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Salesforce's Product Strategy Day 2016: Key announcements

Salesforce announced a slew of new products and revealed a new pricing structure for its Sales and Service cloud suites for 2016. Here is what Salesforce customers and prospects should know.

Salesforce has set its product strategy table for 2016, outlining a slew of new and upcoming products and revealing a new pricing structure for its Sales and Service cloud suites. There were seemingly dozens of announcements, which are summarized in a lengthy company press release here. In this post, I'll outline what I saw as some of the most important takeaways for Salesforce customers and prospects.

Sales Cloud and Service Cloud Get the 'Lightning' Treatment, New Pricing

Two of Salesforce's most important product lines have been reworked and repriced, receiving additional features for customization and configuration, in exchange for a roughly 20 percent increase in subscription costs. As the release notes:

Salesforce's Professional Edition, Enterprise Edition and Unlimited Edition will be replaced by Salesforce's Lightning Professional Edition, Lightning Enterprise Edition and Lightning Unlimited Edition and will be priced at $75, $150 and $300, respectively.

That compares to $65, $125 and $250 for the current versions. The Lightning Editions will be available in Salesforce's second quarter ended July 31.

Existing customers will get the new features automatically. As for the impact on existing customers' pricing, Salesforce VP Jim Sinai clarified that current customers will only pay whatever their contracts specify for an annual uplift upon renewals. New customers will come in at the new pricing.

"We've built so much technology that we can push some of that technology down to what were traditional entry-level editions," CEO Marc Benioff said by way of explanation for the pricing changes. We needed to make some slight adjustments."

POV: This is a departure of sorts for Salesforce, which has seen various product editions come and go, but which hasn't ever raised prices on the core Professional, Enterprise and Unlimited editions. Customer experience will prove to be the test of whether the additional features are worth the pricing tweaks.

What would be welcome is if Salesforce gave customers the ability to mix and match license types within a single organization; Sinai confirmed that the changes don't introduce such flexibility.

Meanwhile, new features slated for Sales Cloud releases this year include Lightning Voice for call center representatives; capabilities from SteelBrick, the CPQ (configure, price quote) application Salesforce recently acquired; and SalesforceIQ Inbox for smart email and calendaring;

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The Salesforce1 Mobile app is also getting a major upgrade, with offline capabilities on iOS and Android, improved analytics and a feature called Lightning for Microsoft Continuum, which turns the mobile app into a desktop one on Windows 10.

The Numbers Get Higher

Salesforce has long enjoyed using data points about its cloud's scale to highlight growth, and figures released at this week's event do impress. There are now 5.5 million applications built with its cloud, and the number of system transactions totaled more than 259 billion during the third quarter of Salesforce's fiscal 2016. That compares to 50 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal 2013.

The Summer '16 Sales Cloud release marks another milestone: It will be Salesforce's 50th.

Salesforce Makes Its Play In Field Service

While Salesforce's growth has been buttressed by the large ecosystem that ties into or builds on its platform, sometimes--as with Steelbrick--the company decides to get into a product area where ISV partners already play.

The latest such move is Field Service Lightning, which will arrive as part of this year's Service Cloud updates: Organizations can connect their entire service workforce with tools for agents, dispatchers and mobile employees, giving customers a seamless service experience. Dispatchers can leverage smart scheduling to provide automatic, real-time assignments based on employee skills, availability and location. Service employees in the field are able to create and update work orders, and can also change requests and job status from any device, making them more productive than ever.

POV: While set for release under the Service Cloud family, Field Service Lightning will be priced separately. Details weren't made available. It will compete with the likes of ServiceMax, which is built on Salesforce's platform.

While ServiceMax and others have a head start, the upcoming release will give Salesforce customers another choice for managing field service. It's an industry facing deep pressure to change its culture and practices in an era of customer experience and engagement, proliferate mobile devices and pervasive connectivity--all themes Salesforce has hammered home for years in its overall product strategy.

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