Dreamforce Kicks Off With Emphasis On Salesforce Partner Enablement

Salesforce got its Dreamforce conference rolling Tuesday by revealing to its legions of partners plans to ease the process of doing business with the CRM leader.

The overarching vision behind several upgrades to the channel and technology partner programs is to "take the spirit of innovation and bring it to the business side of your relationship with Salesforce," Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce's channel chief, told partners in a keynote.

That involves several enablement initiatives targeting Salesforce implementers, as well as a long-term project to rebuild the entire backend infrastructure through which partners engage with the vendor, Taychakhoonavudh told Dreamforce attendees.

[Related: How Salesforce Convinced The Channel That No Software Licensing Margins Are No Problem]

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"The real focus is on automating and modernizing our infrastructure," Taychakhoonavudh said.

That "multi-year journey" includes the infrastructure that supports licensing, billing, invoicing and customer management.

The current system lacks automation, requiring manual touches inside Salesforce that partners might not notice, but ultimately these steps reduce efficiency and slow transaction processing. Salesforce opted to start rebuilding from the ground up, rather than gradually implement improvements, according to Taychakhoonavudh.

In the meantime, Salesforce is focusing on operational efficiency, having doubled the operations staff available to partners over the last year, accelerating the pace of case resolution.

Salesforce also introduced a nomenclature change on Tuesday for its technology partners — ISVs, from Dreamforce 2016 onward, will be regarded as App Innovation Partners.

The new title reflects an effort to "change the narrative" set by dated terminology, said Tyler Prince, executive vice president of alliances, in a news conference later in the day.

Some quick research revealed the term Independent Software Vendor goes back to the early days of IBM computing and, for many reasons, isn't the best choice of language, Prince said.

"It's 50 years old," Prince said. "That doesn't represent what we are."

For starters, when stressing the connectivity of solutions in the ecosystem, he said, "independent is not a good word."

Salesforce unveiled a new developer environment for those newly rebranded partners: Salesforce DX.

Adam Seligman, executive vice president of Salesforce's App Cloud, told App Innovation Partners the upgraded developer experience will empower them to build and deliver apps faster through source-driven development.

DX will make it easier for developers to work together as teams, Seligman said.

Howard Moore, CEO of Keste, a Salesforce partner based in Dallas, Tex., told CRN that Salesforce has shown an extraordinary interest of late in leading partners to a "unified and modern approach" to developing solutions on its Lightning platform.

"They're saying this is the way we want you to develop [apps] going forward. It's bringing them into 2016 and beyond," Moore told CRN.

For both consulting and technology partners, Salesforce wants to streamline onboarding, add training opportunities, and improve operational support, Taychakhoonavudh said.

Another pain point Salesforce is looking to ease for technology partners is the security verification process for new solutions offered on the AppExchange marketplace.

While the technical evaluation is "the gold standard" and "not negotiable," Taychakhoonavudh said, a new program called Security Review FastTrack expedites the process with pre-screening assistance.

As far as training, Taychakhoonavudh encouraged partners to leverage Trailhead, an environment the company introduced to offer a "role-based learning journey."

In the two weeks before Dreamforce, she said, 23 new modules of content were released on Trailhead.

The channel chief also encouraged partners to give a try to "brain dating" while attending the conference, a new partner-to-partner networking program that helps partners connect and share expertise.

Eric Berridge, CEO of Bluewolf, a Salesforce partner owned by IBM, told CRN the partner program upgrades come amid a big push to expand the number of certified consultants within the ecosystem.

"Where Salesforce is investing a lot of time and energy, it's how they educate people on the platform," Berridge said.

Trailhead, specifically, is "a big emphasis at Dreamforce this year," Berridge said. "Which is a little bit of a pivot for them because they've always been so product-centric, but a lot of the innovation is now around enablement."

For a global partner like Bluewolf that wants to be first to market with new Salesforce products, the most important service Salesforce can provide is alignment around cutting-edge technologies, like the upcoming Einstein artificial intelligence platform.

"What we need Salesforce to do is quickly enable us around their acquisitions and their new products," Berridge said.

That means quick and comprehensive collaboration when implementing the latest solutions for joint customers.

"It can get tricky figuring out how to get those products to work together, and we need Salesforce to provide resources and knowledge around those areas," Berridge said. "We're willing to take a risk there. We're one of those companies that want to jump in and help Salesforce figure it out."

Salesforce also announced the addition of two new certifications as part of a revamped Certified Architect Framework: System Architect and Application Architect.