The Evolution of the Salesforce Platform — From CRM to Customer 360

An easy to read guide.

Dave Norris
7 min readNov 2, 2022
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

My one minute explanation of the Salesforce platform…

Salesforce’s roots were planted in Customer Relationship Management — a way to manage contacts, leads and opportunities. As new industry trends emerged Salesforce was able to provide capabilities to help companies acquire, develop and build loyalty with their customers. Over 22 years Salesforce have built a unique proposition that can address the needs of IT, Sales, Marketing and Service with components that fit together. Like a jigsaw puzzle.

If had 5 minutes I would expand the jigsaw puzzle analogy.

22 years ago Salesforce was founded on Customer Relationship Management. Salesforce created a new category of applications that run in the cloud and created an extensible platform. They then built market leading applications on it, such as Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, B2B Commerce, Field Service, Industry Solutions and Experience Cloud.

The data model, business logic and user interface are extensible and custom apps can be created too. This creates a unique proposition for customers looking to extend and customise their CRM implementations.

The extensible, metadata driven platform is known as the Lightning Platform represented by the blue jigsaw piece.

22 Years ago the initial piece of the Customer 360 vision was born. Image by author.

These SaaS services were the foundation of the company but they didn’t cover all aspects of the customer lifecycle. Social media was beginning to bloom and companies were looking to engage with their customers across these new channels together with more established channels like SMS and Email.

Sophisticated marketing campaigns requires a tech stack tailored to blast campaigns at Cyber Monday scale. The lightning platform wasn’t a good fit for this.

Cue a new piece of the platform. Marketing Cloud.

Marketing Cloud adds the ability to acquire new customers and personalise communications. Image by author.

Marketing campaigns require their own data stores of prospects and customers since this piece of the platform can run stand alone. This piece runs on a technology stack optimised for large transactional volumes of email, SMS and mobile push notifications. With this piece of the platform you now have new capabilities to acquire and nurture prospects and engage with personalised marketing campaigns across a diverse range of channels.

This piece of the platform can share data with applications on the Lightning Platform, like Sales and Service.

But what about the ability to engage with customers through digital storefronts — optimised for B2C traffic? Customers looking to evolve their digital presence needed an easy way to do this.

This is where B2C Commerce helps.

B2C Commerce adds digital storefront capability. Image by author.

B2C Commerce let’s you integrate your back office products and pricing into an online storefront. B2C Commerce Cloud again needs its own architecture since digital storefronts need aggressive managed caching, content delivery networks and a composable architecture that supports mobile and web use cases.

What about visualising data to be able to make informed decisions? As companies were capturing more and more data they needed a way to make sense of it all.

Cue Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau.

Tableau uses your data to solve problems and provide insights. Image by author.

Tableau is a recognised industry leader in analytics. It provides a way to bring together disparate data sources, visualise them, and get data driven insights that make a meaningful impact to businesses. Tableau provides native connectors to 100’s of data sources — from spreadsheets and PDFs to big data, cube and relational databases. Tableau also has a partner ecosystem to make sure Tableau doesn’t dictate your infrastructure or data pipeline strategy so you can leverage your existing investments.

What about being able to leverage your existing investments in modern programming languages and applications? What if you have a ruby on rails, Java or Go app that needs to be part of the Salesforce customer 360?

Cue Heroku.

Heroku — managed, custom apps in modern programming languages. Image by author.

For custom applications in your enterprise — or net new applications — requiring the full elasticity of B2C scale and the use of existing, modern, programming languages like Go, Scala, Ruby, Python, Node.js and more — Salesforce provides the ability to host these applications and their corresponding data services on fully managed infrastructure.

What about the ability to have one simple data platform that is designed to be a foundation for all your data, analytics and predictive use cases?

Hello Genie. Announced at Dreamforce ‘22.

A data platform. Image by author.

Genie is a data platform combining the best of data lakes and data warehouses. It unifies your data (both within the customer 360 and in your enterprise) and eliminates data silos that complicate machine learning and analytics. Canonical data mapping and matching capabilities provide the ability to create a unified customer profile.

It comes with out of the box connectors for common data sources and can ingest data at huge volumes. Genie is the foundation for a new suite of integrated capabilities.

1. A hyperscale data platform — Data storage at massive scale.

2. A Canonical Data Model (aka Cloud Information Model) — mySQL, Amazon S3, Postgres, Sales Cloud (US), Sales Cloud (Aus), Marketing Cloud. Each has a unique database structure with unique columns and data specific to their use. Genie allows distributed sources of data to map into a common model.

3. A Global Identity or Identifier — Each data source will have different data corresponding to the same person. In order for companies to derive value (for the purposes of customer interactions) from this data they need to quickly determine which data corresponds to the same person. Matching and reconciliation rules will be available to help.

4. A (near) real-time experience across the Customer 360 — Best of breed software engineering means that Genie can ingest massive amounts of data in batch or real-time using an ingestion API. The vision is to be able to publish events across the Salesforce customer 360 as they happen enabling for faster follow ups, resolutions and insights.

5. Something that feels like the Lightning Platform to interact with.

  • Data stored in Genie is accessible just like standard and custom objects.
  • Query Genie data using SOQL, Apex or APIs.
  • Configure security controls to control access to data
  • Flow and Apex (part of the Lightning Platform) will be able to initiate a process from platform events published by Genie.
  • Support for packaging using metadata API

6. A data platform to drive additional capabilities for the Customer 360 — Right now Marketing Cloud has used Genie as the foundation to build its Customer Data Platform. But expect new capabilities across Sales, Service, Commerce, Tableau, Slack and MuleSoft.

7. Flexibility — If a customer already uses Snowflake or Databricks then Genie aims to embrace not replace. Reference Snowflake tables from within Genie with a zero copy federated architecture. Already using Amazon SageMaker as your machine learning platform? No problem. Native integration allows you to use your SageMaker machine learning models from Genie.

What about a collaboration space for employees, customers and partners with workflows designed for a distributed workforce?

Salesforce’s most recent acquisition, Slack, is another piece of the Salesforce Customer 360.

Slack — the digital HQ. Image by author.

Slack isn’t just for software teams and internal collaboration. Sales, Service and Marketing teams can now collaborate on internal projects and with customers and partners outside the enterprise to further improve productivity by automating repetitive functions. Check your Apex code coverage, collaborate on an internal marketing campaign or share case details.

Some customers still use their existing integration architectures but as the breadth of use cases increases the pace of ITs ability to unlock back office applications to participate in new business processes typically decreases.

This is where MuleSoft fits in.

Image by author.

MuleSoft is a unified, single solution for iPaaS, full API management and automation.

Moving away from point to point connections between your enterprise applications, refocusing developers away from boilerplate integration that takes up time and creating an enterprise that can reuse APIs and processes is a key philosophy at MuleSoft that is driving customer success.

To do that MuleSoft is a market leader in both iPaaS and API management tools. MuleSoft’s value is in increasing the velocity of integration projects with a lightweight Java application that can be run on premise, in a private cloud, using container based services or using our fully managed infrastructure backed by AWS. Design, deploy, test, manage and monitor your APIs and integrations with a strategic enterprise wide integration capability.

MuleSoft is the only piece of the Salesforce C360 that supports complex automation, routing, orchestrations and transformations to support the largest breadth of enterprise integration patterns.


Salesforce has evolved by building and acquiring capabilities to streamline employee, partner and customer communication.

Slack becomes the collaboration canvas, Sales, Service, Commerce, Heroku become the transactional work horses. Tableau is the data processing and visualisation engine. Genie becomes the foundation to ingest data at scale and publish insights and MuleSoft becomes the foundation to exchange data — both intra-connections within the C360 wheel and inter-connections to enterprise systems.

Where Next?

Read more about the detailed integration capabilities of the jigsaw pieces in the article below.



Dave Norris

Developer Advocate @ Salesforce || Interested in solving unique challenges using different cloud service providers || All opinions are mine.