Salesforce Preps Partners For The Fourth Industrial Revolution

As Salesforce looks to its next ambitious goal, scaling the business from $10 billion to $20 billion in annual revenue, partners are preparing to capitalize on the enormous opportunity presented by what the CRM leader considers "the fourth industrial revolution."

Salesforce estimates its exploding ecosystem will support 250,000 consultants by 2022, with 33 percent growth in services over that period.

Industrial Revolution 4.0—the wave of digital transformation sweeping every industry—is a shift that will not only have a profound impact on the business community, but all of society, Keith Block, Salesforce's president and chief operating officer, told attendees at a consulting partner keynote on the first day of the Dreamforce 2017 conference in San Francisco.

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"You have been on this rocket ride with us," Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce's channel chief, told partners later in the same session.

The rocket will keep ascending because the cloud software company's product suite has never been stronger, she said, thanks to cutting-edge capabilities in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

But while partners are "excited about innovation," Taychakhoonavudh said. They're also "a little bit anxious about keeping up."

Among the concerns: how to scale internal resources, especially skilled staff, to meet the wave of customer demand in the coming years?

One way Salesforce is looking to help consulting partners augment their workforces is through Trailhead. To reflect the growing prominence of that online educational environment, sometime next year Salesforce's consulting partner program will recognize Trailhead badges and points.

But Salesforce will ensure partners preserve their current investments in certifications while "acknowledging the investment" they're making in Trailhead, the channel chief said.

The company is also seeding the industry with Salesforce expertise through innovative programs, like free training for thousands of military veterans through the VetForce initiative. More announcements will come at Dreamforce later this week around workforce development, Taychakhoonavudh said.

The strategy is to bring partners and products closer together, she added.

Last year, Salesforce launched Lightning Bolt, a platform partners can use to streamline development of community portals and custom solutions across its clouds, helping them scale their practices with reusable IP.

Mike Micucci, general manager and senior vice president for Community Cloud, said partners have now built some 50 solutions that expand capabilities across industries.

Those Lightning Bolt solutions, for the first time, can be made available to customers on AppExchange, Salesforce's online store, he said at Monday's keynote.

Bulking up Lightning Bolt capabilities, Micucci also introduced Lightning Flow, which embeds automated processes.

Lightning Bolt is game-changing, delivering on a long-awaited promise of information technology, Howard Moore, CEO of Keste, a Salesforce partner based in Plano, Texas, told CRN.

"What we've always wanted to get to in the world of business software is no- or low-code to be able to develop solutions. And the goal was always to do it in some sort of modular way," Moore told CRN after the consulting partner keynote.

That capability finally arrives as the market sees the most expansive transformation in its history, Moore said, with every company realizing the imperative of modernizing to become a digital business.

Cloud, and Salesforce's platform in particular, hit the sweet spot of making it possible to do that fast, he said.

"If you're behind, you’re a digital procrastinator, your only hope is to jump on a true platform," Moore said. "Salesforce is your best opportunity to become a digital business fast."

Salesforce is delivering "the economics to leverage their licensing under the hood," he said, allowing partners to build components, package them, and deliver them on AppExchange. Keste has done just that, leveraging its expertise in product configuration, Salesforce Community Cloud and CPQ (Configure Price Quote) to build one of those 50 Bolt solutions.

The advent of Einstein, and move to intelligent cloud, further complements that value proposition, since Salesforce's approach offers an "in-built AI solution" that is seamlessly delivered as the technology evolves, Moore told CRN.

"As we go to $20 billion-plus, we have to think about what customers are asking for now," Dan Smoot, Salesforce's executive vice president for global partner sales, told partners during the keynote.

One priority is expanding access to the entire product portfolio, which means facilitating customer transitions to the Lightning user interface. Einstein will only run on Lightning.

Salesforce is also bringing to partners internal methodologies to gauge customer success, starting with what it calls "data-smart selling"—an approach that assesses customer propensity for buying.

Next year, the metrics Salesforce uses internally to perform health checks and recognize successful customer practices will be extended to partners through a "collaborative service model," Smoot said.

"The way you do that is through compensation," Smoot said, "so our service leadership now is compensated on partner success."

New investments will see Salesforce's Customer Success group invest in partners, and work closer with them in developing new services offerings.

Salesforce will also launch "partner accelerators"—one-to-one discussions between partners and Salesforce specialists to evolve practices to solve ever-more-complex problems. Salesforce has been doing that for a few years with customers.

The Compass methodology, which involves an internal blueprint for customer execution plans, will also be presented to partners, Smoot said.