Dan Bognar reveals why Salesforce sees identity as the new oil

Organizations are striving hard with a single-minded purpose - delivering a customer-centric, personalized and consistent experience. And it's this drive that puts identity in the spotlight. Dan Bognar, Executive Vice President, Solution Engineering - APAC & International at Salesforce tells us how the CRM giant views identity and explains its steadfast optimism around blockchain.

dan bognar executive vice president solution engineering asia pacific international at salesforce 1

Data, scratch that, identity is the new oil. Identity has transcended its primary purpose of merely being used for authentication - it's now being leveraged to deliver a hyper-personalized, customer-centric experience. 

In an exclusive interaction with Computerworld, Dan Bognar, Executive Vice President, Solution Engineering - APAC & International at Salesforce reveals how the cloud-based CRM ace harnesses identity to deliver a top-notch user experience. 

Furthermore, Bognar shares the rationale behind Salesforce's 'blockchain for business' solution and what makes blockchain an exceptionally complex science project for most organizations.

Edited excerpts:

Dan, you had opined that identity will be the new battleground for marketers. Could you explain your rationale behind the statement?

Identity is really at the center of what we're talking about here - it's right at the center of this trust equation. 

From an organizational standpoint, part of the challenge is that when we're engaging with customers, some of them are anonymous to the brand. We don't know who they are. Then there are customers who have given us some information to be able to identify them.

Irrespective of these two paradigms, the organization is wanting to deliver a very customer-centric, personalized and consistent experience. 

And so the concept of identity becomes important to understand that even if I don't identify exactly who that individual is, I at least capture the essence of what that person might be interested in to be able to deliver a personalized experience. 

What is Salesforce doing to step up its identity ploy?

We've invested in a Data Management Platform (DMP). This allows the identity to be driven by the mobile device and each time this device accesses a website, we can track the behavior of this device. 

The next time we see this device on another site, we can now personalize the experience based on what we know the device has been doing. We still don't know the identity of the customer, but we know the behavior of the device.

Now at some point, the customer will either authenticate or login to an environment using their social ID. At this point, what we do is merge what we know about the anonymous customer with their login and authentication. 

And that allows us to ensure that as they move from 'anonymous' to 'identified', the experience is consistent and we're continually giving them a highly personalized interaction.

A lot of organizations face a challenge when it comes to balancing out between hyper-personalization and access management. How can organizations maintain the right levels of access management without having to compromise on agility?

That's a really interesting question - from an organizational standpoint, there's the challenge of delivering personalization, but also governing who has access to the data.

The way we think about that at Salesforce is that the rules that determine data access are built as a service on the Salesforce platform. And the way in which those rules are administered is through administrators having point-and-click configuration ability.

This makes it very easy to create, maintain and enhance those permissions - it doesn't require IT or a team of developers to get involved. We want to put the power in the hands of the business user because we want them to be able to determine the rules and respond to changes in customer preferences. 

We, at Salesforce, are of the view that we'll support the entire spectrum - from low-code environments to high-code ones. We believe low-code models can help by significantly reducing the pressure on the IT team in an organization. 

You had expressed that there's a necessity to bridge the "trust gap". What makes it so significant in today's enterprise space?

Trust has always been the No.1 value of Salesforce since its inception 20 years ago. And this is because our customers are trusting us with their most precious asset, which is information on their customer. 

We see our role as being able to secure that data and ensure their customers' privacy. In terms of where we are today in terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the reality is that customers are more connected than ever before - particularly with technologies like mobile and social.

What we're hearing from customers is that they place a significant amount of importance on the experience they deliver in a trusted and secure manner. Organizations failing to do this are negatively impacting their customers. 

A survey we conducted revealed that 92 percent of the respondents believed that the way it treats customer data is of topmost importance.

Dan, tell us about how Salesforce views blockchain. What are some of the common pain points businesses experience in deploying blockchain?

We see blockchain as a potential solution to help organizations share data between related parties in a  highly trusted and secure environment. 

I think blockchain has three main benefits associated with it:

  • One, it's distributed – the data is replicated into each of the network nodes, rather than having one central copy of that data.
  • Secondly, the data is always verified, so all of the data uploaded to the network is validated every time new data is inserted.
  • Thirdly, it's secure – the data is saved in an encrypted format in the blockchain itself.

The challenges that we see right now is that for organizations trying to leverage blockchain, it's a very complex undertaking today. They'd typically have to create a shared deck model, agree to rules and conditions around access to data. They would then have to build an engagement layer on top of the blockchain, build a user interface to enable user interactivity. 

Typically when we are integrating data, while some of it will come through blockchain, other sources of data might be outside of the blockchain. These are the factors that make it a very complex process today. 

And how does Salesforce go about tackling these challenges?

Salesforce has a long history of taking the complexities that exist in the industry and make it simple for enterprises to be able to leverage it. So our approach to blockchain is to create a fast and easy way to leverage blockchain networks. 

The way we do that is by building networks through a point-and-click configuration. So rather than having developers do all of the steps we talked about, you can now have administrators use the same point-and-click configuration tools that exist in our platform.

We provide a series of very robust tools to be able to integrate seamlessly with the blockchain as well as non-blockchain services.

Before we wrap up, could you tell us about the role AI would play in the CRM space?

Artificial Intelligence is at the center of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we've been investing in AI through our Einstein platform which is built natively into the underlying Salesforce platform. 

And this is because we feel AI will augment the CRM experience. For instance, AI can prompt the salesperson on opportunities that they haven't yet spotted. For marketers, AI can help determine the ROI of a particular campaign. 

Now the complexity with artificial intelligence is that historically it has taken significant amounts of data science resource to build AI models. And the approach we're taking at Salesforce is to provide pre-built AI into the CRM application.

Secondly, we're focusing on providing low-code options to enable the development of custom AI algorithms.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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