair, it’s specifically targeted towards customers who might have felt the previous limitation of separate Salesforce clouds as data silos and whose critical use cases require their reconciliation.
1 See our analysis at https://www.deep-analysis.net/dreamforce-2022-salesforce-summons-genie-to-enable-its-real-time-customer-data-wishes/
- Salesforce executed on a vision first expressed a decade ago
- Built as an organic product innovation with hard engineering, Genie integrates with acquisitions
- Genie continues Salesforce’s upscale desire path to service enterprises as halo customers, with growth in smaller customers (who aspire to follow the halo customers) for data-driven innovation and experiences
- Being able to break apart its own data silos will appeal to the biggest spending, multi-cloud customers
- Despite recent market headwinds, the most recent full-year financial results show revenue of $26.49 billion (up 25% year-on-year) for Salesforce
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