With Mulesoft in fold, Salesforce gains access to data wherever it lives

When Salesforce bought Mulesoft last spring for the tidy sum of $6.5 billion, it looked like money well spent for the CRM giant. After all, it was providing a bridge between the cloud and the on-prem data center and that was a huge missing link for a company with big ambitions like Salesforce.

When you want to rule the enterprise, you can’t be limited by where data lives and you need to be able to share information across disparate systems. Partly that’s a simple story of enterprise integration, but on another level it’s purely about data. Salesforce introduced its intelligence layer, dubbed Einstein, at Dreamforce in 2016.

With Mulesoft in the fold, it’s got access to data cross systems wherever it lives, in the cloud or on-prem. Data is the is the fuel of artificial intelligence, and Salesforce has been trying desperately to get more data for Einstein since its inception.

It lost out on LinkedIn to Microsoft, which flexed its financial muscles and reeled in the business social network for $26.5 billion a couple of years ago. It’s undoubtedly a rich source of data that the company longed for. Next, it set its sights on Twitter (although Twitter was ultimately never sold, of course). After board and stockholder concerns, the company walked away.

Each of these forays was all about the data, and frustrated, Salesforce went back to the drawing board. While Mulesoft did not supply the direct cache of data that a social network would have, it did provide a neat way for them to get at backend data sources, the very type of data that matters most to its enterprise customers.

Today, they have extended that notion beyond pure data access to a graph. You can probably see where this is going. The idea of a graph, the connections between say a buyer and the things they tend to buy or a person on a social network and people they tend to interact with can be extended even to the network/API level and that is precisely the story that Salesforce is trying to tell this week at the Dreamforce customer conference in San Francisco.

Visualizing connections in a data integration network in Mulesoft. Screenshot: Salesforce/Mulesoft

Maureen Fleming, program vice president for integration and process automation research at IDC says that it is imperative that organizations view data as a strategic asset and act accordingly. “Very few companies are getting all the value from their data as they should be, as it is locked up in various applications and systems that aren’t designed to talk to each other. Companies who are truly digitally capable will be able to connect these disparate data sources, pull critical business-level data from these connections, and make informed business decisions in a way that delivers competitive advantage,” Fleming explained in a statement.

Configuring data connections on Mulesoft Anypoint Platform. Gif: Salesforce/Mulesoft

It’s hard to underestimate the value of this type of data is to Salesforce, which has already put Mulesoft to work internally to help build the new Customer 360 product announced today. It can point to how it’s providing this very type of data integration to which Fleming is referring on its own product set.

Bret Taylor, president and chief product officer at Salesforce, says that for his company all of this is ultimately about enhancing the customer experience. You need to be able to stitch together these different computing environments and data silos to make that happen.

“In the short term, [customer] infrastructure is often fragmented. They often have some legacy applications on premise, they’ll have some cloud applications like Salesforce, but some infrastructure in on Amazon or Google and Azure, and to actually transform the customer experience, they need to bring all this data together. And so it’s a really a unique time for integration technologies, like Mulesoft because it enables you to create a seamless customer experience, no matter where that
data lives, and that means you don’t need to wait for infrastructure to be perfect before you can transform your customer experience.”

Salesforce wants to end customer service frustration with Customer 360

How many times have you called into a company, answered a bunch of preliminary questions about the purpose of your call, then found that those answers didn’t make their way to the CSR who ultimately took your call.

This usually is because System A can’t talk to System B and it’s frustrating for the caller, who is already angry about having to repeat the same information again. Salesforce wants to help bring an end to that problem with their new Customer 360 product announced today at Dreamforce, the company’s customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco.

What’s interesting about Customer 360 from a product development perspective is that Salesforce took the technology from the $6.5 billion Mulesoft acquisition, and didn’t just turn that into a product, it also used the same technology internally to pull the various pieces together into a more unified view of the Salesforce product family. This should in theory allow the customer service representative talking to you on the phone to get the total picture of your interactions with the company, thereby reducing that need to repeat yourself because the information wasn’t passed on.

Screenshot: Salesforce

The idea here is to bring all of the different products — sales, service, community, commerce and marketing — into a single unified view of the customer. And they allow you to do this with actually writing any code, according to the company.

Adding a data source to Customer 360 Gif: Salesforce

This allows anyone who interacts with the customer to see the whole picture, a process that has eluded many companies and upset many customers. The customer record in Salesforce CRM is only part of the story, as is the marketing pitches and the ecommerce records. It all comes together to tell a story about that customer, but if the data is often trapped in silos, nobody can see that. That’s what Customer 360 is supposed to solve.

While Bret Taylor, Salesforce’s president and chief product officer says there were ways to make this happen before in Salesforce, they have never offered a product that does so in such a direct way. He says that the big brands like Apple, Amazon and Google have changed expectations in terms of how we presume to be treated when we connect with a brand. Customer 360 is focused on helping companies achieve that expectation level.

“Now, when people don’t get that experience, where the company that you’re interacting with doesn’t know who you are, it’s gone from a pleasant experience to an expectation, and that’s what we hear time and time again from our customers. And that’s why we’re so focused on integration, that single view of the customer is the ultimate value proposition of these experiences,” Taylor explained.

This product is aimed at the Salesforce admins who have been responsible in the past for configuring and customizing Salesforce products for the unique needs of each department or overall organization. They can configure the Customer 360 to pull data from Salesforce and other products too.

Customer 360 is being piloted in North America right now and should GA some time next year.