posted by Tawnya Stone on Monday, December 18, 2017 in Office Equipment Blog

It was impossible to miss the sea of blue badges on every street in downtown San Francisco during the first week of November. What was more unbelievable was the overwhelming exuberance from over 170,000 attendees of Dreamforce for everything and anything Salesforce. These excited attendees either use the platform, are thinking of using it, or sell a product or service that integrates with the platform. Before Dreamforce, I didn’t really understand what all the hubbub was all about; but four days of Salesforce immersion and over 20,000 steps a day, I figured out why this world was so exciting and the bigger concepts that underscore the platform itself.  

Inspiration AND Reality

Everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and other exponential technologies. It was refreshing to see this technology used in real-world solutions.  There were no theoretical conversations of what could be, but instead, demos of what is.  Speculating about how to use technology can be a fun pastime, but seeing it in action made it much more real and applicable to specific situations.

But before an office technology dealer jumps straight into the technology to improve their business, they should examine how their people do their jobs. Process mapping events can identify the way the work is being done and eliminate waste in the process. Once the process has been optimized, look at the tools employees are using and see if there is a better way to take advantage of potential integrations to eliminate duplicate efforts.

Sharing for the Greater Good

Most companies are hesitant to share their technology secrets, but Dreamforce culture encourages open dialog. Audiences of thousands are there to hear how different companies took the same platform available to everyone and applied their own spin to create differentiation. The benefit of this mindset is that the shared community can grow and build faster by learning from others rather than navigating innovation individually. 

In the office technology industry, progressive dealers are members of dealer groups like BPCA or CDA and may also be members of the Business Technology Association (BTA) or Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). They attend events sponsored by these groups to learn and share industry best practices. It’s not hard to find topics that orbit around Salesforce within these groups, and it’s a great way to learn something new, be inspired to evolve, and share a best practice to help other non-competing dealers improve—adding to the strength of our industry.

The Era of Intelligence

I have heard before that data is the new currency, but to make data meaningful to the user, we need to make it usable. Salesforce has done just that! They have built a layer of artificial intelligence into their platform called Einstein that will not only provide predictive analytics based on your specific business processes and data, but will allow you to create workflows and responses based on these insights. Gone are the days of staring at spreadsheets to determine a course of action…the system does it for you! 

As an office technology dealer, think about this intelligence in two ways.  What information would you need in order to run your business better and what information could you provide to your customer that would make you their most valuable business partner? After you have the answer to these questions, begin the quest to not just provide the data, but deliver something useful.

Related: It's Always More Fun to Clean Someone Else's House (How Do Your Dealership's Technology & Processes Rate?); What McDonalds Can Teach Us About Operational Excellence

The Customers’ Success Really Is the Most Important

Many companies say their goal is to make their customers successful; however, I haven’t seen a company back this up financially as much as Salesforce. They have dedicated customer success managers, success circles, customer summits, accelerators, trailblazers and the list goes on.  While this may sound altruistic, I understand this is to increase customer adoption to more heavily utilize the platform throughout their business, ultimately creating a stickier relationship. This win-win approach is definitely working well for Salesforce since they were the first enterprise cloud software company to break the $10 billion revenue run-rate; they did so faster than any other enterprise software company in history.   

There is so much consolidation going on in the office technology industry and depending on the side of the equation you sit, your perspective will be different. If you are the dealer who is growing by leaps and bounds, are you still providing your customers the same level of satisfaction? Are you growing your success offerings at the same rate you are growing your customer base? If you are competing with dealers that are expanding, is your service level your competitive difference that you can use to your advantage even more? Either way, make sure that your customers are at the center of your decision making in order to create the same win-win outcome.

It is almost impossible to leave Dreamforce unchanged. I personally am recharged and excited to roll my sleeves up at GreatAmerica and get back to innovating and creating efficiencies to positively impact our customers. I believe you will be inspired, overwhelmed, exhausted and thirsty for more as well.


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About The Author

Tawnya Stone is Vice President, Enterprise Strategic Technology, at GreatAmerica Financial Services Corp. and past Chair of CompTIA’s MPS Community. She is responsible for the overall strategic direction, oversight and implementation of customer-facing tools and products across various GreatAmerica business units, working in close collaboration with business unit and functional leadership and external technology.

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