In the ever-evolving landscape of business technology, adapting to change is no longer a choice — it’s a necessity. And when it comes to managing those changes seamlessly, Salesforce stands tall as a powerhouse. However, navigating the intricate realm of Salesforce Change Management can often leave even the most seasoned professionals scratching their heads.
We unveil six invaluable tips that promise to unravel the complexities, making the process not just manageable, but downright straightforward. Whether you’re a salesforce novice or a seasoned pro, these insights will empower you to wield change as a tool for growth, without breaking a sweat.
Before embarking on any salesforce changes, it’s essential to meticulously define the scope and objectives of the proposed modifications. This involves a detailed analysis of the current system, identifying pain points, and recognizing opportunities for enhancement. Once potential changes are identified, a rigorous prioritization process should be employed.
This prioritization should be based on factors such as the anticipated business impact, alignment with strategic goals, and feasibility of implementation. The impacts of any change should be thoroughly evaluated, considering both short-term and long-term consequences. This includes assessing potential disruptions to existing processes, workflows, and user experiences, as well as estimating the financial, resource, and time investments required for successful implementation.
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Successful salesforce change management thrives on collaborative efforts across diverse departments. Forming a dedicated change management team comprising representatives from different functional areas fosters a holistic approach. Involving stakeholders early in the process ensures that all perspectives are considered, mitigating resistance and enhancing buy-in.
Open communication channels must be established to facilitate idea sharing, status updates, and issue resolution. This collaborative synergy not only promotes comprehensive change planning but also empowers a sense of ownership among stakeholders. By uniting expertise and insights from various disciplines, organizations can navigate change with collective strength and drive more successful implementations.
Thorough documentation is the backbone of effective salesforce change management. Detailed records of change requests, requirements, and implementation plans ensure a clear roadmap for all involved. A well-maintained repository of version-controlled documentation facilitates transparency, aiding in tracing the evolution of changes and reducing confusion. This meticulous documentation also supports knowledge transfer, enabling seamless onboarding and continuity.
By meticulously capturing every step and decision, organizations establish a reliable foundation for change, ensuring that stakeholders remain informed and aligned throughout the process. Robust documentation safeguards against uncertainties and serves as a valuable resource for future enhancements.
Rigorous testing and quality assurance are cornerstones of successful Salesforce change management. Crafting comprehensive test plans and scenarios allows for the meticulous examination of new configurations and functionalities. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) involving end-users validates the changes from a practical standpoint, ensuring they meet user needs and expectations.
Addressing any detected bugs, performance issues, or discrepancies during testing guarantees a smoother transition. A robust testing phase minimizes post-implementation disruptions and fosters user confidence. By prioritizing quality assurance, organizations fortify their change management process, delivering dependable solutions that align seamlessly with business objectives.
Empowering users through effective training and ongoing support is pivotal in salesforce change management. Developing comprehensive training materials, including guides and tutorials, equips users with the knowledge to navigate new features and processes. Conducting engaging training sessions and workshops enhances user proficiency and fosters a positive transition experience.
Providing accessible avenues for user support, such as help desks or forums, ensures timely issue resolution and knowledge sharing. Prioritizing user training and support cultivates user confidence, reduces frustration, and promotes efficient utilization of the salesforce platform, ultimately contributing to the success of change initiatives.
A well-executed change rollout and vigilant monitoring are pivotal to salesforce change management success. Careful planning of controlled rollouts or pilot launches ensures gradual adoption and minimizes disruption. Monitoring user adoption, feedback, and system performance provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of implemented changes. Iterative improvements based on real-time data help fine-tune configurations and address evolving needs.
This proactive approach guarantees that the change’s impact aligns with expectations, promoting sustained user satisfaction. By maintaining a watchful eye on the ongoing change process, organizations can swiftly adapt, optimize, and enhance the Salesforce environment, driving long-term success and continuous improvement.
Simplifying Salesforce change management is a multi-faceted endeavor that demands strategic planning, collaboration, documentation, testing, training, and vigilant monitoring. By adhering to these key principles, organizations can navigate transitions with clarity, engage stakeholders effectively, and ensure seamless system enhancements. Embracing change as an iterative process allows for agility and continuous improvement, leading to a Salesforce environment that not only meets current needs but also lays a solid foundation for future innovation and success.
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Customization, add-ons and integrations
Ease of use
Salesforce is arguably the best-known CRM provider on the market. It has an established community and a well-earned reputation for being a leader in the customer relationship management field. While it was created to meet the needs of enterprises and large businesses, Salesforce has expanded its scope and now actively targets businesses of all sizes.
Unlike more rigid competitors, Salesforce CRM provides countless personalization and customization options, giving businesses a high level of control over how the system looks and acts. We were particularly impressed by how Salesforce handles workflow automation and by its pioneering integration of AI in CRM customization.
Notably, Salesforce was one of the first CRM platforms to open itself up to third-party developers, giving it more apps and customization options than any other provider. If Salesforce doesn’t have a built-in function you need, there’s almost certainly an app to compensate. If not, a developer can create and deploy a specific solution.
Salesforce CRM’s initial setup requires time and IT skills. Its learning curve is far steeper than those of many other CRM providers we reviewed. However, you’ll enjoy flexible CRM software guaranteed to accommodate all custom processes and meet the changing needs of your business. For all these reasons and more, Salesforce is our top CRM choice for customization.
Salesforce CRM’s pipeline management feature gives an overview of your sales opportunities. Source: Salesforce
Salesforce may not be the best choice for businesses with less complex operational needs. If your SMB’s CRM needs are straightforward, check out our review of monday.com CRM to learn about a well-executed system designed for SMBs.
Despite its complexities, Salesforce is surprisingly easy to implement and use. Here are some notable ease-of-use factors we discovered.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards help your team pinpoint problems and work on solutions. Source: Salesforce
Salesforce’s upper-tier plans provide business owners access to live support, coaching sessions and adoption guidance for an additional fee. This may be useful if you’re considering switching CRM systems to Salesforce.
The Salesforce product boasts an impressive array of CRM features that make it one of the best on the market. Here are some of the most notable features that provide excellent CRM software benefits.
We like that Salesforce’s business products seamlessly integrate. Businesses can grow with the Salesforce CRM and gradually adopt new features as needed. Additional Salesforce product categories include:
You can use Salesforce’s impressive range of third-party apps to run many aspects of your company, from marketing to fulfillment. HR, data analytics, workforce collaboration and finance apps plug directly into Salesforce CRM. You can even add ERP apps to Salesforce to build a system close in function to the ERP platform described in our review of Oracle NetSuite CRM.
We also like how Salesforce’s AppExchange breaks down apps by industry. There are 12 sector-specific areas on AppExchange, including communications, financial services, manufacturing and professional services.
Salesforce is a capable solution for companies that want to Improve customer service performance. Read our review of Salesforce Service Cloud to discover how it helps supervisors and teams manage ongoing customer relationships.
We were impressed by Salesforce CRM’s vast customization capabilities – an area where it truly stands out among the competition. While many CRMs we reviewed offer options for customizing deal and contact fields, email templates, and dashboards, Salesforce lets you do much more.
Here are some of our favorite customization options:
Sales managers can customize their dashboards with specific objects. Source: Salesforce
We like that CRM users can build customizable systems and integrate their favorite business apps via the Salesforce AppExchange store. Other CRM software companies we reviewed have similar online stores for add-ons, but Salesforce’s is far more comprehensive, with thousands of available integrations.
The company makes it easy to search for add-ons based on the product name and view industry-specific product bundles. Because Salesforce is such a huge company, its industry-specific add-ons are expansive. There’s even a separate section for small business-specific add-ons, many of which are free.
On the AppExchange, you’ll find five different solution categories:
Salesforce is embracing the “low code” and “no code” trends with its Lightning App Builder and Salesforce Flow drag-and-drop tools. Read our HubSpot review to learn about another CRM with drag-and-drop functionality.
New apps are added to the AppExchange daily, further enhancing its appeal. Source: Salesforce
We were pleased to see Salesforce’s intuitive productivity-boosting tools, particularly its built-in project management features. (Freshworks has similar tools; read our Freshworks CRM review to learn more.) Once implemented, sales and marketing departments – as well as managers – will find it easy to manage and build workflows, assign and follow tasks, and check off permissions.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards allow sales reps to check KPIs and track their progress toward quotas, facilitating productivity and accountability. We like that you can add meetings straight from the calendar tab and see an instant overview of your schedule.
Additional add-on productivity tools are available through the AppExchange.
Salesforce’s artificial intelligence (AI) strides impressed us with capabilities beyond those of the competitors we reviewed. Salesforce was a CRM-AI pioneer, launching its high-profile AI tool, Einstein, in 2016. Today, the company has picked up the pace amid breakthroughs in the generative large language model AIs (like ChatGPT and Bard) that power tools like Einstein. Einstein is available on Salesforce’s upper-tier plans or as a paid add-on.
Einstein can do the following after gathering data from system use and user input:
Einstein, in its current form, is amazing, and we look forward to seeing its next iterations. We expect AI (and the solutions other CRM providers develop) to be integral to corporate life and CRM adoption in the coming years. We’re not awarding best use of AI in this round of CRM reviews; however, if we were, Salesforce would win.
Einstein can flag emails in which leads express critical concerns that could prevent a deal from moving forward, allowing a sales rep to prioritize those messages and act fast to grow and sustain customer relationships.
Salesforce’s Einstein tool can help with sentiment analysis so you understand how your brand is perceived. Source: Salesforce
Nearly every CRM vendor we reviewed has some form of an online community. However, Salesforce’s Trailblazer community is particularly impressive, replete with documentation invaluable for admins. You can find step-by-step guides on everything from creating custom CRM reports to turning on user notifications.
There’s also an extensive user-only forum for direct communication with other admins and CRM users and a comprehensive Trailhead learning platform with various product-related courses, upskilling opportunities and official certifications.
You can purchase Salesforce’s Sales Cloud CRM via one of four subscription tiers:
Unlike Salesforce competitors monday and HubSpot, there’s no free plan.
Only Essentials is available on a month-to-month basis; all other plans require an annual contract. Bear in mind that annual contracts often require you to pay for the whole year upfront, which may not be ideal for some businesses.
All costs below are applied when billed annually. All plans allow you to send 5,000 email marketing messages daily from the platform, which is much more generous than many other providers we reviewed.
Price: $25 per user per month; available for up to 10 users
Features: Account, contact, lead, task and opportunity management; lead auto-assignment; prevention of duplicates; automatic capture of a lead’s available web information; mass email; marketing campaigns; customizable reports and dashboards; email integration with Gmail and Outlook; and Salesforce mobile app
Price: $75 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Essentials plan, plus pipeline management, lead registration, rules-based lead scoring, collaborative forecasting, a forecasting mobile app, quote and order management, roles and permissions, and a developer sandbox
Price: $150 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Professional plan, plus workflow and approval automation, sales teams and territories, opportunity scoring, and advanced reporting
Price: $300 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Enterprise plan, plus a sales engagement hub, AI-powered sales insights with Einstein, sales cadences and 24/7 support
Salesforce is pricey compared to other CRM solutions we reviewed. It’s a massive product with many add-ons and customizations; the subscription costs listed here should be considered jumping-off points.
You can spend considerably more on Salesforce. For example, CPQ & Billing, which allows you to quickly configure, price and quote complex solutions, costs $75 per user per month. Other add-ons include Pardot, Quip, Einstein AI and Sales Dialer – all sold separately. There are additional costs if you opt for training or help with implementation.
Many other SaaS products offer free versions and low-cost, entry-level subscriptions that can be used indefinitely. While $25 per user per month isn’t exorbitant, it’s not a realistic long-term option for most small businesses because only 10 users are supported at that level. The next plan jumps to $75 per user per month – significantly more expensive than the competition.
We recommend taking advantage of Salesforce’s 14-day free trial to ensure this CRM is worth the investment.
Implementing CRM software always takes care and patience. But due to its breadth of customization options, Salesforce CRM’s implementation process can vary drastically, taking anywhere from a few days to several weeks. While that may seem alarming, users will quickly see that this CRM is worth the effort once it is set up.
Salesforce and third-party agencies can manage your initial implementation and launch for you. Still, this help comes at a cost, depending on your company size, number of employees, data volume and complexity, third-party integrations, and customization level.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to create a complex solution immediately. You can use the software out of the box and modify it as your business needs evolve. Thanks to the Salesforce CRM’s intuitive design and overall sophistication, the learning curve isn’t steep for non-admin users after implementation.
In addition to a vast library of training materials, Salesforce offers adoption guidance and coaching services for an extra cost. That may be worth it for business owners concerned about setting up the CRM and onboarding users.
Use the Data Import Wizard from the Setup menu to import up to 50,000 standard objects – like contact, lead and account information – from a CSV file.
While Salesforce is a market leader in CRM technology, integrations and capabilities, we found that it falls short in the customer service department. When we reached out for information about the company’s services, the response was delayed.
When we did communicate with customer support reps, they were very helpful and used real-life situations to explain the product’s features and answer questions about the program. They were very clear and offered several solutions to help further our understanding. However, compared to other providers we called, their answers could have been more detailed.
Unfortunately, Salesforce has a C-minus rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and isn’t an accredited BBB business. It earned 1 out of 5 stars and closed 55 complaints within the last three years. That’s disappointing and surprising for a company that’s so well regarded in the industry.
On the plus side, Salesforce provides an extensive selection of self-guided resources, access to the Trailblazer community and basic technical support. Additionally, its Unlimited package comes with 24/7 assistance.
For an additional fee of 30 percent of your total monthly service fees, users can access 24/7 phone support, expert coaching and a dedicated account manager.
Salesforce CRM is an excellent solution; however, we did identify some limitations:
When evaluating the best CRM software, we conducted extensive comparative research of dozens of software solutions in the category. Our product review process was designed to help you find the right CRM for your business. It included customer support team communication, trials to evaluate product functionality, and an evaluation of each provider’s tutorials, webinars and support materials. We also took pricing into consideration. When looking for the best CRM for customizability specifically, we examined customization options, available integrations, reporting and analytics, and sales automation.
Though the Salesforce system has an extensive collection of CRM features and add-ons, its intuitive design and standard CRM lingo make it easy to learn. The vendor also provides various training materials and courses on Trailhead, the company’s free online learning platform, to get you started.
Salesforce doesn’t have a free plan; its pricing starts at $25 per user per month. However, the company offers a 14-day free trial so you can assess whether it’s a good fit for your business.
Over the past two decades, Salesforce modernized the customer relationship management (CRM) business by replacing Rolodexes and desktop-based software with cloud-based services. That approach enabled companies to maintain consistent records, compartmentalize and analyze each customer, and scale their businesses more easily.
Between fiscal 2003 and fiscal 2023 (which ended this January), Salesforce's revenue soared from $51 million to $31.4 billion, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38%. Its stock has risen 5,200% over the past 20 years.
Salesforce's returns are astounding, but its growth is cooling off as it matures. So instead of sticking with its stock, many growth-oriented investors are already searching for the "next Salesforce," which can carve out a new niche in the software market. Could the robotic process automation (RPA) leader UiPath (PATH 0.72%) fit that bill?
UiPath develops software robots that can be integrated into an organization's existing software applications to automate repetitive tasks like entering data, processing invoices, onboarding customers, and sending out mass emails. By installing those robots, companies can replace their human employees, streamline their operations, and cut costs.
UiPath's first-mover advantage made it the leader of this niche market. According to Gartner, it controlled 34% of the global RPA market in 2021, and it actually expanded its share that year as all of its smaller rivals lost ground.
From fiscal 2020 to 2023 (which ended this January), UiPath's revenue had a CAGR of 47%, from $336 million to $1.06 billion. By comparison, Salesforce generated $1.08 billion in revenue in fiscal 2009. Salesforce subsequently grew its revenue at a compound annual rate of 27% from fiscal 2009 to 2023.
However, analysts only expect UiPath's revenue to show a CAGR of 19% from fiscal 2023 to 2026 as it faces tougher macro and competitive headwinds.
We should take those estimates with a grain of salt, but UiPath's growth has clearly decelerated over the past year. Even though the installation of its RPA tools might help companies reduce their long-term expenses, many of those potential customers have been reining in their software spending to cope with near-term macro headwinds.
As the market's demand for RPA tools cools off, more competitors -- including Salesforce's MuleSoft RPA, Microsoft's Power Automate, and Appian RPA -- are all creeping into UiPath's backyard.
Salesforce and Microsoft could cause a lot of trouble because they can both bundle their RPA services into their market-leading cloud ecosystems. Both of those tech giants could also integrate more generative AI tools (like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Salesforce's Einstein GPT) to automate more processes and eliminate the need for third-party RPA services.
To make matters worse, UiPath isn't profitable yet, and analysts expect it to rack up between $100 million to $200 million in net losses annually through fiscal 2026. All of that red ink could make it tough to keep pace with the competition.
Like Salesforce, UiPath carved out a niche in the software market with a platform that digitally transformed businesses. But unlike Salesforce, UiPath didn't have the luxury of expanding for years before bigger competitors entered the market.
Instead of creating a brand-new cloud-based platform like Salesforce, UiPath only created automation bots that can be integrated into a company's existing software. Tech giants like Microsoft and Salesforce might be eager to purge those third-party bots from their platforms, while their clients might prefer to use their first-party automation tools instead.
Based on all these facts, I don't think UiPath will evolve into the next Salesforce. It might still have room to grow, since Fortune Business Insights estimates the global RPA market will still have a CAGR of 23% between 2022 and 2029. But it's far too early to declare that it can expand out of its niche and evolve into a tech giant.
Hackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Salesforce's email services and SMTP servers to launch a sophisticated phishing campaign targeting valuable Facebook accounts.
The attackers chained a flaw dubbed "PhishForce," to bypass Salesforce's sender verification safeguards and quirks in Facebook's web games platform to mass-send phishing emails.
The benefit of using a reputable email gateway like Salesforce to distribute phishing emails is the evasion of secure email gateways and filtering rules, ensuring that the malicious emails reach the target's inbox.
The campaign was discovered by Guardio Labs analysts Oleg Zaytsev and Nati Tal, who reported the unknown vulnerability to Salesforce and helped them with the remediation process.
However, the discovered issues in Facebook's game platform are outstanding, as Meta's engineers are still trying to figure out why the existing mitigations failed to stop the attacks.
The Salesforce CRM allows customers to send emails as their own brand using custom domains that the platform must first verify. This protects customers from sending out emails through Salesforce as other brands that they do not have permission to impersonate.
However, Guardio Labs says the attackers figured out a way to exploit Salesforce's "Email-to-Case" feature, which organizations use for converting incoming customer emails to actionable tickets for their support teams.
Specifically, the attackers set up a new "Email-to-Case" flow to gain control of a Salesforce-generated email address, then created a new inbound email address on the "salesforce.com" domain.
Next, they set that address as an "Organization-Wide Email Address," which Salesforce's Mass Mailer Gateway uses for outbound emails, and finally went through the verification process to confirm ownership of the domain.
This process allowed them to use their Salesforce email address to send out messages to anyone, bypassing both Salesforce's verification protections and any other email filters and anti-phishing systems in place.
Indeed, this is what Guardio Labs observed in the wild, with phishing emails that supposedly came from "Meta Platforms" using the "case.salesforce.com" domain.
Clicking on the embedded button takes the victim to a phishing page hosted and displayed as part of the Facebook gaming platform ("apps.facebook.com"), which adds further legitimacy to the attack and makes it even harder for the email recipients to realize the fraud.
The goal of the phishing kit employed in this campaign is to steal Facebook account credentials, even featuring two-factor authentication bypassing mechanisms.
After confirming the issues by replicating the creation of a Salesforce-branded address capable of disseminating phishing emails, Guardio Labs notified the vendor of their discovery on June 28, 2023
Salesforce reproduced the vulnerability and resolved the problem exactly a month later, on July 28, 2023.
Regarding the abuse of "apps.facebook.com," Guardio Labs notes that it should be impossible for the attackers to create the game canvass used as a landing page since Facebook retired this platform in July 2020.
However, legacy accounts that used the platform before its deprecation still have access, and threat actors might be paying a premium for those accounts on the dark web.
Meta removed the violating pages upon Guardio Labs' report; however, its engineers are still investigating why existing protections failed to stop the attacks.
As phishing actors continue to explore every potential abuse opportunity on legitimate service providers, novel security gaps constantly threaten to expose users to severe risks.
Thus, it is essential not to rely solely on email protection solutions, and also scrutinize every email that lands on your inbox, look for inconsistencies, and double-check all claims made in those messages.
Salesforce has launched Salesforce Accelerator – AI for Impact, an initiative to help organisations access and use generative AI technologies.
The accelerator aims to close the access gap to AI by providing flexible funding, pro-bono expertise, and technology to purpose-driven organisations.
This year through the accelerator it is granting $2mn to education, workforce, and climate nonprofits ‘to advance the equitable and ethical use of trusted AI’. It will also hold sessions with grantees and partners to help them understand the opportunities and risks around AI, and identify solutions that support their communities.
Applications for the accelerator closed at the end of July.
Becky Ferguson, CEO of the Salesforce Foundation and SVP of Philanthropy at Salesforce said:
“Generative AI presents a massive and exciting opportunity for purpose-driven organisations to better serve and meaningfully engage with their communities. In this time of rapid innovation, we need to ensure no one gets left behind. This AI accelerator brings the full power of Salesforce with unrestricted grants, pro-bono expertise, and our technology to create a more equitable AI world.”
Elsewhere, Blackbaud also has a focus on generative AI. It announced last month that its July 2023 Social Good Startup Program cohort would concentrate on tech startups using generative AI to increase impact for companies and nonprofits focused on social responsibility.
Participants receive access to Blackbaud resources, marketing opportunities and grant funding, and Blackbaud also works with the startup founders to design a plan for growth.
Salesforce introduced its AI layer, dubbed Einstein, in 2016. More recently, at the Salesforce World Tour event in NYC in May, all the company talked about was generative AI and Data Cloud, its in-house data lake. Today, it announced the next step in that journey with the release of Einstein Studio and the ability to bring your own model (BYOM).
“We are launching ‘bring your own model,’ which allows our customers to bring their proprietary data into Data Cloud to build and train their model,” Rahul Auradkar, EVP & GM of unified data services and Einstein, told TechCrunch. When you bring your external model and mix it with the Salesforce data in Data Cloud, Auradkar says that it’s a powerful combination.
The solution is really aimed at folks who have fairly sophisticated data teams and have been building models in other places like SageMaker. These companies want to put those models they’ve already built and made a significant investment in, to work in other contexts. That’s what Einstein Studio enables them to do.
Einstein Studio is a management console that lives in Data Cloud and enables customers to import an existing model with zero ETL. That means the customer should be able to import the data without having to go through the painful exercise of extracting, transforming and loading it. That’s a big deal for data teams and should make the solution more attractive because of that.
For starters, it will support Amazon SageMaker out of the box, but Salesforce is also working on a pilot with Google Vertex AI with plans in the works to support Databricks, Snowflake and others down the road.
While Einstein comes with a number of predictive models like which customers are most likely to churn, this solution lets customers design customized predictive models to predict things like which products are most likely to need maintenance or making product recommendations based on a customer’s interest.
It can also work with LLMs to generate content like sending an automated email when the product is ready for maintenance before it breaks. Salesforce wants to reduce hallucinations, where the model makes stuff up when it doesn’t have a definitive answer, by connecting to a graph database based on data inside Salesforce. So the LLM can see all of the data related to a particular customer, giving the model the information it needs to write a more accurate email based on the information in the customer record.
Once you import the model, you can put it into workflows inside Salesforce and generate insights or trigger actions like creating an email, all while taking advantage of work your data team has already done.
Einstein Studio with the ability to connect to Amazon SageMaker and bring your own model is available in GA starting today.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff has become something of a vanishing breed during the nearly quarter century he has been running the company that pioneered the concept of selling software as an online subscription. While Benioff remains in charge at Salesforce, other billionaire founder/CEOs such Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Google's Larry Page and Netflix's Reed Hastings have all stepped away from groundbreaking companies born during the 1990s.
Benioff, 58, isn't ready to leave Salesforce yet, even though he has amassed an $8 billion fortune and just went through a challenging stretch that might have caused many CEOs to head for the exit. In January, Benioff decided to lay off 8,000 Salesforce employees after overseeing a pandemic-driven expansion that included a nearly $28 billion acquisition of the popular workplace tool Slack and then grappled with an investor backlash triggered by a nearly 50% drop in the company's stock price last year. The shares have recovered most of their losses so far this year on the strength of a revived revenue growth.
The Associated Press recently sat down with Benioff for an interview that has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: How does the landscape look to you as the pandemic fades into the rearview mirror?
A: When I look back at 2019, we had really gone through three huge waves of technology: cloud computing, mobile and social. And now we are going into the fourth wave, which is probably the most important one in AI (artificial intelligence), which is not just the most important technology of our lifetime, but probably the most important in any lifetime. It’s going to be a new world of technology that’s as exciting as all the other worlds put together.
Q: Is this on the scale of the development of nuclear bombs back in World War II?
A: Technologies are never good or bad, it’s what we do with them that matters. Nobody wants a Hiroshima moment to understand how dangerous AI is. We want to be able to kind of get our heads around the tremendous consequences of the technology that we are working with. And that’s going to require a multi-stakeholder approach — companies, governments, non-governmental organizations and others to put together the guidelines for this technology.
Q: Have you been surprised or alarmed by how quickly things seem to be advancing since the release of the ChatGPT bot late last year?
A: We are moving from the generative ChatGPT phase, which is phase one, into a stage where we are about to see agents that are quite alive and aware and able to take these kinds of massive actions. These are called multimodal agents, that is they can move from text to speech to video. And then we are going to move into something that is maybe more multisensory, where these agents are going to be more aware of us and we are going to be more aware of them.
None of us are really ready for this because none of us have had this experience before. We are on the threshold of a dramatic change in the way we work with computers. We are going to work side by side with them. And, in many cases, they are going to augment or extend what we have been doing. They are going to be taking actions without our knowledge.
Q: Salesforce is one of many tech companies that now allow employees to work remotely at least a few days a week. How has the pandemic changed the nature of work?
A: We are all using technology to find more freedom in our lives. Things are back to normal, but people do go to the office less. And that is not going to change. We are never going back to they way it was.
Q: The tech industry expanded rapidly during the pandemic and then abruptly reversed course with a waves of layoffs that included Salesforce. What happened?
A: Companies were too optimistic, including ours. And we unfortunately had to make adjustments, some that we did not want to make. I think everyone got hypnotized during the pandemic that that was what the future was going to look like. And when the pandemic was over, there was a snapback.
Q: Have you given much thought to how much longer you want to remain Salesforce's CEO?
A: I think about my career every day, but I have never been more excited about the future of the industry and the potential to help all our customers. This technology revolution that is going on in artificial intelligence and the importance of bringing trust to AI is a real call to arms.
Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) shares slipped 1.5% in pre-market trading after Morgan Stanley downgraded the cloud computing giant on concerns that the next catalyst will take longer than expected.
Analyst Keith Weiss lowered his rating on Salesforce (CRM) shares to equal-weight from overweight, but boosted his price target to $278 from $251, noting the stock has benefited from margin expansion, the presence of activist investors, price increases and generative AI announcements. With those already announced, the stock moving higher "becomes increasingly centered on showing upside to growth expectations," which Weiss said will take time.
"With regard to Generative AI announcements, limited access to Unlimited tiers in Sales and Service Clouds, as well as, uncertainty on access, capabilities and pricing of consumption credits (which are expected to be the more significant driver on GenAI-related growth vs. seat-based uplifts), keeps us from crediting the company more fully with near-term benefits," Weiss wrote in an investor note.
Weiss also pointed out that the "limited" seat access and uncertainty on pricing of consumption credits lead him to believe that any financial benefits that Salesforce (CRM) will see are "unlikely" to be a near or medium-term catalyst.
Earlier this month, Salesforce (CRM) unveiled pricing for its generative artificial intelligence tools, Sales GPT and Service GPT. Both services cost $50 per user per month and come with a "limited" number of credits for its generative AI tool, Einstein GPT.
Separately, the company also raised list prices an average of 9% across Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Industries and Tableau, starting next month.
Analysts are extremely bullish on Salesforce (CRM). It has a BUY rating from Seeking Alpha authors, while Wall Street analysts rate it a BUY. Conversely, Seeking Alpha's quant system, which consistently beats the market, rates CRM a STRONG BUY.