Aug
17
2021
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Salesforce announces first integrations with Slack after closing $28B sale

When Salesforce acquired Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, you had to figure they had some big plans for the company. Today the CRM giant announced some initial integrations that should prove useful for Salesforce customers.

Rob Seaman, SVP for Slack at Salesforce sees Slack as the communications platform for Salesforce moving forward. “We really want Slack to be the primary engagement surface for our users, their communications, their work, their workflows and the processes and the apps they support,” he said.

“What we’re announcing are these new capabilities to support that Slack vision for sales, service, marketing and analytics. And for each of those areas what we’re doing is a combination of articulating, both in best practices and codifying, how you can and should model your sales, service and marketing organizations in this new world,” he said.

The hope is that by taking advantage of Slack’s ability to integrate external enterprise apps inside the application, working together they can find ways to speed up and automate various Salesforce tasks, making it faster and easier to use without switching context to make it happen.

For starters, the Sales Cloud gets dedicated deal rooms, where all of the parties involved in a complex sale, whether internal departments like finance and product people or external partners, can come together in Slack throughout the sales cycle and stay on top of the ebb and flow of all the sales activity.

“I think the deal room is an expression of an opportunity from Salesforce into Slack in a way that makes it very simple to connect with everybody to effectively get a deal done, including customers and partners,” Seaman explained. “That’s where Slack Connect is extremely powerful [to connect with external partners]. We think we should be able to dramatically reduce sales cycle lengths as a result of this…” he said. Slack Connect is the service introduced last year that enables Slack users to connect with people outside of a company.

In addition, through integrations, members of the sales team involved in a more complex deal can get daily updates, which are automatically pulled together in Slack and include personalized daily task lists, meetings and priority deals.

Service teams can meet together in a room Salesforce is calling a swarm, a place for the team to help one another with specific questions or problems they may be having. In a company with a large product catalogue, this could be particularly helpful to get an answer quickly. While Einstein recommendations helps with related content, a swarm can come in handy when there is a more specific question involved and a human with that knowledge may be just the ticket. Service team members will also be able to search for experts to invite to the swarm, who may be able to help answer the question or solve the problem more quickly.

Not to be left out, marketing gets intelligent insights delivered with the help of Datorama, the company Salesforce bought in 2018. Marketers also get regular updates inside of Slack when a change is made to a marketing campaign.

Finally, there are integrations with Tableau, the company that Salesforce bought in 2019 for $15.7 billion — Salesforce is a highly acquisitive company. In a similar way that marketers get updates to campaigns, other users can get Slack updates whenever data they consider important gets updated in Tableau, and they also can get daily digests of key metrics that matter to them right in Slack.

Seaman promised that these announcements were just the start, and we will be hearing about more integrations with Slack at the Dreamforce customer conference next month — and in the coming months. “This is just the beginning, and so you’ll continue to see expansion of the integrations between Salesforce and Slack for the four areas that we’re announcing today around sales, service, marketing and analytics, but also every single cloud and industry solution in [the] Salesforce [family of products] is working on this,” he said.

Jun
30
2021
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Slack’s new voice, video tools should fit nicely on Salesforce platform after deal closes

It’s easy to forget, but Salesforce bought Slack at the end of last year for almost $28 billion, a deal that has yet to close. We don’t know exactly when that will happen, but Slack continues to develop its product roadmap adding new functionality, even while waiting to become part of Salesforce eventually.

Just this morning, the company made official some new tools it had been talking about for some time including a new voice tool called Slack Huddles, which is available starting today, along with video messaging and a directory service called Slack Atlas.

These tools enhance the functionality of the platform in ways that should prove useful as it becomes part of Salesforce whenever that happens. It’s not hard to envision how integrating Huddles or the video tools (or even Slack Atlas for both internal and external company organizational views) could work when integrated into the Salesforce platform.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says the companies aren’t working together yet because of regulatory limits on communications, but he could definitely see how these tools could work in tandem with Salesforce Service Cloud and Sales Cloud among others and how you can start to merge the data in Salesforce with Slack’s communications capabilities.

“[There’s] this excitement around workflows from the big system of record [in Salesforce] into the communication [in Slack] and having the data show up where the conversations are happening. And I think there’s a lot of potential here for leveraging these indirectly in customer interactions, whether that’s sales, marketing, support or whatever,” he said.

He said that he could also see Salesforce taking advantage of Slack Connect, a capability introduced last year that enables companies to communicate with people outside the company. “We have all this stuff working inside of Slack Connect, and you get all the same benefits that you would get using Huddles to properly start a conversation, solve some problem or use video as a better way of communicating with [customers],” he said.

These announcements seem to fall into two main categories: the future of work and in the context of the acquisition. Bret Taylor, Salesforce president and COO certainly seemed to recognize that when discussing the deal with TechCrunch when it was announced back in December. He sees the two companies directly addressing the changing face of work:

“When we say we really want Slack to be this next generation interface for Customer 360, what we mean is we’re pulling together all these systems. How do you rally your teams around these systems in this digital work-anywhere world that we’re in right now where these teams are distributed and collaboration is more important than ever,” Taylor said.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that there is clearly a future of work angle at play as the two companies come together. “I think moves like [today’s Slack announcements] are in response to where things are trending with respect to the future of work as we all find ourselves spending an increasing amount of time in front of webcams and microphones in our home offices meeting and collaborating with others,” he said.

Huddles is an example of how the company is trying to fix that screen fatigue from too many meetings or typing our thoughts. “This kind of “audio-first” capability takes the emphasis off trying to type what we mean in the way we think will get the point across to just being able to say it without the additional effort to make it look right,” he said.

Leary added, “And not only will it allow people to just speak, but also allows us to get a better understanding of the sentiment and emotion that also comes with speaking to people and not having to guess what the intent/emotion is behind the text in a chat.”

As Karissa Bell pointed out on Engadget, Huddles also works like Discord’s chat feature in a business context, which could have great utility for Salesforce tools when it’s integrated with the Salesforce platform

While the regulatory machinations grind on, Slack continues to develop its platform and products. It will of course continue to operate as a stand-alone company, even when the mega deal finally closes, but there will certainly be plenty of cross-platform integrations.

Even if executives can’t discuss what those integrations could look like openly, there has to be a lot of excitement at Salesforce and Slack about the possibilities that these new tools bring to the table — and to the future of work in general — whenever the deal crosses the finish line.

Dec
04
2020
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Why Slack and Salesforce execs think they’re better together

When Salesforce bought Slack earlier this week for $27.7 billion, it was in some ways the end of a startup fairytale. Slack was the living embodiment of the Silicon Valley startup success fantasy. It started as a pivot from a game company, of all things. It raised $1.4 billion, went from zero to a $7 billion valuation to IPO, checking off every box on the startup founder’s wish list.

Then quite suddenly this week, Slack was part of Salesforce, plucked off the market for an enormous sum of money.

While we might not ever know the back (Slack) room maneuvering that went on to make the deal a reality, it is interesting to note that Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told me in an interview this week that he was not actually trying to sell the company when he approached Salesforce president and COO Bret Taylor earlier this year. Instead, he wanted to buy something from them.

“I actually talked to Bret in the early days of the pandemic to see if they wanted to sell us Quip because I thought it would be good for us, and I didn’t really know what their plans were [for it]. He said he’d get back to me, and then got back to me six months later or so,” Butterfield said.

At that point, the conversation flipped and the companies began a series of discussions that eventually led to Salesforce acquiring Slack.

Big money, big expectations

From the Salesforce perspective, Taylor says that the Slack deal was worth the money because it really allows his company to bring together all the pieces of their platform, one that has expanded over the years from pure CRM to include marketing, customer service, data visualization, workflow and more. Taylor also said that having Slack gives Salesforce a missing communication layer on top of its other products, something especially important when interactions with customers, partners or fellow employees have become mostly digital.

“When we say we really want Slack to be this next generation interface for Customer 360, what we mean is we’re pulling together all these systems. How do you rally your teams around these systems in this digital work-anywhere world that we’re in right now where these teams are distributed and collaboration is more important than ever,” Taylor said.

Butterfield sees a natural connection between what people do in the course of their work, what machines do behind the scenes in these systems of record and engagement and how Slack can help bridge the gap between humans and machines.

He says that by putting Slack in the middle of business processes, you can begin to eliminate friction that occurs in complex enterprise software like Salesforce. Instead of moving stuff through email, clicking a link, opening a browser, signing in and then finally accessing the tool you want, the approval could be built into a single Slack message.

“If you have hundreds of those kinds of actions a day, there’s a real opportunity to increase the velocity, and that has an impact, and not just in the minutes saved by the person doing the approval, but the speed of how the whole business operates,” Butterfield said.

Competing with Microsoft

While neither executive said the deal was about competing with Microsoft, it was likely an underlying reason that the companies decided to join forces. They may prove better together than they are separately, and both have complicated histories with Microsoft.

Slack has had an ongoing battle with Microsoft and its Teams product for years. It filed suit against the company last summer in the EU over what it called unfairly bundling of Teams for free with Office 365. In an interview last year with The Wall Street Journal, Butterfield said that he believes Microsoft sees his company as an existential threat. Hyperbole aside, there is tension and competition between the two enterprise software companies.

Salesforce and Microsoft also have a long history, from lawsuits in the early days to making friends and working together when it makes sense after Satya Nadella took over in 2014, while still competing hard in the market. It’s hard not to see the deal in that context.

In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Battery Ventures general partner Neeraj Agrawal said the deal was at least partially about catching Microsoft.

“To get to a market cap of $1 trillion, Salesforce now has to take MSFT head on. Until now, the company has mostly been able to stay in its own swim lane in terms of products,” Agrawal told TechCrunch.

As for Butterfield, while he saw the obvious competition, he denied the deal was about putting his company in a better position to compete with his rival.

“I don’t think that was really an important part of the rationale, at least for me,” he said, adding “the competition with Microsoft is overblown. The challenge for us was the narrative. They’re just good PR or something that I couldn’t figure out,” he said.

While Butterfield cited a list of large clients in enterprise tech, insurance and banking, the narrative has always been that Slack was favored by developer teams, which is where it initially gained traction. Whatever the reality, with Salesforce, Slack is definitely in a better position to compete with any and all comers in the enterprise communications space, and while it will be part of Salesforce, the two companies also have to figure out how to maintain some separation.

Keeping Slack independent

Taylor certainly recognizes that Slack’s current customers are watching closely to see how they handle the acquisition, and his company will have to walk a fine line between respecting the brand and product independence on one hand, while finding ways to create and build upon existing hooks into Salesforce to allow the CRM giant to take full advantage of its substantial investment.

It won’t be easy to do, but you can see a similar level of independence in some of Salesforce’s recent big-money purchases like MuleSoft, the company it bought in 2018 for $6.5 billion, and Tableau, the company it bought last year for more than $15 billion. As Butterfield points out, those two companies have clearly maintained their brand identity and independence, and he sees them as role models for Slack.

“So there’s a layer of independence that’s like that [for Mulesoft and Tableau] because it’s not going to help anyone call us Chat Cloud or something like that. They paid a lot of money for us, so they want us to do more of what we were already doing,” he said.

Taylor, whose opinion matters greatly here, certainly sees it in similar terms.

“We want to make sure we have a real integrated value proposition, a real integrated platform for developers, but also maintain Slack’s technology independence, technology agnostic platform and its brand,” he said.

Better together

As for the companies coming together, both men see a lot of potential here to merge Slack communications with Salesforce’s enterprise software prowess to make something better, and Taylor sees Slack helping link the two with workflows and automations.

“When you think about automation, it’s event driven, these long-running processes, automations. If you look at what people are doing with the Slack platform, it’s essentially incorporating workflows and bots and all these things. The combination of the Salesforce platform where I think we have the best automation intelligence capabilities with the Slack platform is incredible,” Taylor said.

The challenge these two men now face as they move forward with this acquisition, and all of the expectations inherent in a deal this large, is making it work. Salesforce has a lot of experience with large acquisitions, and they have handled some well, and some not so well. It’s going to be imperative for both companies that they get this right. It’s now up to Taylor and Butterfield to make sure that happens.

 

Dec
02
2020
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Everyone has an opinion on the $27.7B Slack acquisition

When the Salesforce-Slack deal was officially announced on Tuesday afternoon, and the number appeared, it was kind of hard to believe. Salesforce had shelled out more than $27 billion to buy Slack and bring it into the Salesforce family of products. The company sees a key missing piece in Slack, and that could explain why it was willing to spend such an astonishing amount of money to get it.

With Slack, Salesforce now has what CEO Marc Benioff called the interface to everything, something he says that the company has thought about for years. In 2010, they tried building it themselves with Chatter, a social tool that never really caught on in a big way. With Slack they finally have it.

“We’ve always had the vision of the social enterprise at Salesforce for more than a decade. Oh, we’ve had Dreamforces entirely dedicated to the vision of what a collaborative interface, a high production interface with applications and an ecosystem would look like wrapped on top of our Customer 360,” Benioff said.

He added that ironically in a building right next door to Salesforce Park you’ll find Slack headquarters. They won’t have to go far to collaborate (or you know, they can just use Slack).

From Chatter to Slack

Neeraj Agrawal, general partner at Battery Ventures, says that Benioff has had an interest in enterprise social going back years, and this is his way of finally delivering. “Remember Chatter? Benioff was dead on with this trend. He lost Yammer to Microsoft (when Microsoft acquired it for $1.2 billion) about 7-8 years ago, and then launched Chatter. It was a huge bet, but didn’t work. Slack is really Chatter 2.0,” he said.

Chuck Ganapathi, CEO and co-founder at Tact.ai, was product lead on the Chatter product at Salesforce in the 2009 time frame. He wrote in a soon-to-be-published blog post he shared with TechCrunch that it failed for a lot of reasons, but mostly because at its core, Salesforce was still a bunch of database guys and enterprise social was a very different animal.

“Some of the issues were technical — Salesforce is a database-centric company, founded by Oracle alums on a relational DB foundation. DB applications and unstructured communication applications like Chatter or Slack represent completely different branches of computer science with little overlap,” he wrote. Because of that, he felt that they lacked the expertise to build the application correctly, and it never really caught on, with so many similar products in the market at the time.

But Benioff never lost interest in the concept of incorporating social into the Salesforce platform. It just took another 10 years or so and a bushel of money to make it happen.

A good match or not?

Leyla Seka, a partner at Operator Capital, who formerly ran the AppExchange at Salesforce, sees good things ahead with a combined Slack and Salesforce. “Salesforce and Slack together will offer a powerful duo of applications that will help companies work more effectively together. I think that COVID-19 has shown us how critical it is to get employees the data they need to do their job, but also the community they need to thrive at their job. The marriage of Salesforce and Slack promises to do just that,” Seka told me.

Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials, was knocked out by the price tag, but says it shows that Salesforce is not afraid to go after what it wants, even if it has to pay a hefty price to get it. “This goes to show Salesforce has absolutely no fear in them when it comes to this deal. They are willing to throw down the big bucks on this acquisition because they see a huge payoff by adding this piece into their platform,” he said.

As for Slack, he sees it as a way for them to take the fast track to the enterprise big leagues. “And for Slack they go from competing with AMOSS (Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Salesforce) to joining one of them, and the company that really made the most sense for them to team up with,” he said.

Laurie McCabe, an analyst and founder at SMB Group, agrees with Leary’s take, saying Salesforce doesn’t hesitate when it thinks the value is there. “In this case, Slack gives them a strong collaboration offering that will help them compete more effectively against Microsoft’s growing cloud portfolio, which of course includes CRM and Teams,” she said.

Show me the money

Battery’s Agrawal believes this deal is all about generating revenue, and it was willing to pay a premium to move the needle in billion-dollar chunks. The end game he believes is about catching Microsoft, or at the very least getting to $1 trillion (with a T, folks) in market cap.

It’s worth noting that investors are not showing signs, initially at least, of liking this deal, with the stock down over 8% today and 16.5% since the rumor of Salesforce’s interest in Slack surfaced last week before the Thanksgiving holiday. That translates into more than $18 billion in lost market cap — probably not the reaction they were hoping for. But Salesforce is big enough that it can afford to play a long game, and reach its financial goals with the help of Slack.

“To get to a market cap of $1 trillion, Salesforce now has to take MSFT head on. Until now, the company has mostly been able to stay in its own swim lane in terms of products. […] To get to a trillion dollars in market cap, Salesforce needs to try to grow in two massive markets,” Agrawal said. Those would be either knowledge worker/desktop (see the 2016 Quip acquisition) or cloud (see the Hyperforce announcement). Agrawal says chances are the company’s best bet is the former, and it was willing to pay top dollar to get it.

“The deal will help Salesforce maintain a 20%+ growth rate over the next few years,” he said. Ultimately, he sees it moving the revenue needle, which should eventually drive market cap higher and help achieve those goals.

It’s worth noting that Salesforce president and CEO Bret Taylor said while they intend to integrate Slack deeply into the Salesforce product family, they recognize the power and utility of Slack as a standalone product and they don’t intend to do anything that would mess with that.

“Fundamentally, we want to make sure that Slack remains as a kind of technology-agnostic platform. We know that Slack is used by millions and millions of people every day to connect every tool under the sun. The most remarkable thing is just how many customers have also just integrated their own custom internal tools as well into this is really kind of the central nervous system for the teams that use it, and we would never want to change that,” he said.

It’s hard to judge a deal this large until we have some hindsight and see how well the two companies have meshed, how well they can incorporate Slack into the Salesforce ecosystem, while allowing that independence Taylor alluded to. If they can find a way to walk that line and Slack becomes that wrapper, that operating system, that glue that holds the Salesforce ecosystem together, it will be a good deal, but if Slack stops innovating and withers under the weight of its corporate overlords, then it might not be money well spent.

Time will tell which is the case.

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