Customer data integration and cloud compatibility takes centre stage at Salesforce Dreamforce

CRM giant announces range of new data integration initiatives across core Salesforce and Mulesoft platforms as well as new cloud data interoperability agreement

Salesforce has debuted a new open cloud data initiative, fresh connectors for data integration across disparate systems to create a single source of truth, and single customer identification across its product ecosystem in a bid to bring the Customer 360 vision to life.

Integration – and specifically, bridging the customer data gap – is taking centre stage for Salesforce at this week’s Dreamforce event, with a slew of product announcements highlighting the vendor’s ongoing efforts to unite data sources.

Among these offerings is Customer 360 Truth, a set of data and identity services to collect and connect data from across marketing, sales, service, commerce and other systems in order to create a universal identifier for each customer. The ambition is to bring a customer’s preferences, transaction records and wider digital history with an organisation together as a single source of truth in order to better serve and predict their needs, pre-empt service issues and create personalised marketing and experience journeys.

The vendor has also officially released Customer 360 Data Manager, which it says uses a ‘canonical’ data model and universal ID to help users prepare, match, reconcile and update a customer profile to then use across applications. Complementing this is Salesforce Identity for Customers, a single, authenticated login across a company’s full list of digital properties.

Customer 360 Audiences can then be used to create customer segments and marketing engagement journeys from such profiles. According to Salesforce, the customer data platform (CDP)-like offering goes beyond the traditional concept of a CDP by extending CRM into customer interactions across various touchpoints.

The Customer 360 CDP play was first unveiled by Salesforce during its Connections event in Chicago in June and benefits from Salesforce’s acquisition of integration software giant, MuleSoft, last year. In joining the CDP throng, Salesforce pitched its CDP offering not only against those of rival enterprise vendors such as Adobe and Oracle, it also threw its cap in the ring against best-of-breed players. 

Read more: The lowdown on customer data platforms

Industry experts weigh up Salesforce CDP impact

To further support these efforts, Salesforce this week debuted the Cloud Information Model (CIM), an open source data model aimed at standardising data interoperability across cloud applications. Taking advantage this time of MuleSoft’s open source modelling technology, CIM is about tackling data silos sitting in various cloud platforms, thereby allowing companies to connect data from systems such as point-of-sale, digital marketing and contact centre platforms.

Salesforce said CIM will allow developers to create data lakes, generate analytics, train machine learning models and build a single view of the customer in days, replacing what has been a hefty custom job to get data to interoperate.

CIM is being launched with a host of partners, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Genesys and Linux Foundation. Supporting partners also include several customers such as Expedia, L’Oreal and John Hancock.

“It’s not just technology vendors – we want customers to join, help and influence this data model as well,” said Salesforce EVP of platform shared services, Patrick Stokes, during a press briefing.  

During his keynote presentation, Salesforce chairman and co-founder, Marc Benioff, said there have been several attempts to introduce a data interoperability community in the industry but criticised them as closed model between one or two vendors.

"We have build CIM via the Linux Foundation to ensure it is one community," Benioff told attendees. 

The host of platform news, along with Salesforce’s extended Microsoft partnership announced last week, recognises there’s a holistic, multi-vendor approach required to remove silos of information, Salesforce president and chief product officer, Bret Taylor said. The latest Salesforce / Microsoft partnership sees Microsoft Azure as the public cloud base for Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

“We want to help people build this Customer 360 vision. That doesn’t just involve Salesforce,” Taylor commented. “But not all data lives in Salesforce. Every company we talk to has a public cloud transformation strategy and services going into AWS, Azure… and we’re seeing a lot of data moving into these big data systems.

“Also, a lot of customers are in the ‘awkward adolescence’ of public cloud transformations with on-premise systems, software-as-a-service like Salesforce, and they have this move to the public cloud. In that world, how do you build a single view of your customer and get a single source of customer data? It has to be all these pieces of technology working together.

“If you put all these announcements together – CIM, an open source way for us all to come together to say this is how our data interoperates; Mulesoft, and all the connectivity of our systems; plus all our new partnerships – it shows we are working with every technology vendor. It means when we go to a customer, we can have a single conversation, which is what is the customer experience you want to create? We can help you with that.”

From a legal and ethical data usage perspective, Salesforce said it’s built-in privacy and data governance to ensure clients build in appropriate customer preferences and classification types into all data usage, including global legal standards such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Alongside the core Salesforce platform, the vendor announced fresh functionality in its MuleSoft offering that again puts integration in the spotlight. The product news is also about opening up data and application manipulation to the wider organisation.

The first enhancement, for example, is about empowering anyone in an organisation to innovate and create connected innovative experiences with APIs. For example, new integrations and accelerators for Salesforce Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud introduce pre-built integration templates aimed at surfacing data in these platforms more easily for users.

The vendor has also improved its flow designer product, allowing anyone in the organisation to integrate and automate business processes without having to code. A third update, which uses Salesforce’s artificial intelligence (AI) engine, Einstein, introduces data mapping recommendations and the ability to automate business processes.

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.  

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