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Salesforce-Slack Drive Continues with New Co-CEO Taylor

 

Salesforce named a new co-CEO to serve alongside founder and longtime CEO Marc Benioff this week, but don’t worry. The many enterprise organizations who use the cloud giant’s CRM and other cloud-based software services are unlikely to experience any turbulence going forward as a result.

If anything, Salesforce customers may see more of a focus on the cloud giant’s most recent and biggest acquisition: collaborative software company Slack, completed this summer.

A Familiar Face

Salesforce’s new co-CEO has been promoted from within. Bret Taylor has served as the company’s president and COO for the past two years. Before that he spent two years as president and chief product officer. He joined Salesforce when it acquired Quip in 2016, the collaborative software company Taylor founded and led.

Taylor has been an active participant in Salesforce’s strategy and growth ever since, and was very involved in the Slack acquisition.

“He was a champion in bringing it to the table and he has been heavily promoting a Slack-first UX,” says Gartner research VP Jason Wong, who follows the company for the research firm and notes that Salesforce has indicated that many workflows will be funneled through Slack as a primary interface going forward.

“That’s really where Bret will focus in,” Wong said. “That is a major growth area.”

Co-CEOs

This new appointment of a co-CEO isn’t the first time that Salesforce has operated with such a structure. Salesforce appointed then-president and COO Keith Block to co-CEO in 2018. The company had hired the longtime Oracle executive in 2013. Block stepped down from the co-CEO job after two years on the job, and Benioff became the lone CEO once again.

In a conference call with financial analysts following the new co-CEO appointment and the announcement of the company’s most recent earnings, Benioff weighed in on a return to the co-CEO set up.

“I’m very excited about the co-CEO structure. These jobs are big jobs and being able to have a partner that you can share with makes it a lot easier,” Benioff told analysts during the earnings call.

Any kind of executive change like this one is sure to spark a lot of speculation about what’s really going on behind the scenes. Some may wonder if Benioff is in the early stages of planning an exit from his role as the top executive at Salesforce. Others may wonder if this co-CEO promotion could be a way to retain a top executive who is in demand at other tech giants. After all, Twitter named Bret Taylor as its chairman on November 29.

But Benioff has never indicated an inclination to step back from day-to-day control of the company he founded. Meanwhile, Taylor’s appointment as Twitter Chairman and Salesforce co-CEO separately in the same week may point to closer partnerships and alliances of the two companies in the future. Wong points out that at one point Benioff had been on the verge of executing a Salesforce acquisition of Twitter.

“Bret has shown a level of leadership that puts him as the Salesforce CEO-apparent from a succession planning perspective,” Wong says. “But Benioff is not ready to relinquish control. He seems engaged in setting overall strategy and driving the company culture.”

Salesforce Slack versus Microsoft Teams

A lingering question for some enterprises may be whether to standardize on one of these collaboration platforms instead of the other one, and now that Salesforce owns Slack, will that make it a more compelling choice for some organizations?

“It could be a challenge for organizations to justify investing in both Teams and Slack,” says Wong. “Teams is already so widely adopted. Salesforce will really need to chip away from more of the front office perspective.”

However, Slack may represent a top choice for particular teams in organizations, especially those that want to collaborate with external partners and customers.

“Typically, Slack is more focused in different departments such as IT and DevOps for collaboration and communication within those teams,” Wong says. “We do see some instances where both products are in the same organization, but usually one has a much smaller footprint than the other. It’s more likely that Microsoft has wall-to-wall deployment due to its Office software.”

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