About the Author: Jorgan Strathman, a Salesforce certified trainer and experienced technical lead, has been with Bluewave since 2016. He recently traveled to San Francisco to attend Dreamforce 2023, and brought back all the latest Salesforce industry news. Here’s Jorgan’s recap of the biggest moments from this year’s conference, as well as everything else you need to know about Salesforce’s plans to reshape the tech industry by embracing the AI revolution.
*This article was edited using AI-powered assistants ChatGPT-3.5 and DeepL Write.
It’s been three weeks now since Dreamforce ’23 took place, and after returning from the conference, I needed that time to properly digest the experience and all the information. As you might guess, my first time attending Dreamforce did feel a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose; the spectacle, the polished performances, and the sheer number of concurrent events can get overwhelming. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
So, while balancing my daily work back in the office, I’ve also been reviewing all my notes and mobile phone pictures from San Francisco, doing some follow-up contextual research, and crafting my perspective. But before I share my observations and key takeaways, I just want to thank my colleagues at Bluewave, especially James, Shauni and Bluewave management for all their support and encouragement in making my attendance possible this year. Thank you, I appreciate you all!
I arrived in San Francisco on Sunday evening, September 10th. Monday the 11th was my big grocery shop for the week ahead, then I picked up my conference badge at Moscone West and spent the rest of the afternoon working out of cafés, moving around periodically to familiarise myself with the Dreamforce campus and the surrounding area. I’d highly recommend this approach to other first-timers, if you can, as arriving early like this really increased my situational awareness and lowered my stress level. I also figured out how to use my digital Clipper card on Monday, which was a great shout and the cheapest way to get around the city during the week.
The AI Event Of The Year Begins
As you probably know by now, Dreamforce ’23 focused on the application of artificial intelligence in a big way. Marketed as “The world’s largest AI event,” DF23 went “deep into AI and how it’s transforming the world around us, [bringing] together customers, partners, leaders and visionaries to talk about what the future of trusted AI looks like for businesses around the world.” Marc Benioff, Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Salesforce – used the opening keynote to set the tone for the conference, wasting no time in showcasing the latest product innovations, but also in addressing the most pressing ethical dimensions and security concerns surrounding AI. If you only have time to watch one recording from all of DF23, I highly recommend watching the opening keynote for its effective and concise summary. Here’s a quick recap:
The AI Opportunity
Generative and autonomous AI have tremendous potential to transform industries, shift the roles of workers and ultimately improve business processes. Over the course of DF23, session after session I attended highlighted examples of how customers can leverage Salesforce AI right now in the flow of work to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. Salesforce’s bottom-line, “AI is transforming how we build and use software,” and it’s happening now.
“The reality is every company will undergo an AI transformation to increase productivity, drive efficiency, and deliver incredible customer and employee experiences.” ~ Marc Benioff – Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Salesforce
The AI Trust Gap
Building from TrailblazerDX in March and Salesforce’s AI Day for Investors in June, Mr. Benioff acknowledged the fear and legitimate apprehension people have toward current and possible future AI capabilities. What was made clear is that as a company, Salesforce fully intend to lead this conversation rather than shy away from it; there’s no planned pause on AI development at Salesforce Tower. During the opening keynote, Mr. Benioff introduced the Einstein Trust Layer, an innovative secure gateway which will be absolutely essential to Salesforce’s overall AI strategy. This secure gateway enables Salesforce customers to leverage Generative AI without comprising sensitive customer data and is the foundation of a Enterprise-ready form of AI.
Skilling up for the AI Revolution
Finally, Mr. Benioff underscored the urgency for individuals and organisations to upskill and prepare for the AI revolution. There’s many new acronyms, terms of phrase, and complex concepts to learn. Salesforce is working hard to provide guidance in this area too, on Trailhead and with new credentials including the AI Associate and Data Cloud Consultant. certifications. Mr. Benioff charged that the AI revolution will be as transformative and disruptive as the cloud computing revolution was two decades ago. And for the companies that are able to effectively embrace and leverage AI, they stand to gain a significant competitive advantage.
Major Product Announcements
The Move to Core
During the opening keynote, Mr. Benioff announced a strategic focus on unifying the metadata shared by all clouds. With the objective of streamlining data and metadata management, integrations, access and, of course, AI-powered experiences, this initiative means shifting previous acquisitions like Commerce and Marketing Cloud into the core, shared metadata framework. Without sharing a concrete timeline or a detailed roadmap, I do believe Salesforce customers can expect to see significant updates to these products over the next few releases.
The Salesforce Platform is now the Einstein 1 Platform
Yes, it’s another rebrand, but before you roll your eyes… a Salesforce product owner explained to me that Salesforce rebrands are not done without a specific purpose. In most cases, a rebrand emphasizes significant changes in a product’s direction or the introduction of significant new features. In this case, Mr. Benioff introduced the Einstein 1 Platform which he believes represents a the next major evolution in Salesforce, and demonstrates a commitment from the company to AI-driven solutions and services for all. The building blocks of the Einstein 1 Platform include Data Cloud (formerly Genie), a shared Metadata Framework, the Salesforce Platform with all the apps, AI-powered experiences and, of course, the Einstein Trust Layer. In short, a first-of-it’s-kind, Enterprise, AI-powered CRM.
Unveiling of The Einstein Copilot Stack
For me, perhaps the most exciting product announcement at DF23 was Einstein Copilot and its companion Studio. This innovative new product stack promises to provide customers with AI-powered assistants wherever they’re needed, streamlining tasks and improving productivity across all applications, standard and custom, with clicks, not code. As echoed throughout the sessions and days of the conference, “the development frameworks of tomorrow will replace click-based UIs with conversational copilots, and hard-coded logic with semantic LLMs“.
As a quick aside: Before attending Dreamforce, a great piece of advice I received from a colleague, Barry Hughes, was simply to keep my mind open. In his words, “If you hear about something that intrigues you while you’re there, give yourself the flexibility to seek out different sessions and conversations than you originally planned.” That was really valuable advice.
Following the opening keynote, I wanted more information about Einstein Copilot so I jumped into two breakout sessions, “Bring Al into the Flow of Work with Einstein Copilot,” and “The Future of Einstein: Product Strategy and Roadmap.” Here’s a snippet of what I learned:
Developed on the Einstein Trust Layer, Data Cloud & Hyperforce, Einstein Copilots are conversational, AI Assistants which will be available for every CRM Application (Pilot in Spring ‘24). And with Copilot Studio, pictured below, customers will be able to configure, test and deploy their own assistants using custom, grounded prompts, with custom skills and even custom models. The extensibility of the copilot studio design is vast, and in theory, could quickly become a major new automation tool for Salesforce customers on par with Apex and flow.
Einstein Copilot Studio looks to be comprised of three custom AI Builders: Prompt Builder, Skills Builder and Model Builder. Unfortunately, I’m light of published information on these innovative new builders. But essentially, each one will allow you to augment a fundamental aspect of your own Copilots. As crudely as I can possibly explain it, prompts call actions and both prompts and actions can use models. What I think is really smart of the Copilot Stack team is baking in a means of mixing and matching standard and custom elements including those published by ISVs as indicated by the color coding.
Before I wrap up, as a VS Code user myself, I need to mention the developer keynote which highlighted Salesforce’s roadmap for bringing AI-powered experiences to the IDE.
AI is Shifting the Role Of The Salesforce Developer
With the Einstein for Developers extension, Salesforce is bringing a rake of AI-driven capabilities directly into the IDE. Natural language to code, in open beta right now, leverages Salesforce’s CodeGen LLM to take your conversational prompts and author Apex code for you. In closed pilot, Salesforce is also developing Test Case Generation, Code Auto-Complete and Code Explanations using similar AI-driven capabilities. This merely scratches the surface of what was demo’d so if you’re a developer, I highly recommend you watch the keynote for yourself.
Let’s Wrap This Thing Up!
Rapid-fire questions style.
- Q: Favorite DF23 session? A: True to the Core. Glad to learn that Salesforce is prioritizing the idea backlog and the setup menu.
- Q: Favorite DF23 extracurricular? A: The 10th anniversary Dreamforce community fun run at the Ferry Building at 6am on Wednesday. I loved it!
- Q: Would you recommend others to attend Dreamforce? A: Absolutely, I learned loads and enjoyed every interaction. There’s something there for everyone.
- Q: Biggest takeaway from DF23? A: If you were ignoring AI-powered experiences up until now, you’d better start learning!
It’s clear that our future includes AI, and with Dreamforce 2023, Salesforce offered us a glimpse into how we might navigate that landscape with confidence and trust.