Barely a week after Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff promised to overtake SAP as the world leader in enterprise apps, co-founder Parker Harris indirectly called out ServiceNow by describing soon-to-be-acquired Slack as “human workflow.”
About two years ago, ServiceNow seized the “digital workflow” concept as its unique position in the sharp-elbowed enterprise-cloud applications and platform business. With the arrival of CEO Bill McDermott 20 months ago, ServiceNow has really cranked up that positioning, even pushing the idea of “workflow” as a verb, as in “let’s workflow it.”
So I don’t think it was any coincidence last week that Salesforce cofounder Parker Harris, while extolling the virtues of Slack and eagerly anticipating the completion of that proposed acquisition, described Slack as “human workflow” during a Q&A session at an investors conference.
I’ve heard Slack described as many, many things over the past few years, but not once have I heard it called “human workflow.” And I don’t believe in coincidences, particularly not in the Cloud Wars.
Here’s what Harris said in a June 10 conversation with Bank of America technology analyst Brad Sills, who’d asked Harris about his vision and plans for Slack following the closure of the deal later this year.
“Here at Salesforce, we use Slack in customer service, and as you can imagine in the pandemic, everyone’s working from home. So we use it for something we call ‘case swarming,’” Harris said.
“So you have agents online and yes they can answer the calls and they can also answer the chats and we have our chatbots going and all of our technologies are firing, and many customers have been hugely successful with that type of call center. And fairly soon we hope we’ll be able to add Slack to that mix.
“And how do you bring a bunch of experts together when one of our customers is having an issue and everyone’s at home and everyone’s distributed?” Harris asked.
“Well, you need a tool like Slack, which is basically human workflow. It’s bringing humans together in this conversational interface and doing it at the speed of digital, so doing it quickly.
“So we see huge success in how we can use Slack and we have tons of ideas for how, after the deal has closed, we can leverage that technology. And once it closes, we’re going to show the world our ideas.”
Earlier, Parker had shared a scenario suggesting that this “human workflow” will be unleashed across the entire Salesforce organization.
“When this deal closes, we are so excited about bringing the companies together and leveraging the Slack technology to help customers think about how are people selling? How are they doing service? How are they doing marketing?”
Salesforce has shown plenty of willingness to scrap with each and every one of the world’s biggest and most-powerful applications companies, particularly SAP (as mentioned above), Oracle and Microsoft.
And I suspect that as Marc Benioff thinks about how he’ll double the size of his company to $50 billion over the next four years—something he’s promised very publicly to do—he’s taken a few looks at the wide-open space ServiceNow has carved out and has decided it’s time for Bill McDermott and company to have some head-on competition.
So don’t be surprised to see Salesforce/Slack’s “human workflow” collide head-on with ServiceNow’s “digital workflow” in the not-so-distant future.
And no doubt the big winner will be the business customers that get to benefit from all the innovation that flows out of that fierce competition.