The proposed acquisition of Slack by Salesforce this week for $27.7 billion heralds a major shift in the way organizations will engage customers, partners, and employees in a digital business transformation era that continues to rapidly evolve.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff during a call with industry analysts this week promised that once Slack is more tightly integrated with the Salesforce portfolio of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications spanning sales management, marketing, and analytics will take digital business transformation to a higher level.
“This is the next generation of Customer 360,” said Benioff.
Via the channels that the Slack cloud service enables organizations to create around specific processes, Benioff says organizations will employ both Salesforce SaaS applications and Slack to establish deeper relationships with customers. Prior to the acquisition, Slack has already been making a case for employing messaging platforms as the front end for a wide range of digital business processes that enable deeper relationships to be established with end customers.
Salesforce, meanwhile, has been benefiting from an accelerated transition to SaaS applications fueled in part by organizations that needed to make it easier for employees to work from home. For its most recent third quarter, Salesforce posted revenues of $5.42 billion, an increase of 20% year-over-year. Benioff says the company is now lifting its future guidance to slightly exceed pre-pandemic levels. Salesforce is projecting fiscal 2021 revenue at the end of its fourth quarter will total $21.11 billion. Revenue guidance for fiscal 2022 has been raised to $25.5 billion.
Benioff noted this week that 90% of Salesforce customers are already using Slack to one degree or another. Going forward, Benioff said organizations should expect Salesforce to apply the artificial intelligence (AI) platforms it has developed to the rich streams of content being made available over Slack channels. Armed with that insight, organizations should be able to surface more opportunities to better serve their end customer.
The acquisition of Slack will also enable Salesforce to counter steps Microsoft has already taken to integrate Microsoft Teams more broadly across its portfolio of SaaS applications. Salesforce is looking to leverage its dominance of customer relationship management (CRM) application software to blunt a Microsoft effort to more tightly integrate its rival CRM offering with Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams.
Coming to Market
Benioff is promising the first fruits of the Slack integration will manifest themselves as early as next year. As such, the coming year is shaping up to be a titanic contest for dominance over digital business transformation. Initiatives are only expected to further accelerate regardless of whether a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely distributed and implemented.
Of course, platforms such as Slack may never completely supplant other communications channels that today span everything from email to video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom. However, the days when the primary means of engaging customers revolved around asynchronous communication tools such as email are clearly beginning to decline. There may always be a place for email, but given the number of people that are overwhelmed by the contents of their inbox everyday there is clearly a need for a more efficient communications alternative within most organizations.