About Arunn R

Passionate about technology and marketing.

Cloudforce 2012: social, social, social.

Cloudforce 2012 hit London on 22nd May with the big “Social Enterprise” message. The venue of the event itself was spectacular, set at the London Excel in the docklands. A bit of a trek, but well worth the journey. Once you get past the awesomeness of the venue, as a marketer, one could not but admire the efficiency and the smoothness of the entire process!

As any Salesforce event, the sheer number of attendees was incredible. Despite that, registration process was super easy. You walk up to one of some 50 odd registration desks, each equipped with an iPad and an external keyboard. If you were smart enough to carry your smart phone, or a print out of your QR code, it took all but 2 seconds to scan your QR code, 1 second for the badge to print out, couple more seconds to e

xchange a smile with the person behind the counter and you are all set to go. 6 break-out rooms, an expo packed with sponsor booths, breakfast, 2 hour (yes, 2 hour!) long keynote and much more.

I cannot get over how much print material is still used. Almost every attendee was walking around with either a smartphone or tablet – why exactly all of the material cannot be delivered digitally, well I will save that thought.

Sessions were not a lot to write home about for me, save one on Rypple (more on that shortly). But the Keynote, was fantastic! Great story on the Social Enterprise. There is a lot of general tendency to think that the new boys in town such as the Facebooks, Twitters, the spotifys, the Zyngas, etc are the kool kids with cool office spaces and new ways of working. Debunking the myth were HP, Kimberly Clarks and Toyota, showing that perceived Grandpa companies were on with the trend. In fact in some cases leading the trend. Toyota’s innovative concept of “make your car your friend”, was amazing! It is easier to start from scratch. I am finding myself have new found respect for established companies that are being able to successfully transition and adopt new ways of working to take advantages of the social and technological revolution. Of course, every story was underpinned by Salesforce that provided the technology and platform for these companies to achieve this.

Mostly, Salesforce is known for its CRM system. That is largely what I recognised Salesforce for as well. This event opened my eyes to other areas Salesforce havebeen expanding into. They have added Radian6 bringing social analytics into the fold, Rypple extends HR, Heroku (PaaS), Site.com (CMS), desk.com (support) and many more. The fundamental theme being that Salesforce extends the theme of social enterprise externally to your customers and internally to your employees. For the first time I got a glimpse of Salesforce’s vision (or what I think is their vision):

Embed social into every organisation’s DNA, and Salesforce will help make that happen.

The beauty of all the systems is that how well they integrate and work with Salesforce’s core cloud platform. Seamlessly integrating with each other, adding value at every stage, every layer. They appear to have carefully considered how every piece fits together, to deliver absolute value.

For organisations that want to go Salesforce all the way, and have the pockets to support some of the price tags, its perfect!

So what if you don’t have the pocket to support the costs associated, but some pieces of their technology is really good? Well, no worries. One thing Salesforce seem to have nailed is providing open APIs. So you can decide to utilise parts of their eco-system, and believe me there are some neat ones there, and integrate with other systems you maybe using. But then, be prepared to do a little plumbing work yourself or get someone in to do it for you.

If Salesforce’s goal was to make things simple, easy and seamless – I feel they have achieved it and are set for a great course going forward.

Some little nuggets I discovered during Cloudforce:

Rypple: This post will not be complete without mentioning Rypple. Amazing HR app. They aim to completely transform the way organisations share goals, review employee performance and communicate progress across the organisation. But be warned, you will need to leave behind 2 things:

  • everything you know so far about hierarchical management (which are only good for military organisations and production lines anyway!)
  • Desire to control.

But if you are looking for ways to empower, encourage and create openness, Rypple is spot on! I will happily admit the first thing I did on returning from Salesforce was to send a note to my team and sign up for a trial.

Do.comAnother excellent little tool. Salesforce bought these guys only a few months ago. There is no dearth of systems out that provide to-do list functionality. Yet, I loved the simplicity of do.com. Their integration with Google Marketplace is superb, which means you can create a task from within your gmail console directly, and attach google docs. Their neat little app sends you notifications and much more. You can also create separate groups of projects and invite separate collaborators for each group, add multiple email addresses and more. They solve some really small niggles really nicely. It doesnot come with much workflows etc yet, so if you are an OmniFocus fan, and love their review system etc, do.com might leave you wanting.

How in the world did they manage to get that url?!

Concur: If you are a business traveller, you will know my pain. Its called expenses! For long I had been looking for a tool, that will virtualise my receipts, make it easy to collate with my smartphone, log it on a server I don’t care where. Every month it automatically generates my expenses, which the finance team can downlod, seek approval from my boss, and get paid! Aloha Concur! Sounds sweet. There is lemon.com as well, they have a neat app, but they are still working on their business edition that automates the expenses reporting. Something I will be signing up for a trial and hoping can then be rolled out within the organisation!

On the whole, Cloudforce 2012 was a great event and really well organised. Salesforce delivered, and delivered powerfully on their “Social Enterprise” theme. It left you informed and inspired as any good event should.

If you want to watch any of the Cloudforce sessions, check out their facebook page. Although, they do ask you to like the page first before you can watch any of the sessions, cheeky!

Did you attend Cloudforce 2012 UK? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.


QR code: to use or not to use? That is the question.

QR codes have been kicking around for a while. One of my colleagues interestingly choseto describe it as “another example of nice idea from a tech perspective, but not that useful in reality”.

QR codes have attracted controversies and support alike. Jon Barocas in his article “Why QR codes won’t last” on @mashable, describes how Mobile Visual Search (MVS) will displace QR codes and the security risks of QR codes. In this post, I am not trying to add to the controversies or support.

Personally, I believe QR codes like any other technology, will ultimately be displaced by new innovations. Keeping pace with new innovations, technological or otherwise, has always been one of the key challenges for marketeers.

I also believe that the real challenge though, is to use available tools in an innovative way to deliver great experience which will ultimately decide success vs failure of a marketing initiative. And the same applies here to QR codes.

Yes, QR codes involve that bit of extra effort by the user to fire up an App. But time and again, it has been proven, make it worth their while and they will do it! As long user effort involved feels like it is a part of their journey rather than a hurdle to overcome to get to what they want.

Tesco reinvented Grocery shopping in Korea with its Virtual Stores, and QR codes play an integral part its success.

Next time your stick a QR code up somewhere, here are a few things to think about:

  • What does the end to end journey look like, is it consistent?
  • Is there a quicker alternative which is cheaper (less effort) for the user? Sometimes its better to stick up a short url which a user can type into their mobile browser. Its quicker than firing up a QR code reader app, scanning the QR code, and then waiting for browser redirect.
  • Does your QR code link to a mobile friendly browser page? When was the last time you scanned a QR code on a laptop or desktop?!!

QR codes provide a great way of connecting your physical and digital world, of course MVS is an equally compelling alternative. But MVS is still developing, QR code is a cheap and easy alternative.

To use or not to use? Well, that depends on where, when and how. Sticking a QR code into a banner ad on the train station, does not make it any more likely someone will visit your site than putting a URL on it. The key is to flip and think from the user experience point of view and what you are going to achieve by incorporating QR codes.

Do you know of other examples of how QR codes have been used in a seamless way like the Tesco virtual stores in Korea? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!