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V3 Technology Awards 2015: Salesforce sees future in apps and IoT data

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Salesforce is shortlisted for three awards at the V3 Technology Awards 2015: Best Cloud Computing Provider, Best Software-as-a-Service Provider and Best Business Software Provider. Ahead of the event, we caught up with Andy Lawson, managing director and SVP at Salesforce UK, to hear about the firm’s plans for 2016 and the biggest trends affecting the enterprise IT space.

Andrew Lawson

V3: What has Salesforce been focusing on over the past year?
Andy Lawson: Our key focus is always customer success, how we drive innovation and give back. These are the core values we live by and that’s where we have continued to focus this year.

Europe is Salesforce’s fastest growing region and the UK plays a major part in driving that momentum. We’ve seen some great customer success with leading UK brands including Barclays Mortgages, Ocado, Sky, TNT UK and Unilever. I’m always impressed by the speed at which these large enterprises are able to embrace new technology and innovate their business.

Dreamforce is always an important moment for Salesforce, it’s such an amazing event and this year we saw the launch of a brand new cloud – the IoT Cloud. This allows companies to finally make sense of the phenomenal amount of data that is being produced every second. Through the IoT Cloud, companies can filter real-time data from any device, sensor, website or interaction and use that data to create new insights that help them to build a better relationship with their customers.

One of the things that really excites me is that it will allow our customers to make smart predictions about their customer’s future needs and deliver a much more personal experience to them. It’s the holy grail of 1:1 customer engagement at massive scale.

As I mentioned, giving back is one of our core values and we’ve continued to work with our local community through our 1-1-1 model of integrated philanthropy – something that is an important part of our culture and has really been part of our DNA from the start. Rowing the Thames once again was a great challenge and raised a great sum for a very worthwhile cause.

Our company culture is what makes Salesforce such a unique place to work, so I’m really proud that Salesforce was ranked number three by Great Place to Work UK earlier this year.

Our culture is actually the secret of our success, in my opinion. Simply put, we believe that we have a responsibility to make sure our customers, our partners, and our communities feel that they are in a strong relationship – and that the relationship is two-sided. This philosophy drives everything we do and so really is vital to our continuing growth.

What are the biggest trends in the business technology space affecting Salesforce’s strategy?
I think the most important trends right now are social, mobile, cloud, IoT and data science. They’re helping to drive customer success and that’s what we’re about.

The fact is, we now live in a completely mobile world – there will soon be six billion smartphones out there and more than 75 billion connected products. We need to remember that behind each of these devices is a customer. The opportunity to connect with them has never been greater. With all the data that’s generated by the IoT, I see a huge opportunity to discover insights that can be used to engage with customers in a completely new, personalised way.

What are the biggest concerns and challenges for firms, and their IT managers in particular?
I recently read that Gartner predicts that next year 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on customer experience. To me this highlights what a massive shift businesses are undergoing. To become a truly customer-centric organisation, companies have to take an open, integrated approach.

Achieving this, to my mind, is the biggest challenge facing IT managers today. IT departments need to move beyond a siloed approach to software and business processes and start rolling out a system of intelligence – a system that empowers employees to make fact-based decisions, wherever they are, whatever device they are using.

What are Salesforce’s plans for 2016?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, our main focus next year will be continuing to enable our customers’ success and we’ll do this by exploiting new trends and technologies to create innovation. At Salesforce every employee is on a mission to help make our customers more successful and every employee has the opportunity to make an impact.

Our culture recognises that every contribution forms part of the big picture. In my experience, knowing you’re working towards someone else’s goals as well as your own makes work meaningful and ignites a passion for excellence. We’ll continue to live by that philosophy next year and I believe it will fuel our continued success and at pace.

What do you think will be the biggest IT trends for 2016?
We already live in a world where there is an app for nearly everything and I think this trend is going to become even more important next year. The cloud makes it all possible – it provides a platform for new apps to get up and running quickly. In fact 85 percent of new apps are now deployed for the cloud.

I’m also seeing amazing growth in our ISV partners who are creating commercial apps. This is a really exciting area and will help fuel the UK enterprise app economy. The ecosystem of our customers, partners and developers has actually created phenomenal economic impact this year and I see this continuing in 2016. In fact, IDC is forecasting ‘The Salesforce Economy’ will drive more than £12.3bn of impact to the GDP and create an incredible 54,000 new jobs by 2018. Just how positive is that?

What has been the biggest event or problem to affect the tech world in 2015?
This year has seen the launch of so many connected devices. At CES and Mobile World Congress they dominated the headlines. In the spring the Apple Watch was launched to great fanfare and the Philips connected toothbrush and the Nest heating regulator have become mainstream consumer goods.

It feels like we’ve begun to enter a world where everything is hyper-connected, and this ‘everything’ has become the source of a vast amount of valuable data. We’re only just beginning to feel the impact of this. It’s creating new and more finely tuned data analytics platforms, services and professionals, and is pushing businesses to make sense of the huge volume of data available to them.

Until now, this knowledge has frequently been siloed across multiple departments and the tools to unlock that data required specialised training. But this year we’ve begun to see a fresh approach to business intelligence that embraces all users. This has the potential to transform the relationship between businesses and customers, and its impact will be felt long beyond this year or even next.

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