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TrailblazerDX 23 Reporter's Notebook

Salesforce TrailblazerDX 23 Reporter’s Notebook

TrailblazerDX 23 ran from March 7 to 8 at the Moscone West convention center in downtown San Francisco. I was there as a guest of Salesforce with press credentials. And I participated in a Salesforce press conference the day before from Salesforce Tower in on Zoom. The Salesforce PR crew also made customers and executives available for interview, and I got a chance to dive into MuleSoft for a bit. Here is my report on the press conference, the show, and the interviews.

Einstein GPT Makes a Splash

The introduction of Einstein GPT made a strong impact on attendees right away. There was an audible “wow” reaction from the keynote audience when Einstein GPT’s code generation capabilities were unveiled. Customers also seemed impressed with seeing text generation in the Sales and Marketing clouds. The promise was that generative AI will revitalize the Salesforce clouds, which definitely left some customers salivating.

The keynote included an on-camera statement of support by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and vendor of ChatGPT. OpenAI and Slack also announced a new service separate from Einstein GPT. I covered all the Einstein GPT news is this post from last week.

To me, the generative AI capabilities Salesforce demonstrated at Trailblazer DX seem attainable. If we look at what OpenAI ChatGPT and their API does now, then what Salesforce promised is something similar. Plus, Einstein GPT seems more useful to me because it leans into Salesforce’s strength as an enterprise data steward.

Also, with Sam Altman on video in support of a Microsoft competitor, Salesforce has slightly neutralized the halo effect Microsoft gets from its investment in OpenAI. After this move OpenAI is more positioned as a free market vendor in the new AI arms race.

The OpenAI deal was a masterful marketing move by Salesforce. This is because the day before Einstein GPT launched, Microsoft announced Dynamics 365 Copilot. And the Einstein GPT news seems to have buried the Microsoft news, at least for Salesforce customers.

Believe It When We See It

But the reaction on Reddit to Einstein GPT was “I’ll believe it when I see it.” And I interviewed attendees with the same skepticism. People wonder if Salesforce can pull off a major platform upgrade. After all, we just exited a multi-year vaporware period for Salesforce DevOps Center.

I had a chance to talk about those concerns with Clara Shih, EVP and GM of Sales Cloud for Salesforce, at press gathering held at the show. She assured me that we would be getting beta programs going in 2023, and that we should expect a phased rollout. That rollout should start with the developer tools followed up with a Sales Cloud integration, and integrations with other clouds later.

“Pilot programs are available now for Einstein GPT for Developers, and we expect to get rolling with more pilots soon,” said Ms. Shih to me in an interview.

Sara Franklin, Chief Marketing Officer for Salesforce, also gave me a firm “yes” when I asked her in an interview if we could count on beta programs for Einstein GPT becoming available by the end of the year.

After the show, Richard Clark from Provar forwarded me the link to the pilot program signup form for Einstein GPT for Developers. That’s nice to see, and I can’t wait to compare Einstein GPT for Developers to GitHub Copilot.

Provar Shows OpenAI Integration

Speaking of Richard Clark, Provar showed off a preview of an OpenAI integration with its Provar Manager product. The idea is that Provar Manager, will generate test cases based on Jira user stories using an OpenAI API integration. Salesforce also demostrated the ability of Einstein GPT for Developers to generate Apex unit tests. It seems like testing, with all the manual labor still involved, has the greatest opportunity to exploit the new generative AI tools.

Mini Dreamforce for Admins, Developers, and Architects

TrailblazerDX is a familiar sight to anyone who has been to a Salesforce event. The mascot iconography and the campsite themes are familiar and comforting. The thing that’s different with TDX compared to Dreamforce is there are much fewer salespeople, especially from the vendors. So, TrailblazerDX remains an efficient way for new developers, admins, and architects to be introduced to the Salesforce ecosystem.

“I thought the event was great and better than Dreamforce because of its smaller scale; it means it’s easier to meet familiar faces and make new connections,” said Pablo Gonzalez, a Salesforce architect for devops vendor Salto, and an independent blogger at in an email exchange.

Salesforce ecosystem executives were impressed as well. “A big interest in learning more about DevOps and best practices was evident at TDX23. Every session that I attended that centered on DevOps was well attended. There was a notably large presence at ‘The Future of 2GP’ session on Wednesday morning, so I’m curious to see where the product team goes with it, how they commit to the roadmap they outlined, and see the success that customers have with it,” said Jack McCurdy, DevOps Advocate of Gearset.

High Enthusiasm and Less Loneliness

Enthusiasm seemed high among all the attendees I met. Even the normally cynical press corps found the conference informative and accessible. Although I did find some commentary on Twitter where attendees felt empathetic to the laid off Salesforce employees. Those attendees saw an ostentatious display of wealth and power as incongruous with the layoffs, making some of them feeling reflective and sad.

But most attendees were from out of town, and they were excited to be in San Francisco. Everywhere I saw the mascot crew, people crowded for photos. I talked to attendees and found the usual spectrum of newcomers in awe of it all, to the cynics like me who see every flaw. And San Francisco looked pretty good with two days of blue skies and sunshine after weeks of rain.

This year Salesforce marketing seems to have addressed the “loneliness factor” that came out from the last Dreamforce. “Making sure that first-timers weren’t lonely was something we were concerned about,” said Sarah Franklin to a gathering of reporters at the show. “This time we had a buddy program, and reached out specifically to first timers,” added Ms. Franklin who was the show’s opening keynote speaker.

TrailblazerDX is also friendly to attendees because it is contained in one building. This lets people pick a schedule ahead of time, and then have a decent chance to make those sessions. This is better than Dreamforce where the sessions are spread out across the event campus, which sometimes makes it impossible to move between sessions on time.

DevOps Center News

Salesforce DevOps Center interest was high among the attendees I interviewed. This was especially true for newer Trailblazers, admins, and Flow users. I talked to a few attendees who were happy with the product. I am still researching what the market really thinks about DevOps Center, so please let me know if you have an opinion.

Karen Fidelak made her presence known as the DevOps Center product manager. She shared the keynote stage at the Platform keynote and went over the future of DevOps Center.

At the Platform keynote Ms. Fidelak presented several DevOps Center roadmap items. These include:

  • CLI Plugin – Spring 23
  • Bitbucket Integration – GA Summer 23
  • Non-Happy Paths – GA Summer 23
  • Data Model and UI Customization – Spring 24
  • Jira Integration – GA Spring 24

DevOps Center also came up in the customer feedback session, True to The Core.  The subject of metadata management arose, and Ms. Fidelak stood to plead with her fellow Salesforce product managers to create products that work with the existing metadata system!

Salesforce Devops at TDX23

Devops dominated the Salesforce ecosystem software vendors at TrailblazerDX 23. I covered the vendors in attendance at TDX23 in an earlier post. Market-leader Gearset had a presence off the show floor, and they generated social media buzz around mixers and training sessions. And ACCELQ went guerrilla with a popcorn stand across the street from the convention center.

“It was fantastic to see the DevOps Launchpad certification lounge in Salesforce tower well attended, too. Folks were going, and I predict will continue to go, out of their way to absorb everything they can around the topic. The importance of DevOps to Salesforce teams is clearly highlighted by that commitment and that willingness to learn,” said Gearset’s Jack McCurdy about their presence at the show.

“I was surprised by the number of devops vendors with booths; these, combined with the new DevOps Center, are making the ecosystem feel a little crowded! It only means we really need to focus on innovation beyond moving metadata from one org to another,” said Pablo Gonsalez about types of vendors at TrailblazerDX 23.

Metadata Intelligence Makes The News

One devops vendor,, got a shoutout in the True to The Core session mentioned earlier.  After Ms. Fidelak put down the mic, Parker Harris, CTO of Salesforce, quipped “Yeah, I would love to see ability just to see like an export of all metadata in one structured JSON format of like, here’s the definition of your configuration of everything. And apparently that’s really hard.” He followed that up with a reference to by saying how they are “hiding the complexity we put on them.” was thrilled with the shoutout for metadata intelligence. “At TDX in True to The Core, Salesforce recognized the power of the platform depends on governed metadata management and that it is tough to do. We are delighted that Parker Harris called out for the great work they are doing to hide this complexity,” said CEO Ian Gotts in an email exchange.

Trailhead Coach Announced

Salesforce also announced a new program called Trailhead Coach at TrailblazerDX 23. “As the digital-first world continues to evolve, the need for reskilling has never been more important. We’re proud to be leading the charge in closing the skills gap and empowering the next generation of Salesforce talent to deliver success at their companies,” said Ann Weeby, SVP of Trailhead at Salesforce in a prepared statement.

Trailhead Coach is available to Trailhead users who participate in one of two selected skills training programs. Participants can choose from Salesforce’s Workforce Partner Program or their Talent Alliance Career Cohorts, a career development program for job seekers from underrepresented communities.

The program aims to give participants enhanced opportunities with these features:

  • Guided learning pathways: With self-paced learning on Trailhead, participants can develop the skills directly aligned to their Salesforce career goals.
  • Free certification exam vouchers: Participants can unlock vouchers for more than 18 globally recognized Salesforce certifications to showcase skills and prove expertise to employers.
  • Automatic access to interviews with employers: Once certified, participants automatically access informational and mock interview opportunities with Salesforce Talent Alliance employers, which is a network of Salesforce customers and partners looking for tech talent.

Salesforce executives and Trailblazer community members were available to the press to promote Trailhead and the community. One person who made a splash there was Sima Samara. She is one of the latest Trailblazer success stories, and I managed to capture her presentation here:

Composability and Digital Transformation Still Huge

Salesforce had several customers and company senior executives available to the press for interview. I was matched up with Greg Beltzer, head of technology for RBC Wealth Management, and Liam Doyle, SVP and GM of MuleSoft Automation at Salesforce for individual interviews. I managed to transcribe both interviews, and I’ll be posting a full writeup with analysis soon. But in summary, two important devops-related themes came up: composability and implementing big digital transformations.

IT Composability

Composability in an IT architecture means that you have independent building blocks which construct new applications. It’s the ultimate vision of a Lego building blocks in IT, but these Legos have contracts and well-published ways of supporting their use. In the case of MuleSoft, they are still busy refining composability with REST APIs.

It was fun to interview Mr. Beltzer from RBC, because I had already been impressed with the story of RBC Wealth Management. Mr. Beltzer’s story was highlighted by Salesforce marketing last year in a video. The RBC project is an impressive system integration job that links 26 separate systems into a Salesforce Customer 360 implementation. As we talked, I was constantly reminded how much RBC relied on the composability features of MuleSoft.

Digital Transformations Persist

I’ll dive more into what MuleSoft is doing with Anypoint Composer in another post. But when I talked to Mr. Doyle, we veered off into his sense about the digital transformation market in 2023. He pointed out that one of the upside surprises in last year’s results was a MuleSoft surge, which is an indirect indication of how much Salesforce customers are integrating systems.

Most large enterprises seem resigned to pushing digital transformation forward. This is because the pandemic pointed out customer service weaknesses. To service the online customer better, the pandemic fired off many digital transformation projects which have not yet finished. So, it appears that we are still facing a growing marketing for products and services which can deliver on projects like RBC’s for large enterprises.

Conclusion – Salesforce Devops Wins TDX23

While generative AI and Einstein GPT grabbed the headlines, Salesforce devops was the real winner at TrailblazerDX 23. Devops dominated the conversations with vendors, and enterprise application delivery had plenty of sessions. On a separate note, Salesforce Customer 360 and thinking about Data Cloud, aka Salesforce Genie, also had much interest.

Why is devops popular? It is because people need devops to deliver and maintain anything but the simplest Salesforce implementation. Using devops for Salesforce release management is now a minimum requirement for Salesforce project delivery, with release management being just the beginning. And the highest performing teams use devops metrics to prove to management that their work matters to stakeholders.

In the end, Salesforce presented a coherent strategy for building, delivering, organizing, and optimizing critical enterprise applications at TrailblazerDX 23. They also backed up their long-standing efforts to promote skills-based hiring. Here you will find not only Salesforce product managers but most of the software vendors you’ll need to architect complete solutions. So, if you are an architect or developer who needs an efficient introduction to how to deliver apps in the Salesforce ecosystem, then attending TrailblazerDX is the way to go.