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Dreamforce 2019 as a first-timer

Wow – what a week (and a bit) Dreamforce was.

I’ve now finished up my first week back, mostly recovered, ready to try and describe what my first Dreamforce was like.

The Location

People who have been to the event before will tell you it is huge, yet it’s impossible to understand the immense scale of it until you’ve been in person. Taking up over 5 blocks of downtown San Francisco is the “Dreamforce National Park” which encompasses a number of conference centres and entertainment spaces to fit the 150,000 plus attendees.

Dreamforce National Park

Amongst the conference halls the area is kitted out with DJ’s, lunch areas, merchandise stalls and lots of Trailhead characters to get your photo taken with. Need WIFI? The Dreamforce SSID was available EVERYWHERE. I had lunch in the middle of the park (an actual city park, see below) and still had access to blazing fast Dreamforce WIFI.

The park – kick back, eat lunch and listen to DJ’s while working out which session you’re going to next

The Technology

It was a big year for new product announcements as well as re-announcements of products from Dreamforce’s past (just so you know they’re real). 

Here are some of the announcements that caught my eye.

Evergreen Serverless Functions

As a tech guy, this announcement hyped me up the most. Evergreen is a Function-as-a-service allowing developers to write business logic using Node.JS, Java or Apex. Think of it kind of like AWS Lambda but running on some magic developed by the Heroku team.

The functions are created and deployed just like any other kind of metadata (like an Apex class) and can be called on by Salesforce using point & click configuration or code.

Everyone loves containers!

The fact that it supports other languages and frameworks means you can leverage that language’s packages and ecosystems to deliver the business logic you need. Need to generate or edit a PDF? Use Conga – but if that isn’t an option, write an Evergreen function that imports PDFKit from npm. Want to get around some of the callout limitations of Apex? Write an Evergreen function, import axios from npm and callout to your heart’s content.

The other cool thing about this is engaging with talent who are already dedicated Node.js or Java developers to innovate on the platform together. I had the opportunity to speak with the team behind Evergreen after one of their sessions and Node.JS and Java are just the beginning – expect more languages to be supported in future releases.

Lightning App Builder Enhancements

There’s some cool changes coming to Lightning App Builder that starts to merge it’s functionality with the classic Page Layout editor (and then some). 

You’ll soon be able to control the layout of record detail pages down to the field level (not just the component level). Additionally you can now show or hide certain fields using the app builders visibility options. This can lead to some really powerful workflows such as using values from one (or more) fields to determine if other fields should also be shown or hidden

Stuff our Functional Consultants drool over

Sandbox Enhancements

Salesforce are slowly but surely making the job of creating/refreshing sandboxes easier for our consultants and customers. Lightning Sandboxes are a new type of sandbox that promise instant cloning with the ability to take snapshots that you can use to spin up additional sandboxes.

 I see this feature as a happy medium between using scratch orgs and traditional sandboxes. You get the benefit of instant activation without having to manage definition files and pushing your changes with each refresh.

Another Sandbox announcement was the introduction of Data Masking. This is an awesome new feature that helps protect your customer data when creating/refreshing your full or partial sandboxes. You can create configurations that let you decide what data should be masked and how it should be masked.

Let’s use a Contact record as an example. You can create a configuration to delete data from certain fields, anonymize data (Mark Benioff becomes go3ugm asfgu44) or pseudo-anonymize (Mark Benioff becomes Steve Marks).This is really powerful, especially when you are exposing your full sandboxes to your partners.

The Sessions & Keynotes

We watched the opening keynote via live stream at the APAC on Tour lounge, which is a drop-in location close to the Moscone conference centre specifically setup for APAC attendees. 

The opening keynote is a good way to understand the areas Salesforce has focused on during the year but is very high level, so choose your points of interest and go to one of the breakout sessions afterwards to learn the details. Mark handled the interruption by protesters very well, offering them 30 seconds to get their point across in exchange for them leaving afterwards. It would appear the evidence of this has been removed from the live streams.

Unfortunately we missed the opportunity to see Barack Obama give his keynote as the session was full, including the streaming locations and the keynote was not live streamed. We lined up to see Eddie Vedder talk 3 hours before the event and still could not get in. The lesson here is to enrol in the sessions you want to see the moment the full agenda is published. Don’t leave it until a few weeks or days before the event.

The line for the registration desk on the second last day

The “True to the Core” session is one to catch which is now an annual event at each Dreamforce. Salesforce co-founder and CTO Parker Harris, flanked by a bunch of product leads, try to provide some transparency into their development process and the reasons why they made certain decisions about the direction of their products. In the latter half they open it up to questions from the audience which quickly spirals into some very frank questions being posed to the team – with comedic results.

Wushi, SteveMo says hi!

My favourite non-Salesforce related session occurred on our last evening in the APAC on Tour lounge. Daniel Flynn from Thankyou gave an inspiring talk about the challenges his business faced trying to get the not-for-profit off the ground in a segment dominated by for-profit companies. Thankyou sell a “pay what you want” book about their story (with a twist on how books are published) which is worth checking out.

If you’re interested in viewing all the major Salesforce sessions/keynotes, our Conga crazy consultant Daryl Moon has collated this list for you.

The Dreamfest

Every year Dreamforce puts on a huge party that includes bringing in some well known musical acts. Last year it was Metallica (bummed I missed that one!) and this year we saw Beck supporting Fleetwood Mac, joined by Neil Finn stepping in to replace Lindsay Buckingham. 

Fleetwood Mac rocking the house

Fleetwood Mac was a bit before my time so I wasn’t sure how I’d enjoy it, however once they started playing I knew most of the songs and they were amazing. They blew away my expectations and even sneaked in some Crowded House tunes. Couple that with great company, a rocking Oracle Park baseball stadium (with the Oracle signage well hidden hehe) and a fair bit of booze it turned out to be a fantastic night.

The Before & After Dreamforce Fun

James dwarfed by a Redwood.

You have to take advantage of being on the other side of the world while you’re here. Some of us did a pre-Dreamforce weekend down in Santa Cruz (75 miles from San Francisco) traveling there in the type of SUV you can only find in the US.

That’s a big rig

In Santa Cruz we explored some of the Redwood forests, had a day out on the boardwalk riding their thrill rides (Giant Dipper and Fireball were a favourite) and hired some electronic JUMP bikes to explore the surf coast.

Hows the shorts!

Our CEO Ian Goodwin chose to wind down from Dreamforce by riding through the Nevada desert.

Keen!

Conclusion

Now that I’m no longer a Dreamforce virgin I can attest that the hype is real. The world’s largest technology conference is an immersive experience that combines technology, learning and inspiration in an environment that feels like a party every day. The Cludo team had a ball – with our customers, our partners, Salesforce and each other – and you can be sure that we’ll have another delegation back again next year!

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