When trying to determine the future, you can read Tarot cards, look in a crystal ball, or follow the money being invested by people who can afford to make big bets. One of the biggest wagers recently (although it’s a pretty safe one) is that Salesforce is going to pay $27.7 Billion dollars to purchase Slack.
Forget about the number for a minute. It makes my head spin and I can’t even imagine how much money that is (but it has nine zeros, just in case you try. Doesn’t help, does it?) But why would a company whose bread and butter is customer relationship software want to head out and compete with Microsoft Teams and other such tools?
Just for transparency’s sake, we at Remote Leadership Institute use Slack. It works for us. Other tools work for other people. Given that the industry standard is 80% of people use only 20% of the features in most technology platforms, some people get great results with it. Others could get better returns writing on cave walls. This isn’t a judgment on whether your team should use a specific tool.
Whatever specific game plan Salesforce has, the investment itself says a lot about where work is headed in general.
Hybrid work will become the norm
While it often gets called a remote working tool, Slack really creates a place for people to collaborate, communicate, and share Simpsons GIFs regardless of physical location. When people work in the same cubicle farm, they can check whether someone’s at their desk, if they’re busy, or ask a quick question and get back to whatever task they’re working on. When we work remotely, it’s harder to do this quickly and easily.
By creating an easy way to sort communication into finer and finer slivers like specific customers or cross functional teams, and allowing for rich synchronous and asynchronous discussion, tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and whatever pops up next will become much more critical. If people use it well, and that brings us to our next point.
Technology will continue to merge and consolidate
Leaving out the philosophical discussions around monopolies, the spirit of innovation, and the logic, or lack thereof, of venture capital, there’s a compelling reason technology platforms continue to absorb each other, merge, and expand like drunken amoebae.
On an organization level, it’s a nightmare when you have too many tools that don’t interact well together. It’s clumsy, hard to manage and maintain, and extremely expensive to have that many licenses from multiple vendors. At the beginning of the pandemic work-from-home cycle teams, companies and individuals grabbed whatever they could use to keep work flowing. This explains the “Zoom-boom,” since it was cheap or even free, and didn’t conflict with other tools. It didn’t work very well with them either, it just stood alone but was easy to use and got the job done. (By the way, Zoom will be at the heart of the next megadeal, and it’s going to make this deal look like me playing quarter slot machines).
But while having a lot of tools at their disposal helps get work done initially, it can also become a barrier to productivity. Which tools does a team use for instant messaging? What if one department is using Jabber and another has migrated to something else? The main selling point for Microsoft Teams, and the reason so many people have adopted it so quickly despite it still being a work-in-progress is people want one tool with one log-on, one password, and it plays well with the other tools they work with every day, especially Outlook.
As organizations begin to use CRMs as the backbone of their internal communication, it makes sense that tool would perform as many functions as possible. Add to this the ongoing culture war against email (such as Cal Newport’s A World Without Email) and people have to use something that’s fast, convenient, and allows for more message management than Outlook or Gmail.
Whether it’s the best available tool or not, convenience and simplicity are driving factors for many of us. Workers are seeking “one ring to rule them all,” just to make their work lives easier. Combining the power of a tool like Salesforce with the communication possibilities of Slack presents an option to Microsoft.
A company that big has to put its money somewhere, and it’s still cheaper than going into space.
I don’t know Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, and don’t have an opinion of him other than he’s obviously driven, ambitious and way smarter than me. But I know two things: First, companies that size are driven by the need to grow, so this and other purchases are inevitable. Second, despite his wealth and power he hasn’t yet entered the Space-X, Blue Dragon, Virgin Galactic space race, and a man’s gotta do something, right?
Whatever the specific financial implications of this deal, it wouldn’t happen if the business world, and the way we are expected to work and navigate through it, wasn’t looking to hybrid workplaces and the need to integrate co-located and remote team members and eliminate the barrier of distance.
Remote work will continue to grow and change. Our position as leaders in this space means we have to stay on the leading edge of all the new developments. We want to invite you to join us there with our Future of Work newsletter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.