Anne DelSanto, General Manager of the Lightning Platform for Salesforce, on digital transformation and how she engages with technology.

 

Anne DelSanto, General Manager of the Lightning Platform for Salesforce, is part of a new generation of leaders at the company. We caught up with her to discuss what she’s learned after more than two decades in the industry, her personal relationship with technology and, finally, her vision for the future of the Salesforce Platform.

You lead a business built on guiding customers to digital transformation. I’m curious about how your own business and teams engage with technology, and the digital transformations they’ve undergone.

At Salesforce we are in constant dialogue with each other, our customers and partners, through email, chat, and other communications tools. You could say over-communication is in our DNA. Quip with Live Apps has become an essential tool for collaboration across the company. And, of course, we drink our own champagne at Salesforce, using our products to streamline our processes and increase our productivity. It's an important way that we drive competitive advantages.

For example, members of my team have used Lightning low-code tools to build apps that streamline work order processes. It’s a small shift in thinking that will pay huge dividends down the road - these are career business analysts and marketers who now feel empowered to “code” apps and own their productivity in ways they never thought possible.

A big part of your job is listening to our customers. What’s one issue all of them are watching?

A lot of CIOs have one thing on their mind: speed. Companies are asking themselves how they can more easily and quickly build world-class experiences across every touchpoint that deepen customer relationships and amplify what makes their brand unique.

Most of these companies already have an intuition of what they need to do. So what they really need is a way to help them accelerate and unleash those ideas.

CIO Magazine published an interview with Shell Downstream CIO Craig Walker, who recalled when his business could only “dream of things” that he couldn’t deliver. And now, building on Lightning, he has the technology to deliver in a way that’s limited only by “the scope of your dreams.” That’s what we’re talking about.

Exactly. Companies like Shell that choose to work with us understand that they need speed and flexibility to keep up with the velocity of technology change reverberating across every industry. Over nearly two decades, the Salesforce platform has evolved to address the needs of our customers, giving them more tools to engage at scale with their customers and new capabilities like Einstein AI and Salesforce IoT. Whether it’s bringing a Lego-like approach to building software through low-code or taking to the enterprise through Heroku an experience full-stack developers love, we’ve always seen success as empowering customers to deliver the exact solution they need to their customers quickly and efficiently. 

How is technology disrupting industries Salesforce works with?

It’s probably easier to name the one or two industries technology hasn’t disrupted.

The “Uberization” of insert-industry-here has become a meme.

Sure. And it’s easy to name dozens of apps that have “disrupted” our personal and professional lives. The ways we order pizza and file expense reports look nothing like they did even five years ago.

But there are also sea changes that are less obvious, and Salesforce is deeply involved in those. Take manufacturing for example. Here, you see an industry that understands what made them successful in the past is not going to carry them into the future. Technologies like the Internet of Things, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence are transforming everything from the factory floor and distribution networks to field service and spare parts manufacturing.

What’s going to happen to more “traditional” businesses over the next few years?

You have to start with the customer. Ask yourself how you can give your customers an experience beyond what they expect. And I get that can be an overwhelming thing. You have to resist the temptation to boil a digital ocean.

One example is how Jacuzzi is using Salesforce IoT to capture sensor data and deliver proactive maintenance alerts. It’s not a change that will revolutionize Jacuzzi as a company, but in that small transformation, the company is taking a step forward and engaging with customers in new and helpful ways. How else could you stay on top of tub repairs? And now, you’re further along in your journey with that customer than you would’ve been otherwise.

You’re tasked with guiding the evolution of Salesforce’s Lightning Platform. What are some areas of focus for you?

I love Lightning for all the creativity it’s unleashed. For example, business users are using Lightning Builder to build custom pages for mobile apps with point-and-click tools. And we’ve made it easy to build AI-powered apps with services like Einstein Vision, a set of powerful new APIs that allow developers of all skill levels to bring image recognition to CRM.

I have more than three decades of experience in this industry, and I can tell you there will always be more to do when it comes to app development and creating a space where citizen developers, IT and “pro” coders can all play their positions on the field. All are welcome as Trailblazers on the Lightning Platform.

I’m going to spend a lot of my time focusing on new ways to reach the entire Trailblazer community and bring them together on our platform in ways that will also advance our customers along their own journeys of digital transformation.

We’ve talked a lot about digital tools and ways to work. What are some of your favorite “low-tech” things that you’ll never give up?

While digital tools have come to define my work life, I find the “low-tech” and physical items I once used in the office have come to define my leisure time. For example, I’ll always make time for the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal (with a cup of coffee) or a book in my hand at the beach.

There’s a romance to the inconvenience of physical things that will always have a place in my life.

 

Gartner, the world's leading research and advisory company, recently named Salesforce a leader in its Magic Quadrant for Enterprise High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service. For a copy of the report - and how the Lightning Platform empowers business users, full-stack developers and IT collaborate and build apps fast - see here.


To hear more from Anne, follow her on Twitter.