Dreamforce is the ultimate of tech conferences.
There's an electricity and buzz with 170,000 people jamming San Francisco for 4 days and 2700 sessions to learn about cloud technologies and Salesforce. There are great philanthropic initiatives, cool technologies and awesome speakers (my favorite this year was Leah McGowen Hare - I wish I could have just 1% of her eloquence and stage presence!). What else could a geek like me want?
But one week after leaving the Dreamforce whirlwind, I've come back to the realization that most of the world isn't quite ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff so eloquently described. While Mr. Benioff described an awesome future of artificial intelligence and connected customers, most of the world seems to be playing catch-up and trying to figure out how to get the most from the Third Industrial Revolution of computing. Many of the companies that Propel talks to - from mid-market companies to giant global powerhouses - are just starting to flesh out their vision of their "cloud reality," well over 10 years after the terms "SaaS" and "cloud computing" were first uttered.
What are companies trying to figure out with the cloud? Here are some common questions we've heard when dealing with cloud reality:
- How do you best secure data in the cloud? While there are folks who still doubt the security of the cloud (which I don't get since the same companies outsource their manufacturing overseas), an often overlooked question is how cloud security should work. Differing cloud platforms make this answer more complicated, but companies should consider the infrastructure of their cloud provider, network protocols, and the application itself. Thankfully, Propel is built on the Salesforce platform, which provides really amazing platform security, including data backup and recovery, HTTPS encryptions, IP login restrictions and two-factor authentication. Throw in easily configurable roles and privileges, and you're good to go for a worldwide deployment.
- Should cloud technologies replace or augment my current IT systems? If your old legacy systems are on life support and your original vendor is never giving you new features, why are you paying them 22% support every year? Migrating to a modern cloud system is a no-brainer. Technically it can be very straightforward, and your biggest challenge will be organizational inertia. But consider that modern cloud apps like Propel let you adapt to new business processes, support new business models, and respond quickly to new competitors. Plus your users will love you for it - modern cloud apps are much easier to use than systems that were designed 20 years ago. No more carpal tunnel syndrome for your employees! Granted for some companies, it may be impossible in the short-term to switch from on-premise to cloud, especially if you've invested millions in legacy IT systems. In that case, I recommend you augment your current IT systems with modern cloud solutions. For example, one way Propel can coexist with old PLM systems is by enabling partners or sales channels to securely collaborate and share product data.
- Should I get rid of my current cloud technologies? In many ways, older cloud systems bear more in common with old on-premise tools than their modern cloud brethren. If they were written long time ago, they can be hard to use, very inflexible and difficult to scale. Your software vendor may have been able to help you 10 years ago, but can they scale with you now? Can you use it on your smartphone? Do they have drill-down reporting? Is it easy to configure? What about granular roles and privileges? All those are table stakes with today's modern cloud apps.
So while I'm living back in cloud reality, I'm looking forward to the next Dreamforce when I'll get the chance to hear and see what the future holds. But in the meantime, I will be living in the present, trying my best to help the rest of us get ready for that awesome future.