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Thinking Different at Salesforce Connections

By Denis Pombriant
Jun 18, 2019 11:42 AM PT
salesforce announced its new customer data platform or cdp at connections in chicago

Salesforce has a genius way of putting people at ease and opening their minds before any of the company's representatives say a word about product. People who study neuropsychology point to the importance of ensuring that the audience's prefrontal cortexes are wide open and ready to transact ideas.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that matures last and is responsible for executive functioning and decision-making. What are people with not fully mature PFCs like? They're called teenagers.

Over the years Salesforce has opened minds by discussing philanthropy and it has worked brilliantly -- especially considering the company has so much data on the subject, thanks to its leadership in the Pledge 1 Percent movement. The opening at Salesforce Connections was a little different but no less effective.

For one hour in a Fireside Chat, journalist Soledad O'Brien interviewed master cellist Yo-Yo Ma about the art of playing cello, Bach, and how music helps people to connect -- and in some ways, helps us to be the best people we can be. There were plenty of demonstrations from Bach's six suites for unaccompanied cello. In all my years covering Salesforce, I can't think of a better opening. OK, back to work.

Making Connections

It might be a fool's errand to attempt to integrate all the data a business has on a customer. Not only is it a hard job, it is never ending. Bringing in new customers and new applications means the job is endless, and bringing together all of the estimated 900 apps that a typical enterprise operates with, along with their data, is almost insurmountable.

However, you can achieve the appearance of a very workable solution by changing perspectives. No one, or almost no one, really cares if it's actually integrated in one big, happy database or data warehouse.

What's more interesting from the perspective of getting things done for a business, is having the data fluidity to get all the necessary pieces and parts together in one place at the right time to make a decision. That takes standards, compute power and very fast storage, all things that are better achieved for many businesses in the cloud rather than attempting to stock a data center.

That's what Salesforce's Customer 360 is all about. The idea of achieving a workable solution through fluidity has been done many times before and one example will suffice. It's the electric grid.

We throw the term around easily, but we don't really have a grid -- it's an assemblage of many discrete purveyors of power, transmission lines and the like, all adhering to standards and some regulations that provides the impression of integration. If you were to think about unification instead of integration to make that impression real, you'd find more options.

Customer 360

First introduced at Dreamforce 2018, Customer 360 is an effort to promote personalization in vendor-customer interactions by supporting a 360-degree view of the customer. That view can best be obtained by linking all relevant customer data and being able to access and analyze it in the moment to support decision-making.

It's really the heart of the digital disruption we see in business today, and it's a necessary and welcome change of subject -- from how do we store all that data, to what can we do now that we couldn't do before?

How we store it is answered by Salesforce's CDP or customer data platform, announced at the show. CDP enables companies to unify disparate customer data throughout their entire organization so that they can then personalize every engagement based on a single view of the customer. This is especially necessary in marketing, commerce and service -- target areas for Connections.

This does not mean converging all data. Rather, it establishes Salesforce MuleSoft as the glue that integrates apps and their data to produce an integrated data view to support personalization. It's very important too, because Salesforce's own research shows that 78 percent of customers expected consistent interactions across departments, but only half the companies surveyed were able to tailor their engagements based on past interactions through data.

That's where Customer 360 and CDP come in. Many businesses have the data they need but few ways of bringing it together to support decisions. Salesforce's announcement puts MuleSoft into the equation to connect apps and their data across cloud and on-premises storage.

The Solution

Customer 360 with CDP is Salesforce's answer to some thorny business issues. Consolidated data enables better building of customer profiles to manage consent, and better segmenting of populations to identify groups of people to engage with in the moment, based on demographics.

It aims to personalize engagement everywhere, a high priority today, and its use of other tools, like Einstein Insights, helps businesses better know when to engage with customers.

My Two Bits

There will be more news coming out of Chicago, but haven't we been talking about a 360-degree view of the customer and customer engagement for a long time? Did Paul Greenberg write a book about it?

Yes, and Yes!

It takes a long time to go from concept to reality, though, and reality involves more than code. It requires having a clear understanding of what to build. Too often we prescribe solutions without realizing that as stated, they involve the technology equivalent of repealing the Law of Gravity or violating the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Salesforce's Customer 360 initiative and CDP introduction represent elegant solutions to avoiding repealing gravity in the data center.

Customer 360 is possible in part because a little more than a year ago, Salesforce decided to purchase an integration company (MuleSoft) with the interesting approach of creating integrations through networks of APIs for the princely sum of US$6.5 billion.

That skips over the problem of bringing all the data together in one place and produces a solution that gives the impression of what we want, at a price we can afford.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.


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