On February 10th, Marc Benioff, Chair and CEO of Salesforce gave an upbeat talk at the company’s world tour, this time from Singapore. He paid tribute to the host city which looks like no other on the planet. It is where, he said, the future works, the theme of his talk.
I’ve seen many talks by Benioff in recent years, but I don’t think I have seen him so upbeat. He definitely had a spring in his step, and for good reason. The company is in great shape with metronomically reliable growth, enough to bring a smile to any CEO, and expected to reach around $25.5 billion FY22. However, what I think has given him even more cause for confidence and pride is how his 49,000 colleagues worldwide have collectively responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, his developers’ rapid response and a growing army of some 13 million Trailblazers in 90 countries have pushed the boundaries with the Salesforce Customer 360 platform to combat the pandemic.
A lot happened at Salesforce in 2020. The pandemic galvanized his development teams to get stuck in and help out communities and the healthcare sector. Collaborating with 3M and other manufacturers, Salesforce responded by sourcing over 60 million items of PPE and a cash injection of $30 million, to oil the response wheels. Several new developments typify Salesforce’s rapid adaptation and response:
- Salesforce quickly spun up Work.com. A platform using Salesforce technology to protect the health and safety of remote employees by:
- tracking wellness results and shift patterns through the Workplace Command Center
- provide remote working guidance via Trailhead Learning Hub, Salesforce’s class-leading online training platform
- providing external data in a highly visual and digestible form via Tableau Data Hub (A $15.3 billion acquisition) to keep everyone up to date with the pandemic and how they should respond.
- Added Salesforce Vaccine Cloud for Health Authorities – to orchestrate and manage Covid-19 vaccine roll-outs, a data, and insight-driven approach, that the correct vaccine type is given to individuals based on any underlying health issues.
Salesforce rearchitects for the future
But this is not all. In December, Salesforce made two major announcements in quick succession. The first being the agreement to acquire Slack and the second, the introduction of Hyperforce. I’ll start with the second announcement first, as it is to do with the fundamental cloud infrastructure.
Behind the scenes, Salesforce has made what Benioff described as a massive pivot for the company, by rearchitecting the Customer 360 platform to run on any hyperscalers cloud infrastructure. On December 2nd, 2020, Salesforce announced: Hyperforce. Eventually, this will allow companies to run their Salesforce platforms and applications on AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Benioff positioned this as a Cloud 3.0 offering. Cloud 1.0 being the first foray into the cloud over twenty years ago. Cloud 2.0 more about connecting mobile applications and social networks with the arrival of the Apple iPhone, Facebook, and others. Cloud 3.0 is to enable the ‘work from anywhere world’, remotely and securely. It also frees Salesforce to invest its R&D where it has a market advantage – its applications and Customer 360 platform.
Slack – The Operating System for Cloud 3.0
Now we can talk about Slack in a bit more context. On December 1st, 2020 the company entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the Slack collaboration platform, for $27.7 billion. Its largest-ever acquisition causing many pundits to scratch their heads. On this World Tour, Bret Taylor, president, and COO gave us a vision of what the company plans to do with it, assuming the acquisition completes (expected Summer 2021). He described Slack as the ‘work-from-anywhere’ frame. He also called it the HQ in the cloud, enabling enterprises to collaborate and manage globally dispersed workforces. He showed us a four-layer model with Slack at the top. Applications from Salesforce, and ecosystem partners as the second layer. Able to take advantage of Slack, to collaborate and break down departmental and operational barriers. All working off a single source of customer data from the third layer – Customer 360. And lastly at layer four – Hyperforce. Providing enterprises with cloud freedom.
A beginner’s mind
Benioff extolled the virtue of the beginner’s mind. A mindset that looks to the future with hope, anticipation, and the belief that all things are possible. He took a subtle swipe at ‘experts’ who are more inclined to think in terms of obstacles rather than solutions. He and Salesforce have consistently held the crucial importance of being driven by consistent values. Vaccine if you like against the expert mindset. Trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. These have been consistent since Salesforce was founded in 1999. Values have long legs. They don’t change. Coupled with the beginner’s mind and the ability to take a step back and look at the world afresh, even in a crisis. This drives innovation and Salesforce forwards, to where the future works.