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Salesforce Buys Slack: Now What?

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Businessmen shaking hands
Image: Atstock Productions - stock.adobe.com
The news that had been initially reported on Nov. 25 is now confirmed: Salesforce is buying Slack for a cash and stock package worth a reported $27.7 billion. This move, the biggest in the collaboration space in some time, creates more questions than it answers. The primary concern is around Salesforce’s intent in buying Slack.
 
I see three ways that this can play out:
 
  1. Salesforce largely continues Slack as-is, but builds tighter integration into its own products. This approach seems to make the most sense on the surface, and is bolstered by Salesforce’s announcement that Slack CEO Stuart Butterfield will stay on to run Slack as a business unit within Salesforce. Slack has enjoyed strong growth as a collaboration and workflow enablement application that unites disparate apps into a single work hub. From its initial strength among application developers and IT operations, Slack has pushed into other business units, including sales and marketing, as well the large enterprise through its Enterprise Grid offering. While it faces tremendous competition from Microsoft with Teams, Slack has been able to position itself as a best-of-breed application, and has recently expanded partnerships with IBM as well as with Amazon. Going this route would enable Salesforce to diversify itself a bit by continuing to offer a stand-alone collaboration platform, while it builds tighter integration into Salesforce Sales Cloud, as well as its existing Quip collaboration tool. Salesforce announced that Slack will become the new interface for its Customer 360 integration platform, meaning that Slack will serve as a means to not just provide a hub for integrating Salesforce’s own apps, but will also allow customers to have an integration point for other cloud apps. Slack will also likely replace Salesforce’s Chatter app, as well as Anywhere, it’s real-time messaging application.
  2. Salesforce takes on Microsoft Teams. This is the most intriguing scenario, one that would see Salesforce join Slack with Quip, as well as its current document management capabilities. In this approach, Salesforce would move to position its own offering as clear enterprise collaboration alternative to Teams, potentially including Slack as a bundled feature with Salesforce licenses. It could strengthen the offering by maintaining the planned integration of Amazon Chime video meetings into Slack, and even add voice capabilities through integration with Lightning Dialer, giving Salesforce a true, integrated, voice, meeting, and team collaboration capability. My guess is that this is the bigger picture goal of the acquisition, but time will tell.
  3. Slack simply becomes embedded into Salesforce. This strikes me as the least likely of the three scenarios given the size and scope of the acquisition. In this approach, Salesforce would use Slack to replace Chatter and Anywhere as well as having Slack serve as the primary interface for Customer 360, enabling Salesforce customers to add Slack’s contextual-based messaging and meeting capabilities directly into Salesforce. This would mean a winding down of Slack’s non-salesforce customer base. Again, given what Salesforce is paying for Slack, I don’t see this is a likely outcome.

At this point in time, it’s too soon to know exactly how the long-term integration will play out. My recommendation to Slack and Salesforce customers is to pay close attention to not just the initial announcement, but also the concrete integration and continued development steps as they are taken over the next six to 12 months.

Slack customers, if options 1 or 2 are where Salesforce is headed, are likely to see new capabilities, especially if they are also Salesforce users. Salesforce customers will also want to take a close look at Slack, especially as the roadmap becomes clear and as Slack likely becomes the Salesforce’s unified internal and external enterprise collaboration platform.

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