Data Cloud for Admins with Muralidhar Krishnaparsad

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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Muralidhar Krishnaprasad, EVP of Engineering, Next Gen Customer 360 Data Services at Salesforce. Join us as we talk about Data Cloud and all of the exciting innovations coming to help admins own all the data in their org.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Muralidhar Krishnaprasad.

What is Data Cloud?

Muralidhar is in charge of Data, AI, and analytics platforms at Salesforce, and we wanted to bring him on the pod to share the awesomeness that is Data Cloud.

Right now, we tend to keep our data in many different pools. Between Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and outside sources, we don’t necessarily have one single source of truth for what’s going on between a customer and your organization. Currently, getting something even close to that requires a bunch of legwork to migrate data back and forth. It’s expensive, complicated, and presents extra layers of security challenges for your business.

Data Cloud looks to make all of this a lot easier. You can bring all your data to the same place, with Salesforce at the center of it all. It’s simply a game-changer for everything from analytics to building applications to decisions and everything in between.

How Data Cloud empowers admins

While all of this sounds amazing, what does this mean for admins? With everything in one place in Salesforce, you’re finally able to manage all your org’s data and not just what’s already on the platform.

However, that means you get up to speed on the Data Cloud concepts:

  1. Bring data in
  2. Transform the data
  3. Harmonize the data
  4. Generate insights on that data

“As an admin, knowing that lifecycle of the data and how you can control and administer it will be the big work to be done,” Muralidhar says. But getting a handle on that will make it easier to protect your data and help your org use it in new ways.

How to get ready for Data Cloud

If this conversation has gotten you excited about Data Cloud, there are a few things you can do to get your org ready. Muralidhar outlines three steps you can take:

  1. Identify the systems you want to integrate with, both inbound and outbound.
  2. Make a plan for how you want to use the data and the security you need to protect it.
  3. Decide which users will need to access what.

Muralidhar recommends starting small and limiting the scope at first, and then expanding as you make things that work for you. He goes over some use cases, including how one bank saw a 35x (!) ROI on their marketing and the insights Mike’s favorite pizza chain, Casey’s, were able to uncover by looking at their data in new ways. 

If you’re as psyched about Data Cloud as we are, there’s already a Trailmix to help you get started and even more resources on the way.

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Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers to help you be an awesome admin. I’m your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we have a very special guest, I’m sure all of you have been hearing about Data Cloud and all of the exciting innovations coming in that space from Salesforce. Guess what? We have the leader at Salesforce, our EVP of Engineering, NextGen Customer 360 data services at Salesforce.

Joining us on the podcast, Muralidhar Krishnaprasad, otherwise known as MK affectionately here at Salesforce. He and his team have been developing these super exciting products, and I wanted to get him on the podcast to talk a little bit more about what these mean, what they are, and how we should start thinking about them as Salesforce admins. So without further ado, let’s get MK on the podcast. MK, welcome to the podcast.

MK: Thank you, Gillian. How are you?

Gillian Bruce: Oh, I’m wonderful. I am very, very happy to have you on the podcast today, and Mike is with us today as well.

Mike: Yes, hello. It’s going to be an awesome podcast. Can’t wait.

Gillian Bruce: We’re going to have a data party on the podcast today.

Mike: It’s always a data party.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, so MK, let’s, before we get into it, can you just introduce yourself to our listeners and a little bit about what you do at Salesforce?

MK: Absolutely. Hi, my full name is Muralidhar Krishnaprasad. I also go by Murali or MK for short. I’m the executive vice President for engineering. My team, we deliver the data cloud that we are going to be talking about. Einstein that you guys might already know, the whole AI platform and then the analytics efforts with regard to Datorama and many others in Tableau and many others as well. So overall, think of it as data AI and analytics platforms being delivered here, and I’ve been here in Salesforce about four plus years. Prior to that, I worked at Microsoft building most of the Azure infrastructure dynamics and many others. And then I started my career before that at Oracle, building databases.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, so you’re a busy person these days because all those products you just mentioned that you’re working on at Salesforce, there’s a lot going on there.

MK: Absolutely. Really, yes. There’s a lot of news you would’ve heard as well as we are also doing a lot of integrations across Salesforce and across the industry as well.

Gillian Bruce: That’s great. Okay, so let’s dig into it. MK, can you explain to us what is Data Cloud?

MK: Yeah, in simple terms. So think of it as an admin. You’re going to have various clouds today, sales cloud, marketing, commerce and so on. Problem that we often run into is businesses want to be able to really know what their customer is doing because a customer is not dealing with sales, cloud service, cloud marketing, they’re dealing with your business. And so that means you really need to know what they have done. Have they ever opened an email you have sent them? Do they have service cases? Did salesperson make a call and try to sell them something or have they been on your website trying to browse something and purchase something? And this is common across all industries. It’s not related to just finance or health. It’s literally like every industry that you can think of goes through this motion.

And so it’s more than important more than ever. It’s important as companies transition into the digital enablement in digital selling, that you need that single source of truth of what the customer has done with your business. Now that’s easier said than done because today if you have to do that, that means you need to create sophisticated EDL pipelines. You need to go create data lakes or warehouses, bring all that data, create new models on top of it, redo all your security on top of it, and then again, figure out a way to take those insights back into these planes of engagement. And that’s not just expensive, complicated, but also as you can see, everything you have done with regard to security, with regard to the data models, et cetera. And Salesforce kind of has to be re-done again, maybe multiple times because it’s not just done once for data, you need to do the same probably for your ML stack.

You need to do that for your eventing stack, you need to do that for everything to create a Lakehouse and so on. So people end up repeating this complicated maneuver four or five times. So what Data Cloud is really trying to do is to make that really easy where you can bring data from all these clouds and other sources right into the Salesforce platform so that as admins, you still have control of all that data and more. While being still open that you can now do all of these operations, whether it’s a Lakehouse, whether you want to do ML with Einstein or other tools, whether you want to do analytics with Tableau or other tools, you want to build new applications, you want to do eventing, you want to do decisioning. It’s all together in this platform. So that’s going to be the power of data cloud.

It has the ability for you to really bring that single source of truth about your business in one place, all managed through Salesforce platform concepts, and be able to enrich all these planes of engagement so your service person knows exactly what that customer has done with your business. Your marketer has all that data that it can do to personalize your engagement. Your salesperson will know exactly what they have done, whether it’s a website or other places, and of course your commerce, you can personalize their purchase experience and buying experience. And now with Tableau and MuleSoft, you can bring all the data together and Tableau, you can really analyze that as well. So that is the power of Data Cloud.

Mike: Wow. Coming back from vacation, I find it funny that we can sit and have a data conversation and talk about lakes and lake houses, and you could totally do a podcast that people would think we’re talking about vacation homes, don’t you?Help my vacation brain boil this down for admins, what should admins know about cloud besides the Lakehouse?

MK: Great point. So I think as an admin, you need to be thrilled that data is not leaving your ambit because before, if you think about it as a Salesforce admin, you are only administering your cloud, but most of the businesses ended up taking all the data outside. And so your security layer was gone right there, and all the business semantics you created is also gone because they’re going to get recreated somewhere else on some other platform.

With Data Cloud, you become that owner of all the data in the enterprise as well as all the Salesforce data in one place. So as an admin, you need to, number one, learn the data cloud concepts. So there are notions of bringing data, transforming data, harmonizing data, and generating insights on that data. And then Data Clouds allows you to be able to plug into various systems, including all the Salesforce, obviously all the Salesforce tools and clouds as well as external systems too. So as an admin, knowing that lifecycle of the data and how you can control and administer it would be sort of the big work to be done.

Gillian Bruce: Okay. So get a little bit of work to do to get our arms around what data Cloud means for admins, but I like how you set it up there about how understanding, hey, it does give you… you’re in control. I mean, all admins are control freaks, so that’s a really good way of putting it. But in some ways, the idea of Data Cloud, MK kind of shifts the idea of what Salesforce can do.

Can you explain a little bit about what is that shift and from someone who’s maybe been an admin for a few years and hey, I understand that I have a fair amount of data all in Salesforce so that my service people and my sales people can all see what’s going on with this specific account. How does Data Cloud really change that and shift that?

MK: Yeah, great point. I think what you’re looking at is certainly today your sales and service is in the same place. If you install in the same org, that is your sales and service can see all that data and you can put the right security, et cetera. But more often than not in any enterprise setting, there’s a lot more data out there. We cannot bring that into Salesforce today because either it’s a scale problem or it could be other issues related to their backend systems.

A simple example, your website clicks. You can bring in tons of information with everybody clicking on their website. You cannot bring that in easily today into your sales or service cloud. And if you look at all the other backend files or SAPs or other enterprise assets that are existing, again, it’s very hard to bring all that data in because today our force.com is built on a transactional platform and transactional platforms have their limits.

They’re awesome for transactional consistency, but they’re not great at large data scale. And so what Data Cloud is really trying to do is to bring the world of big data, big processing to the Salesforce platform. So that is really that foundational shift it’s actually doing. So that means you can now bring in all your data from your web, your mobile. For example, recently one of our big automotive partners went live where they’re now trying to feed us all the IoT signals from all their cars, all the EV cars is now sending signals to our data cloud, and we are able to process that signal, filtered the right signal, and then either create an email to be able to send saying, oh, congrats crossed 10,000 miles on your new EV car, or if that signal had any defects in the car, we are able to go create a service case on. These kind of scenarios are net new.

And similarly, we have a gaming company in Japan, which we all know allow, where they’re bringing over trillions of rows of data into the system because this is all their player stats. This is everything that the players have done with their commerce system and so on. And now they want to generate new insights so they can drive better sales, better commerce. And so those are kind of new scenarios, net new scenarios that Data Cloud is going to go enable. It’s going to make your marketing better, it’s going to make your service so much better because you know more about the person, what they have done. It’s going to open up new avenues in your sales process because you can get their web clicks or other kind of information into the sales cloud. And certainly you can personalize your commerce experience.

Mike: I was kind of excited when you said that because one of my vehicles, I get a monthly email on it’s health, it’s not electric, but I think it’s from Salesforce. So I’m going to go with that because that would be really cool. So it sounds like, it’s not like lightning flip a switch and here we are, but I think there’s some stuff that admins need to do to help their organizations and just organizations in general, prepare. Could you MK could kind of touch on some of that?

MK: Yeah, I think it’s a great point. I think what as an admin you need to do first, like I said, understand what Data Cloud is, but second is really understand what sources you want to bring data from into this data cloud, which org you want to obviously install the data cloud in first and then you may have business unit considerations, geo considerations and so on. And so we are introducing new concepts that you should be aware of. There’s a new concept called Data Space, which allows you to have a data cloud and then still split the data within that via business units. It’s a security concept and also you need to understand what are the layers that Data Cloud needs to go interface with. For example, it could be I have a marketing cloud here, I have a commerce here, I have these two sales cloud or two service Cloud.

So which data to bring in and how do you want the insights to go? And there is a whole setup that you need to do around that. And same with Tableau, but more important than that too is in most enterprises, we don’t live in our own world. People end up having their own warehouses or their own ML systems as an example. And so knowing those connections also would be helpful as well. And Data Cloud makes it easy for you to connect to all these systems and yet as an admin, you retain all the control and capability on which data should be exposed, who should have access to that. So that’s kind of like the big one I would say. So to prepare, know the systems you want to integrate with both for ingest as well as going outbound, know the kinds of data and the security that you want to add on top of it and make sure which users are going to access more.

Gillian Bruce: So I mean what I’m hearing here in terms of preparing is thinking about the flows of data, which data, I mean, would you go into setting up Data Cloud already with knowing the questions you want to answer, like say, Hey, I want to be able to get more people to buy this product by implementing Data Cloud, I’m going to be able to know when to target them. Or I mean, can you give us a little bit more of an example of what use cases might spur someone to want to implement and set up data

MK: Cloud? Yeah, great question. I think what we have seen success come is what you mentioned, Gillian, which is steel threads. If you have a clear steel thread the business wants to make happen and starting there, starting small and then building on it is better than a gigantic project where I’m going to bring in 50 different sources and not know how to use them. So I think what we have seen, great success. Obviously last year, data Cloud started off building our sort of go to business market in the marketing area, and now we are expanding beyond marketing. And so a lot of success we have seen is threads where people say, I have all this data. I want to bring in my marketing data, my sales service or external data. By the way, data Cloud today we have hundreds and hundreds of customers live on it.

We are already seeing over 60% to 70% of the data is non Salesforce data coming into Data Cloud. So which is interesting should be exciting for your admins because now you have more data under management that you now can control. So the steel thread coming back, the steel thread to have to be able to take this data, create an insight, and then activate through a marketing channel, it’s straightforward and it’s very powerful too because your scenarios can be very powerful.

I’ll give a very simple example. This is an open thing that InterBanco, this is a digital banking customer in lata. What they did with Data Cloud was to just instrument all their mobile apps. So they had 60 different applications in their banking sector and before Data Cloud they would create all these new campaigns, just bombard the people, and the rate of click was very low because imagine you get keep getting spam all the time, you’re just going to start ignoring emails from these businesses.

Instead, what they did was a simple thing. They said, okay, I can use Data Cloud, put the SDK in my mobile and web app. Let me just start collecting people’s click trends, which is like, okay, which pages are they clicking for how long? And then they created this very simple insight in Data Cloud that said, okay, if they clicked a lot on let’s say insurance pages or mortgage pages or whatever other things, and they were able to quickly categorize them because what they found was they had a hypothesis that if people buy a new vehicle or planning to buy a new vehicle, chances are you’re going to be roaming around more in the insurance pages. Or if you are interested in new home, you might be looking at the mortgage page, right? Very simple logic. And so they created a simple insight that just, think of it like a group by, to say, if I clicked on insurance, you’re an insurance lover.
So every day then they took that information, just hooked it up to our marketing cloud journeys. They would do a campaign specific to each of those areas. They saw you would not believe it, 35X ROI just doing that.

Gillian Bruce: Wow.

MK: Instead of their scattershot, like send email to everybody thing, they sent much less emails to targeted people, and they saw huge returns on investment. And so they allow this now. And so that’s a great example of one steel thread end-to-end that people have done. And we have seen similar things in various other customers as well.
For example, there’s a small pizza chain in Midwest, US, Casey’s who just took people’s buying habits on a daily basis and they were able to then create these personalized discounts. They found out that people drink Coke tend to buy this pizza and all sorts of interesting correlations from that data. And then they were able to then target them with the right offers and they saw, again, huge sort of increase in their engagement from their customers. So these, I would say start off with a steel thread, one or two steel threads, which are very clear on what data sources you need, what kind of outputs you need to do, and then go implement it and then build on it. I think that’s the best way I would advise.

Mike: I just have to pause for a second because everybody probably knows I live in the Midwest and the fact that Casey’s uses this is now just above and beyond for me. Also, Casey’s pizza is phenomenal. So MK, I don’t know where you’re based, but you need to come visit me in Iowa and we need to have some Casey’s pizza because it’s probably the best pizza you’re ever going to have, and it’s from a gas station. And it’s a topic of conversation in the Midwest when people pass through. But yeah, I’ve also used the Casey’s app and gotten very specific coupon things that I was like interesting. I have no idea how they would guess this, but if they’re looking at my purchase history and every time I buy their breakfast pizza or so, holy cow, you just changed my life knowing that Casey’s uses this.

MK: Yeah, and that’s coming from Data Cloud, all the processing, all the things you buy, everything is going through Data Cloud.

Mike: That’s so cool. That’s so cool. I mean, I’m a huge Casey’s fan anyway.

MK: That’s awesome. Yes. See if I’m coming to the Midwest-

Mike: Gillian also knows that just about every podcast food gets mentioned on it. I wasn’t even the first one to mention it, Gillian.

Gillian Bruce: I know. Well, I could hear your wheels turning as soon as MK talked about Casey’s Pizza. I feel like you’ve even talked about it on the podcast before.

Mike: You have no idea how good their pizza is.

MK: And there is a press release also that we did late last year that you can reference to your customers to go look at it.

Gillian Bruce: We’ll put it in the show notes.

Mike: Speaking of things to put in the show notes, MK, could you provide some admins with tips or resources on where they can get started learning about Data Cloud perhaps maybe while they eat Casey’s Pizza?

MK: Yes. I think if you go to salesforce.com data cloud, we have a lot of materials there. We are also preparing New Trailheads as well. There’s already a Trailhead that you can take and there are more coming along the way. And of course we have the standard documentation that can help them as well for them to use Data Cloud. The main thing to realize in Data Cloud is it is a Salesforce cloud that can really change your business. And so learn how to bring data, how to harmonize, and then how to create the insights of it and then push it back into all your systems.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, that’s great. MK, I so appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today and demystify Data Cloud for admins, and I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more in this space.

Mike: Seriously, and I’m going to use Data Cloud today when I order pizza or maybe tomorrow.

MK: Right. Whenever you eat Casey’s Pizza, think of-

Mike: Oh my God, I am going to start racking up some data in Data Cloud for guys.

Gillian Bruce: You got to show us what insights you’re getting or is that like too going to expose your habits too much? I don’t know.

Mike: I will willingly give anybody that wants to visit me a demo of the Casey’s app in my backyard if we can order pizza.

Gillian Bruce: I love it. MK, thank you so much for joining us and I really appreciate all the work that you’re doing in this really important space. And we didn’t even talk about anything AI or Einstein related, so we’ll have to do that on another podcast. But thank you to you and your team for all the great work that you do, and we look forward to hearing from you again very soon.

MK: Sounds great. Thank you both. This was a great conversation. Again, we you’ll see more of Data Cloud and more of Einstein Automation, Tableau and all of that coming through the next few months and years.

Gillian Bruce: Huge thanks to MK for taking time out of his very, very busy schedule to chat with Mike and I. It was also fun to do a podcast with Mike. It’s been a while since we’ve done one of those. I hope that you got some good ideas and thoughts and questions from some of the things that MK shared with us about Data Cloud. I mean, it is one of the most exciting areas right now in Salesforce ecosystem of innovation, and it really opens up some exciting possibilities of what we can do as admins with our declarative capabilities to really bring in the power of data and have those truly connected customer experiences.

So I hope that your wheels are turning and I look forward to hearing your questions or your feedback, and I bet later this year we’ll get MK back on the podcast to talk a little bit more about how Data Cloud has continued to innovate and then maybe get him back on to talk a little about some of the AI stuff that he and his team are working on. Because you know everyone’s talking about AI these days.

Well, if you want to learn more, I highly encourage you to tune in or visit in person, TrailblazerDX, which is happening next week, March 7th and 8th in San Francisco. You can absolutely still register. There are spots available. If you can’t join us in person, not to worry, you should definitely tune in on Salesforce plus. We’ll have a live broadcast both days. You may see me on the broadcast a few times. We’re going to have some really exciting interviews with people who are there on site, and we’re also going to have some really in depth fantastic product coverage. So we’re going to have a whole keynote dedicated to Data Cloud. We’re going to have some really special announcements in our product space, so I definitely recommend that you tune in. A lot of that content will also be available on demand post to the event.

And as always, if you want to learn more about how you can be an awesome admin, make sure you check out my favorite website, admin.salesforce.com. There you can find great content in all forms from blogs, podcasts and videos, all the things that you could want, including career resources, product pages, check it out. We put a lot of thought and effort into that, and it’s all for you to help enable you be an awesome admin.

Thank you so much for listening to us today. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow #awesomeadmin or you can find us @SalesforceAdmns. You can find myself @GillianKBruce, my co-host Mike @MikeGerholdt. And if you want to connect with our guest today, MK, you can find him on the Trailblazer community or on LinkedIn. We’ll have those links right there in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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