Former VP at Salesforce.com Inc
- Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) and its solutions, focusing on the Customer 360 platform
- Rationale for pending purchase of Slack (NYSE: WORK) and implications for Salesforce, highlighting its leadership, strategy and priorities
- Outlook for 2021 and beyond
What were your initial thoughts about Salesforce’s announcement to acquire Slack? Were you surprised or was it something you expected?
To what extent do you think it’s feasible that Slack wouldn’t be a replacement or upgrade to Chatter, but would be the user interface for the entire Customer 360 platform? Do you think that would make sense?
Do you think the Slack acquisition is a deal that Salesforce should be doing at this time? You seem to think it makes strategic sense but I think there are questions about whether it’s the right deal at the right time.
What is your assessment of Salesforce’s past M&A approach and how the Slack deal might be different? The company has been very active in M&A and the volume and size of transactions have grown over the years – you alluded to some of the more recent significant transactions filling out the product set and adding to the TAM. Would you say the Slack acquisition is inconsistent with that approach and is about more than buying companies and technologies and products to add to market opportunity?
How did go-to-market and sales play out when Salesforce acquired MuleSoft and Tableau? How did those businesses benefit across distribution or cross-selling and from being part of Salesforce?
To what extent do you expect Slack to become the new interface for Customer 360? I think it’s fair to say that Customer 360 is unwieldy, with so many different applications and data and content types. Do you think Slack will make much difference? Is the platform interface and usability a key issue?
How easy or challenging will it be to transition to Slack, away from the current interface? Has anything similar been tried? You acknowledged that it won’t be a case of snapping your fingers and everything working perfectly. How do you think about the transition process and minimising customer disruption? How long might it take and how might resources be marshalled around this?
Could you elaborate on the prior transitioning to Lightning and how Salesforce managed this? Clearly, there has to be a delineated timeline to customers and plenty of communication and indications about deadlines and transition dates, etc. How long does it take and to what degree has there been customer attrition due to frustrations related to these transitions?
Do you think Salesforce can change the dynamic? You referred to competing more successfully with Microsoft, which has a CRM [customer relationship management] product [Dynamics 365] that is naturally aligned with Teams, and I think there are other areas of some overlap and competition. Based on Salesforce’s track record and what it has done, do you expect Slack to be a game changer for the company?
Do you think the Slack deal could and will make a significant difference for customers once the deal closes and the transitions that we discussed are completed? For example, does it make it easier for customers to use Salesforce platforms and applications, which would subsequently have a positive impact on Salesforce? Is there more to the deal than Customer 360, whether Chatter or a potential data play, especially given that there was interest in buying LinkedIn and Twitter?
What’s next for Salesforce given all the recent changes? Co-CEO Keith Block left, CFO Mark Hawkins announced his retirement, then yesterday’s news about Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Buscemi’s departure – significant leaders at the company with 6-7 years in key areas – Bret Taylor became the COO in December 2019 and finally the proposed Slack acquisition. What are your thoughts here?
Do you anticipate Salesforce’s M&A strategy to shift as a result of the Slack deal? We discussed how the past focus seemed to be about accumulating as much market opportunity as possible – that’s probably not the case here, it’s more about improving the customer experience, which isn’t about growth but improvements for an existing user base. Do you think this approach makes sense for Salesforce?
When you started at Salesforce, did you feel like the company had a world-class calibre sales organisation or was it gradually built up and developed? You were there for a long time. Did it start with a set of principles which were simply executed, or was it gradual evolution and knowledge, culminating in this organisation which I think many people consider to be exemplary in the industry?
What’s your 1-3-year outlook for Salesforce given the pending Slack acquisition and Q3 FY21 results where growth has been indicated as continuing to decelerate?
What do you think is Salesforce’s biggest risk right now? The obvious answer would be if the Slack deal isn’t executed as expected, but what would you say is the biggest potential non-Slack-related risk?
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