The Burning Man of Enterprise Software. The SXSW for Cloud Computing. The COMDEX for the 21st Century.

Whatever you call Dreamforce, just don’t call it hype. Each year 170,000 Trailbazers descend upon San Francisco to experience — and you don’t really attend Dreamforce more than you experience it — the latest trends, product innovation and customer success in Cloud Computing.

The vast size and scale of this undertaking can’t be absorbed in one year. Coveo has participated in Dreamforce for the past six years, and hardened veterans of this event feel like they’re still trying to grasp the enormity of this global gathering.

As a four-time attendee — twice as a Salesforce employee and twice with Coveo — I noticed something rather comforting this year. Instead of rolling out new products in grandiose fashion or launching a completely new category of cloud computing, Benioff and team doubled down on Einstein and Trailhead — two groundbreaking and revolutionary products that are transforming how Salesforce is perceived and adopted in the market.

This brilliant product strategy marries personal empowerment with Trailhead’s learning paths and puts anyone on a success path to drastically alter their career path to compete in the hyper-competitive world of cloud computing.

And while Salesforce is arming this new generation with powerful skillsets, they’re diving deeper into the high-end of the market with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning that puts it squarely in the crosshairs of IBM’s Watson. And arguably, making AI more impactful and approachable than IBM marketing has ever done.

What’s not to love about this approach? Both Trailhead and Einstein are solving for a future state, what Marc Benioff labeled the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The future of our workforce with Trailhead and the future of computing technology with Einstein.

Aside for the high-level product strategy, there were four big ah-ha moments that stuck with me even a week after the event’s curtain call.

Let the Customers Sell for You

From the early days, Salesforce always excelled at telling a good customer story. The thinking that “our customers can tell a way better story than we ever could” has proven a sound strategy. I’m not sure anyone can take a vanilla concept like enterprise computing and transform it into a powerful video vignettes like Salesforce’s creative team.

I hold to the theory that you “see the future” in keynotes, but you “hear the results” in breakout sessions. And this year, Coveo was fortunate enough to have several customer success stories on stage sharing how their customer support and employee engagement strategies have transformed using Coveo. A few customers stats and insights that were shared onstage during Dreamforce:

  • ABInBev: Demo’d how Coveo is powering their global intranet (called “Click”) to help employees find people, content, systems and processes. They dubbed it their “internal Google.”
  • Salesforce: Global Customer Support team eliminated 16 clicks per case after moving to a unified knowledge base in Service Cloud powered by Coveo
  • American Express: Went from 800 daily searches to more than 23,000 after using Coveo for their Employee Community.
  • XERO: shared their story of delivering world-class support at scale. Find out more in our upcoming webinar on November 21.

The Salesforce Economy is Big. Really big.

Salesforce’s app marketplace, AppExchange, was front and center this year as evidenced by a Day One keynote where SVP Leyla Seka outlined just how enormous and transformative the AppExchange has become. More than 87 percent of Salesforce’s customers use apps from the AppExchange.

With more than 5 million app installs since launch the AppExchange is the force behind the Salesforce Economy that IDC projects will impact more than $859 billion of GDP by 2022. The combination of trained Trailblazers with a massive marketplace of apps create a self-sustaining cloud ecosystem that shows no signs of slowing down.

Shameless plug: Did you know Coveo has a Free Edition you can download from the AppExchange? Check it out here. If you’re reading this before November 30, don’t forget to sign up for a $5,000 Airbnb gift card drawing and receive a free Coveo hoodie.

Lightning Lightning Everywhere

Last year, I felt (right or wrong) that Lightning — Salesforce’s new, modern user experience — was positioned as an optional, take it or leave it, approach to experiencing Salesforce. This year, there was no doubt: The future of Salesforce is Lightning. Hard stop. Every demo station, stage presentation, screenshot and video was presented in the Salesforce Lightning Experience. Dozens — if not hundreds — of sessions were dedicated to practical, step-by-step ways to enable Lightning in your Salesforce instance.

This year, Salesforce held the First Annual “Lightning Bolt Trailblazer Awards” hosted by the Community Cloud team. The awards recognized customer and partner innovation. Coveo was honored to receive the “Lightning Innovation by an ISV” award (aka…the Bolty). Two Coveo customers also took home awards: American Express (Lightning Trailblazer of the Year for Employee Engagement) and Logitech (Lighting Trailblazer of the Year for Customer Service).

How about you? Did anything stand out or hit you right between the eyes? Comment or connect with me on Twitter. Hope to bump into you next September (only 10 months from now!). I’ll be the one wearing a lanyard, backpack and vest jacket. Can’t miss me.

And don’t forget to register for the $5,000 Airbnb drawing plus your free hoodie.