3 key takeaways from Dreamforce 2016

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Reporting on what happened at the annual Dreamforce conference is a lesson in futility. The conference is so large and has so many different things going on that no one person can experience more than a small part of it. So for the record, what follows is the perspective of just one developer – a narrow slice of what claims to be the largest software conference on the planet.

In my last post about Dreamforce, I described Dreamforce as a community as well as a conference. And so it is – a very diverse one. I don’t have statistics, but if you’ve ever been to a typical tech conference you know that the men typically outnumber the women by quite a bit. Not so at Dreamforce.  It’s a generous community as well, as millions of dollars are raised during the conference for various causes—including the organization RED, which is committed to ending AIDS in this generation. And everywhere you turn, somebody is starting or working on a local organization to help others, whether it’s teaching kids to code, engaging women in technology, helping the homeless, or otherwise teaching Salesforce technology to someone who is struggling so they can make a living wage.

Dreamforce 2016: 1

Community is top of mind for many, but Dreamforce is a technology conference and Salesforce is a business. Here are my top three takeaways from Dreamforce 2016:

1. Trailhead was everywhere

The national park theme expanded beyond the developer zone and took over the entire conference. While some found it a bit overwhelming, I rather liked it. The pictures you see here barely do it justice. And seriously, at what other technology conference would a keynote be promoted by a parade of park rangers dancing with a giant raccoon? Trailhead itself is, of course, one of the most innovative online learning systems around and "the fun way to learn Salesforce." Each trail is a mini-course that introduces and provides guidance on a particular topic – much as a trail guide would at a national park.

Dreamforce 2016: 2

2. Salesforce Einstein - AI & machine learning for data science 

Every Dreamforce conference inevitably introduces a new technology. Introduction is too soft a word – the full power of Salesforce’s marketing engine comes into play. This year’s featured technology is Salesforce Einstein – artificial intelligence andmachine learning. It’s a combination of existing technologies and a number of companies that Salesforce has purchased during the last year or two. I saw the keynotes and asked a lot of questions. I’m not sure exactly what they have, when they’ll have it and how much it will cost (except that at first most of it will be expensive). But their vision – to let ordinary people use machine learning and AI without being or hiring a data scientist, is pretty incredible, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

3. Salesforce DX – Reinventing the platform and adding "developer experience"

My final take-away is the one that I’m personally most excited about, though it’s hard to explain to anyone who isn’t already a Salesforce developer. Salesforce is in the process of reinventing development on the platform from being organization-centric to metadata-centric. Or put another way – over the next couple of years Salesforce development will become more similar to development on other platforms, and we’ll be able to easily leverage industry standard development tools and processes. They call it Salesforce DX – developer experience, and it’s a really big deal.

Dreamforce 2016: 3

Final thought on Dreamforce 2016

Every one of the 2,700 or so sessions at Dreamforce has one thing in common – they all start with a slide about “forward-looking statements.” And that comes with the warning that people should base purchasing decisions on what is shipping now, because the session is likely to present statements and technologies that do not yet exist and may never exist. Dreamforce is about the future, and like many, I leave the conference confident that the future is going to be very interesting indeed.

Contributor

Dan Appleman

Dan is a well known author, software developer and speaker. Currently the CTO of Full Circle Insights, he is the founder and CEO of Desaware Inc., one of the co-founders of APress publishing, and is the author of numerous books and ebooks on various topics (technology and other); most recently Advanced Apex Programming.