Dreamforce 2017: What to expect

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It's that time of year again. It feels like just a few weeks ago it was time for Salesforce's annual conference, Dreamforce 2016, but it would seem time is moving at lightning speed and we're here in San Francisco once again for the 2017 iteration of the big event.

While it's always hard to predict exactly what announcements are going to be made at any big tech vendor event, one thing we know for sure is that inclusivity and diversity, as well as giving back, will be a big focus at Dreamforce.

The cloud giant has always placed family (or ohana) at the heart of what it does - be that customers, partners or employees.

Of late, it's focused an increasing amount of effort and resource to ensure that its ohana is as inclusive and diverse as possible. To that end, former Microsoft exec, Tony Prophet, was appointed as Salesforce's chief diversity officer just a year ago.

That's not to say Salesforce had ignored the importance of diversity and representation prior to that - far from it. It's absolutely leading the charge in this respect and has been for many years (take note, please, other vendors!).

This year, I went to pick up my badge and register as all delegates do. I received a snazzy backpack, some literature and leaflets alongside my pass. But one extra element stood out. There was a badge designed to help ensure everyone - not just the many - felt completely at ease at the conference.

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Let's be honest though. This is, at it's very core, a tech conference. It may have evolved since its beginnings, but the majority of attendees want to hear about the tech and its business value first and everything else second.

Is there the opportunity to blend philanthropy and technology as well as other key issues? Absolutely. We've seen this in Dreamforce events gone by and I definitely think we'll see this blend in 2017 too.

We can also expect to hear more about innovation and how Salesforce is building core vertical features onto its platform. Given the previous emphasis on AI, it would be remiss not to make some kind of shout out to Einstein at this event either. Just how big an announcement that could be, however, remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure: This event is a big deal. There's the usual city road shutdown. The usual bar/restaurant/travel chaos that never makes you doubt Dreamforce is in town. There's the sea of branded rucksacks and blue badges.

But above all that is the company's ethos. CEO Marc Benioff is San Francisco's golden child for a reason. He cares and he wants to give back. This year, as years gone by, there's a focus on encouraging attendees to give back, much like Salesforce employees do and the company does with its 1:1:1 model. The aim this year is to donate to help the wine country relief efforts as well as the UCSF children's hospital.

With more than 2,500 break-out sessions and keynotes from Benioff himself and the likes of Ashton Kutcher, former first lady Michelle Obama, will.i.am and more, the week ahead should prove to be very interesting indeed.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.