by Michael Idinopulos
on October 15, 2014

Dreamforce Day 2: Analysts, Booths, and Lots of Analytics Tools

Dreamforce Day 2 is in the books and it was another fascinating day in my corner of the alternate universe that is Dreamforce ’14.

Send in the Analysts

Dreamforce Day 2 was all about the industry analysts. In the morning I had a lovely breakfast with the Forrester team. I caught up with my old friend TJ Keitt, who continues to ask the hard questions about social, B2B, and customer service. I also caught up with Nick Hayes on the relationship between compliance and social enablement and had great conversations with Kim Celestre and Mark Lindwall. In the afternoon I had drinks (several years overdue) with my dear friend and former Socialtext colleague Alan Lepofsky. Then it was off to an Altimeter party at Charlene Li’s stunningly beautiful Alamo Square home, one of the “painted ladies” that frame San Francisco’s most iconic vista.

I love spending time with analysts. They’re smart, they’re visionary, and they don’t fixate on product the way we vendors do. That gives them a unique vantage point from which to see the future on many dimensions.

Two themes dominated my conversations with the analysts today: First, that organizational change will drive the pace of social evolution at least as much as technological change. Social is a fundamentally different way of doing things, and it requires significant behavior change. Second, that companies are starting to recognize that they need help pulling off that behavior change. The question is where companies are going to turn in order get the help they need: Consultants? Agencies? Social networks? Vendors? Internal hires?

Exhibit Hall: Less volume, higher quality, and time to evaluate the booths

Today was less crazy on the exhibit hall floor than yesterday. That’s because today’s floor was only open to paying Dreamforce attendees. Attendees who merely registered for free Expo passes didn’t get in today. The result was a less crowded floor and a more selective audience.

Having gotten over the shock-and-awe of Day 1, I had a more time to digest and think about what I’m seeing on the Expo floor. The trends are interesting, especially when you compare them to other shows.

Dreamforce exhibitors give good booth. At most conferences, the vast majority of vendor booths are pretty amateur. (Sorry guys). Their displays are far too busy—chock full of stock photos, tag lines, icons, customer quotes, and other ill-advised flair. Their booths are cluttered with pins, buttons, monkeys, gumballs, blinking lights, and assorted crap. Not here at Dreamforce. While some booths are a little cluttered, most are extremely well-designed. They’re simple and elegant. They don’t overwhelm you with text. Even the giveaways are thoughtfully done. Vendors are putting out less SWAG than at other shows, but it’s higher quality and they make it harder to get. The net result is that the vendors at Dreamforce behave less like carnival barkers and more like…well…enterprise salespeople. Rather than attack you with a pitch, they invite you into a conversation.

While I admire their execution, I have to question some of the strategy. Walking the floor today I was struck by how much the word “data” gets thrown around. Insights, analysis, reports, charts, graphs, insights, visualizations. My eyes are glazing over. If I were a data analytics vendor, I’d be taking a serious look at my business model right now. As Mark Frantz would say, you can’t swing a dead cat at Dreamforce without hitting a vendor whose product delivers strategic insights based on the dynamic visualization of Salesforce data. It’s tough to stand out in that crowd, especially following Salesforce’s own Wave product announcement.

Are there important differences in these analytics products that justify the existence of so many of them? Probably. Will the market appreciate the differences enough to keep them all in business? Certainly not. I predict that many of these good folks won’t be back next year.

Follow along with @PeopleLinx on Twitter as we journal our Dreamforce experience. 

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