Stuart Lauchlan examines how Obama's election campaign team leveraged Salesforce.com's technology to help win a second term.
The role of Cloud Computing in the re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States was highlighted last month when the candidate’s election campaign team’s use of Amazon Web Services was highlighted.
But this week it emerged that the commitment to the Cloud ran deeper with the re-election team tapping into Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, Chatter and Salesforce Platform to run its constituent correspondence, contact centere battleground state budget management and surrogate event management operations.
The use of Salesforce.com technology is hardly surprising. After the 2008 election, the incoming Obama administration used a Salesforce.com offering to gather opinions on what the priorities should be for the first 100 days in office.
Salesforce.com also recruited Obama’s original federal government CIO Vivek Kundra – the main proponent of the Cloud First policy in the US public sector – to become its executive vice president of emerging markets.
Most recently, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff was a key member of the Obama re-election fundraising efforts, hosting the President at his home in San Francisco, while Obama later toured the Salesforce.com headquarters (co-incidentally upstaging Oracle CEO Larry Ellison who was launching his rival Cloud strategy in New York at the same time!).
The Obama campaign needed to manage and respond to 5.7 million voter inquiries and 1.5 million voter contact records over a span of 13 months, including an enormous Election Day spike of 80,000 inquiries in a single day.
“Key to the campaign’s success was a technology platform that allowed us to engage with constituents and make data-driven decisions in real time,” said Michael Slaby, chief information and innovation officer, Obama for America. “In addition, Salesforce massively scaled to meet our real-time engagement and decision-making needs.”
Specifically, the campaign team used Salesforce.com to address:
Constituent Correspondence: The campaign deployed the Service Cloud to manage millions of incoming pieces of correspondence via email and the Web that were then classified, tagged and organized according to the interests, needs, or requests of the correspondents, who contacted the campaign about polling locations, the President’s policy positions, donations, and hundreds of other topics.
Hundreds of volunteers were given access to the app via the Salesforce Platform’s field-level security, where they reviewed each inquiry and tagged those requiring resolution.
Stories about how the President’s policies had personally affected constituents were submitted into Salesforce. Automated workflow allowed staff to nominate promising stories for further promotion.
Contact Centre: The Obama campaign selected the Service Cloud to power its contact centre because it needed to move with tremendous speed, getting hundreds of volunteers instantly ramped up as the campaign’s primary contact centre agents.
Volunteers from around the country logged into the Service Cloud and, using VoIP technology, became instant contact centre agents able to respond to millions of voters from across the country.
Deploying the Service Cloud’s visual workflow and call scripting features, the Obama campaign enabled its volunteers to resolve inquiries quickly.
State Campaigns Budget Management: Distributing scarce resources among the 50 states is critical in any campaign. A custom app built on the Salesforce Platform tracked “committed” and “actual” budget data from the states in real time, allowing state directors to maximise resources coming from the campaign and powering dashboards at campaign headquarters that allowed the finance team to make more strategic spending decisions.
Collaboration tool Chatter was used to help the Obama campaign collaborate around information in the budgeting app and make vital decisions more quickly.
Surrogate Engagement and Event Management: More than 4,000 individuals requested to speak on behalf of the President’s campaign during the 2012 election and the list included everyone from grassroots Democratic Party activists to some of America’s most well-known celebrities from business, entertainment and politics.
To manage this task, the Obama campaign developed another custom app on the Salesforce Platform. Using custom objects, the campaign designed an app that managed the vetting process for thousands of potential surrogates and tracked their appearances and created itineraries for more than 7,000 events across the country.
Now as Obama prepares to appoint key officials for his second term, Silicon Valley scuttlebutt is speculating that Benioff may be offered a role with a technology bent. It wouldn't be the first time: Republican President George W. Bush appointed him as the co-chairman of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee between 2003–2005, where he oversaw critical reports on health care information technology, cybersecurity, and computational sciences.