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What Salesforce buying Slack means for your business

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Capping off a year filled with surprises was the shocking $27.7 billion acquisition of team collaboration software maker, Slack, by cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) provider Salesforce. It was the largest acquisition made by Salesforce to date, a company that has made several multibillion-dollar purchases in the past few years; acquiring e-commerce platform Demandware (now Salesforce Commerce Cloud) in 2016 for $2.5 billion, integration platform vendor MuleSoft in 2018 for $6.5 billion, and data analytics software developer Tableau Software for $15.7 billion. According to Salesforce’s executives, adding Slack to the list will “shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world.”

As a trusted technology advisor to business IT leaders, Amaxra is cutting through the fog of that marketing hyperbole to give you some honest, real-world analysis on what the Slack acquisition by Salesforce will mean for your organization. Looking ahead in the next two to three years post-Slack acquisition, here are some of the scenarios that could play out if you currently have either Slack or Salesforce as part of your corporate IT stack:

If you already have Salesforce but not Slack

Organizations with Salesforce as their CRM will recognize that Slack is very similar to Salesforce Chatter, the built-in chat feature. Salesforce added Chatter to their cloud-based service around the same time that Slack first appeared on the scene in 2010. Salesforce Chatter enables internal employees to discuss sales opportunities, marketing campaigns, and project budgets along with the ability for customer service representatives to create and track support cases. Although Salesforce Chatter is an obvious copy of Slack, there’s no denying the functionality of Salesforce Chatter is limited when you directly compare the two. Slack has many more modern team collaboration features than Chatter.

So, your organization’s days of using Salesforce Chatter are coming to an end because Slack will eventually replace it. There is no official word from Salesforce yet on what will happen to any of the content you currently have in Chatter or even how the migration to Slack will occur once Chatter is deprecated. The best-case scenario is that your employees log into their Salesforce Chatter one day and it is suddenly called “Salesforce Slack” with relatively few changes. However, you should plan on setting aside some time for your internal IT department to answer questions about the Slack migration along with training for employees on how to use Slack effectively.

If you use Slack but not Salesforce

Savvy businesses owners currently using Slack for inter-office collaboration that are not already Salesforce customers likely realize Salesforce will leverage Slack as an “in” to your current IT system for a migration to Salesforce. No large company buys a smaller company to just leave them alone and let them do their thing—and at the acquisition announcement Salesforce committed to integrating Slack into the Salesforce Cloud solution. At best, Slack will continue to be offered as a pure standalone collaboration app for another few months and even then, solely as a means to eventually sell a company on Salesforce.

Using Slack purely as your company’s chat app for the next year or so will mean that you’ll see an increasing number of communications from Salesforce telling you something along the lines of “if you already have Slack, then you should purchase Salesforce to get the full value out of the new way to work.” It’s not a bad strategy for Salesforce, because companies of every size can get a lot of value out of using a CRM solution. However, the price of a Salesforce CRM is not known for being inexpensive and a corporate reliance on the relatively inexpensive Slack chat app today could turn into an expensive Salesforce habit in a year or two.

If you have Slack and Microsoft 365

Although the pandemic of 2020 and subsequent lockdown forced many businesses to find ways for their employees to work from home, Slack lost favor in the team collaboration market to its primary competitor, Microsoft Teams (most recent usage stats show Microsoft Teams with ten times the users of Slack). Industry analysts took note of that when Salesforce announced the Slack acquisition. Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said a Slack + Salesforce tie-up is “a major shot across the bow at Microsoft,” creating “a two-horse race between Microsoft and Salesforce” for team collaboration dominance.

Amaxra has consulted for organizations over the past 12-18 months that were using Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) apps for productivity with Slack for their team collaboration. In all of those cases, Amaxra advocated switching from Slack to Microsoft Teams. If anything, the Salesforce acquisition of Slack should accelerate the switch for most companies. We’ve detailed the three key reasons why every company with Slack and Microsoft 365 benefits from switching to Microsoft Teams. And we should point out that for those few companies with a paid subscription to Slack, the choice to migrate their employees off Slack to Microsoft Teams was an easy one: Microsoft Teams was built into Microsoft 365, performed all the same functions, and was available at no extra cost.

If you have Microsoft Teams and Salesforce

Over the past few years, Salesforce has built an ecosystem of apps and integrations for enterprise users. Everything from deals to data management, from customer service to e-commerce, these features are instantly available in Salesforce’s cloud-based app. Salesforce recognizes that Microsoft 365 apps are the gold standard for office productivity and enables integrations with those apps. In November 2019, Salesforce’s executive leadership announced they would extend those integrations into “Azure [Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure] and Microsoft Teams” to “help businesses… better serve customers.”

However, the Slack acquisition and integration with Salesforce in 2020 points to a reduced emphasis on the integration between Salesforce and Microsoft Teams. It isn’t likely that Salesforce and Microsoft will be committing the resources to flesh out an extremely feature-rich integration between their services going forward. So, expect the Slack integration with Salesforce to focus on making it so that users “live in the app” and reduce the current need for employees to drop out of Salesforce to use Microsoft Teams for collaboration.

What should your company do to prepare for the new Slack-Salesforce?

Any company currently subscribing to both Salesforce and Microsoft 365 should be thinking strategically about what the Slack-Salesforce acquisition means to their IT. Due to the consolidation and potential loss of Teams-to-Salesforce functionality in the future, Amaxra recommends customers invested in Microsoft 365 and Salesforce to seriously consider moving to another CRM. For businesses with 50 or fewer employees, the cloud-based Nimble CRM is an excellent (and affordable) choice that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams. For mid-to-large business, the Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM enables AI-powered workflows and analytics to help your sales, marketing, and accounting teams to make fast, data-driven decisions that delight your customers.

Contact me at technology@amaxra.com or call 425 708 8841 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.

about the author

Mike Arntzen

Mike is an experienced Technology expert who is skilled in Enterprise Software and Security and Cloud Implementation. He has a strong engineering background graduated from the Royal Australian Air Force School of Radio, with postgraduate studies in Fibre Optics from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Known at Amaxra as "Mr FixIt" there isn't much Mike can't resolve. He has recently implemented Amaxra's switch to Skype for Business within the Amaxra office.

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