Dreamforce 2022 — Down the Rabbit Hole

Justin DeBrabant
Justin DeBrabant
Head of Product

What do you get when fun and whimsical crosses the line into “Alice in Wonderland”-weird? You get Dreamforce 2022, the return of Salesforce’s annual mega-conference after a two-year digital quarantine.

And while Salesforce events are always of the highest production quality, this most recent iteration was confusing at best. Let’s break down our biggest takeaways after three days in the Dreamforce 2022 rabbit hole.

Down the Rabbit Hole at Dreamforce 2022

Genie, I Wish for a New CDP

The biggest announcement of the week was Genie, described as both a way to “turn data into real-time magic” and “the world’s first real-time CRM,” and is personified by a magical flying rabbit, further doubling down on the woodland creature theme.

(Side note, when I FaceTimed my 6-year-old daughter from the conference and she saw the dancing woodland creatures behind me, she was convinced I was at a kids’ party. This further solidified her belief that I’m doing fun things when I travel for work. So thanks for that, Salesforce.)

Is Genie new packaging of their customer data platform (CDP), or is it complementary to the existing Salesforce CDP (which of course is all part of Salesforce Customer 360)? I think, maybe.

What is clear is that Genie is real-time. Well… maybe it is. It depends on who you ask and how you define “real-time.” I heard anywhere from milliseconds, to seconds, to minutes.

And that was just the data being ingested — how that actually connects to the rest of the Salesforce solution stack is an exercise left for post-sale. All just implementation details, I’m sure…

Jumping on the Snowflake Bandwagon

The next major announcement at Dreamforce 2022 was a “zero-copy architecture” integration with Snowflake via their innovative data sharing capability.

With this integration, Snowflake customers can share their customer data with the Salesforce CDP without the need to copy the data (assuming it’s in the Salesforce CDP data model, of course!). Similarly, the Salesforce CDP will be able to share data back with a client’s Snowflake without the need to copy data.

But because the Salesforce CDP is not actually built on Snowflake, and Snowflake Data Shares only works between Snowflake instances, this is achieved by Salesforce managing a Snowflake instance on their end that acts as the middle ground between the Salesforce CDP and the client’s own Snowflake instance.

(Or at least that’s the proposed architecture, since this won’t be available as a pilot until sometime “later this year or early next year.” In Salesforce-speak, that means at best it’ll be re-announced at next year’s Dreamforce 2023.)

So let’s zoom out and see the big picture: your data is zero-copied from your Snowflake to Salesforce’s Snowflake instance – great! But then you need a copy to get it into Salesforce’s CDP. And then another copy to get it to do Journeys. And then a third copy to get it over to the Salesforce email platform to send emails. So on and so forth – you get the point.

The functionality of ActionIQ’s single and integrated, composable CDP platform (AKA our CX Hub, as we like to call it) would require 6-10 different Salesforce products which are not well integrated, let alone “zero copy.” Each one of them has its own data layer and in essence becomes a mini customer data mart that needs to be purchased, configured, and managed.

Thus, the cost and complexity required to achieve end-to-end CDP use cases with Salesforce quickly becomes enormous. This recent announcement is moving things barely an inch (even if we give them full credit for all the futures they are promising) when they are miles away from where they should be.

Will Salesforce eventually build a single, integrated CDP platform? No. They have never done anything like it in the past and they are out of time to do it now even if they tried.

So what looks like an integrated, zero-copy architecture on a Powerpoint slide (or Zoom sales call) is in reality a loosely integrated stack of misfits that requires 5-10 data copies even to get started. And of course nothing in that stack will be even close to real-time.

What About Acquisition Marketing and the Death of Salesforce DMP?

The last key takeaway from Dreamforce 2022 is notable not because of an announcement, but the lack thereof.

With Audience Studio (AKA Salesforce DMP AKA Krux) officially end of life’d, I would have expected much more of an emphasis on how new or existing Salesforce products would help with acquisition strategy and paid media use cases.

With the death of the cookie looming and acquisition marketing teams abandoning DMPs and looking for first-party data solutions, this is certainly a hot topic in the market right now. But nothing from Salesforce.

Recently, ActionIQ fully replaced Salesforce’s DMP at a Fortune 100 company. With Salesforce not even talking about a path forward for its customers, replacing a DMP with a real CDP like ActionIQ is the only path forward.

Magic is an Illusion at Dreamforce 2022

While the promise of a flying magical rabbit turning your data into customer magic sounds nice, it hardly seems like a strategy. I was told that Genie was a rabbit because rabbits are fast and Genie is about real-time, which makes sense.

But I suspect the internal Salesforce joke is that all of these announcements are a sales and marketing illusion on top of barely-there products, and the fact that Genie is magical is more of a reference to that illusion than any sort of magic created via Salesforce products.

In the four years since announcing their first CDP in a 2018 blog post, Salesforce has delivered very little customer data magic to their clients. But one thing you always have to give Salesforce credit for is that Dreamforce is a well-executed event. And, on the plus side, I did come away with some great decoration ideas for my daughter’s next birthday party thanks to Dreamforce 2022.

Learn More About Our Integrated CDP Platform (AKA CX Hub)

Get in touch with our experts to discover how ActionIQ’s CX Hub offers infinitely scalable performance — while maintaining control of your customer data.

Justin DeBrabant
Justin DeBrabant
Head of Product
Justin spent his formative years building large distributed systems to support data science and analytics. Justin holds a Ph.D. from Brown University where he researched scaling high-throughput in-memory database systems to support larger-than-memory datasets.

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