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Dreamforce 2021 Steps Forward

Dreamforce 2021 Steps Forward

Salesforce successfully pulled off Dreamforce 2021 this week in San Francisco. The event was limited to about 500 attendees, and it had a feel of a family reunion, where everyone can’t wait to hear what Uncle Marc has to say. The family feel is genuine at Dreamforce, and Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff was back leading his Trailblazer army forward for good. However, it turns out most of the event’s specifics focused on Slack and other new items. The conference failed to add any sense of coherence to the existing Salesforce application delivery strategy. But Salesforce still took a strong step forward into the future of building business communities in the pandemic era with Dreamforce 2021.

Dreamforce Marketing Power

Going to Dreamforce is a little like being in a high school gymnasium for a pep rally. But there is Metallica, Lionel Richie, Hawaiian spiritualists, and the Foo Fighters with dancing mascots all at once.

Compared to other pandemic-era Salesforce events and Google I/O, which also tried to have a blended live and remote setting, this was the best pandemic-era corporate event in which I have participated. It felt much more real for the online viewers with a tangible feeling of community coming from the screen.

Silicon Valley company events often seem performative and fake, including Dreamforce. This year it was less party-time and more joy and appreciation blended with a family-like feeling. That is the way I felt watching over the live stream and visiting San Francisco for the event.

Salesforce gets credit for having made people feel safe because of the vaccination requirement and the extensive COVID-19 testing. Dreamforce 2021 was a closely watched event in San Francisco, so having an incident-free event should boost the city’s reputation as America’s most vaccinated city for visitors.

Trailblazers Build Trusted Enterprises

Mr. Benioff’s keynote address, “Welcome to the Trusted Enterprise: Built by Trailblazers,” included old hits, like messages about climate change, and other issues centered around building trust. So much of the presentation seemed old hat to Dreamforce veterans, Mr. Benioff quipped, “You guys can give this presentation by now, right?”

That’s when he turned to the Trusted Enterprise. In my view, to be a Trailblazer Trusted Enterprise, your workplace must be actively promoting humanity and planet Earth. He did a decent job of explaining with metrics and data how Trailblazers can make individual impacts with management programs to address sustainability and inclusion.

Mr. Benioff went on to explain why Salesforce is a trusted enterprise. He said, “Salesforce is doing well and doing good,” citing expected revenue of $26.3 billion in the current fiscal year, and with growth expected to top $50 billion revenue annually within four years. He cited Salesforce as a leader in sustainability, philanthropy, culture, and innovation. The company has granted over $475 million to charities, including $100M to Oakland and San Francisco schools. He cited the new IDC study proclaiming a $1.6 trillion global Salesforce economy by 2026. Mr. Benioff said there are 15 million Trailblazers working on the platform in over 90 countries.

A Crisis of Trust

Leaning into the theme of the trusted enterprise, Mr. Benioff said the “world is in a crisis of trust.” Besides distrust in political leaders, he cited a health crisis, a sustainability crisis, a workforce crisis, and an inequality crisis as the key social and scientific issues igniting the world today.

Mr. Benioff then told the Trailblazers they could do more to create trust. “We are trust blazers! What actions will we take as Trailblazers to repair the world?” Mr. Benioff said, adding “Business is the greatest platform for change. We prove that every day as Trailblazers.”

More than ever, the Salesforce Trailblazer community seems like a political force where people get together to improve their workplace. And with pandemic-driven motivation, Mr. Benioff is increasingly leading the Trailblazer community to do more. Mr. Benioff gives the Trailblazers tools to change their community and planet Earth through the workplace.


The keynote then switched to the main subject of Dreamforce 2021 – Slack and Salesforce integration. Mr. Benioff described how even he rarely goes to the office, scoffing at CEOs who expected the old workplace to return. “My digital HQ is more important than my physical HQ,” said Mr. Benioff as he joked about not needing any of the various Salesforce Towers he has around the world.

President and COO Brett Taylor took the stage to explain how Slack is now a key part of the Salesforce Digital HQ strategy. First, referring to Chatter, an existing messaging product in the Salesforce catalog, Mr. Taylor said “Slack doesn’t replace Chatter, it augments it. A Slack-first, Digital HQ is the future.”

Then Mr. Taylor offered clarification on how Slack will be integrated by saying, “We want to bring the Lightning and Apex developer experience together with the Slack developer experience.” Detailed Slack integration information was offered in later developer sessions.

Architect Keynote

Brand-new this year, the Architects Track is worth watching for those looking to sample the best of Dreamforce 2021 on Salesforce+. Trailblazer-favorite and Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris announced he has assumed a more involved role leading architect development. The reason why is simple. “We need far, far more of you! For each architect here today, there is a gap of another 10, so there’s a hellofalota jobs out there,” Mr. Harris beseeched to the audience.

A new systematic way of diagraming Salesforce architectures was introduced. Salesforce Diagrams includes free integration of pre-designed templates and icons with Lucidchart. See session screenshots. Salesforce Diagrams is immediately available from Lucidchart.

DevOps Center plus Backups

Salesforce sprung a surprise on the ISV and user community and announced Salesforce Backup and Restore during Dreamforce. Please check a post from earlier this week for the details. This new paid service does in fact compete with OwnBackup and other ISV offerings.

DevOps Center was highlighted several times during Dreamforce. See session screenshots. Since DevOps center is a fusion of release-related activities, Salesforce calls the system “Opinionated Magic.” This is their way of saying Salesforce has picked the best tools and command sequences for the job.

Well, the opinionated magic in Salesforce DevOps Center does help to get rid of changesets. But the features don’t go much beyond GitHub compatibility, SF-CLI (unified CLI) integration, branching, staging, and release management. Slack integration was introduced in today’s demo, but there really is little new from Salesforce DevOps Center’s initial rollout in late 2019.

The company did not give any details about how DevOps Center plus Backup and Restore could work together. However, the tantalizing message “Devops Center plus Backup and Restore: Better Together” was offered. Also, the company did not disclose pricing or free tiers for DevOps Center.

New Scale Center Does Better Metrics

In the Architect track, new monitoring and observability features were introduced. Scale Center is a new full-featured metrics and observability platform focused on API quota management. This fills in an important gap in Salesforce built-in devops features. See session screenshots.

CodeBuilder Generates Excitement

Several demos of CodeBuilder were offered during developer sessions at Dreamforce. CodeBuilder is a free service to be offered by Salesforce which provides a version of VS Code running in the browser. It will finally replace Developer Console when ready. Users will enjoy pre-installed plugins and CLIs.

With CodeBuilder, Salesforce devops engineers would find it easier to standardize on certain devops tools and practices. This is because users don’t need to configure their workstation for development. That will be handled by remote server setups.

Benioff Criticizes Texas, Facebook

Off the Dreamforce stage, Mr. Benioff, who is also the owner of Time Magazine, stirred up the California billionaire class this week. Earlier this month, Salesforce announced it would relocate Salesforce employees out of Texas in light of the state’s new abortion legislation. That action has caused problems for Apple’s Tim Cook, since the issue was raised at Apple this month.

Simultaneous to Dreamforce, Salesforce had an investor day and released new financial guidance. After Mr. Benioff gave media interviews, a CNN headline blared “Tech billionaire: Facebook is what’s wrong with America.”

In a CNBC interview with Jim Cramer he explained his feelings about Facebook more gently. “I believe in redemption, and I believe in pardoning. I hope one day they’ll make the change, but today, wow. It’s just unacceptable to see this kind of behavior in such a large and important company like that,” said Mr. Benioff.

Salesforce Devops Present at Dreamforce

Salesforce devops vendors and themes were present throughout Dreamforce 2021. Copado was a major sponsor and had a session on Day 2. Flosum won a Salesforce ISV award and was mentioned in a press release.

Other Salesforce devops ecosystem members including Panaya and Provar had Day 3 sessions and a presence at Dreamforce 2021.

The main session on DevOps Center featured Alfredo Colás from P&G who gave an informative and convincing presentation of how devops delivers applications. See session screenshots.

Devops was also peppered throughout presentations by Accenture. They mentioned how devops creates the linkage between agile management and measuring what is happening inside of business processes.

More, More, & More is Too Much

More was announced at Dreamforce, including Health Cloud 2.0, which was used to manage COVID-19 testing for the event. Other announcements and feature introductions were made in industries, B2B commerce, and marketing.

And in the developer and devops areas, we got lots of new things to interface with Slack. Plus, there is now Salesforce Functions which lets you deploy Heroku-like extensions to your org. And we have CodeBuilder to figure out as well!

Architects, devops engineers, and developers deserve to be shown a coherent roadmap concerning all the post-merger offerings we are seeing from Salesforce.

To date, Salesforce has not reconciled or consolidated any of the developer environments gained from mergers. This includes Tableau, Vlocity, Demandware, MuleSoft, and now Slack. Salesforce does not have a coherent plan and roadmap for developers that includes all the new platforms. So, adding new things like Block Kit Builder and Foyer for Slack just piles into that problem.

Dreamforce 2021 Did the Job

Salesforce pulled off Dreamforce 2021 in San Francisco as planned. The company also rolled out session videos and populated the new Salesforce+ content channel quickly, which is a vast improvement over previous Dreamforce events. And I felt part of the Trailblazer community huddling around the screen with genuine feelings of gratitude coming from the community.

But Dreamforce 2021 was still a shadow compared to 2019. Comparing the 300,000 participants in 2019 with 5,000 participants in 2021, there is no denying only the Trailblazer elite had a chance to participate live.

Given the limited agenda, the conference also suffered from lack of content, and only had Salesforce, reference account, and vendor presenters available live and on Salesforce+. Dreamforce used to allow for customer presenters and more in-depth user technical presentations. Hopefully opportunities for more customer presentations will become available.

Salesforce ecosystem vendors of all sizes are suffering with this new format. They used to thrive on the one-to-one opportunities that turn up at big in-person events. Salesforce should do a better job of helping hundreds of smaller vendors, consultants and system integrators be part of a virtual Dreamforce, especially on a country-by-county basis.

In 2021 we are still figuring out how corporate communication and community building goes forward. Given the explosive growth in Salesforce revenue, maybe the old Dreamforce and other marketing programs will never return. Nevertheless, Salesforce this week took a strong step in a new direction that builds business communities in the pandemic era.

Photo Credit: Sara Joyce Franklin,