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Microsoft Teams in crosshairs as Salesforce announces acquisition of Slack to bolster its Customer 360 vision

Slack fits within Salesforce’s historical growth strategy

Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) has increasingly relied on inorganic growth to accelerate top-line revenue performance, such as its acquisitions of MuleSoft in 2018 for $6.5 billion and Tableau in 2019 for $15.7 billion. The addition of Slack (NYSE: WORK) would allow Salesforce to augment its robust, customer-focused products, including Sales and Service clouds, with Slack’s internal collaboration and communication platform, which contains a robust ecosystem of third-party integrations. Speaking about the acquisition during Salesforce’s 3Q20 earnings call, CEO Marc Benioff stated, “More than 90% of Slack’s enterprise customers are also Salesforce customers, but we also see how much further they can go.”

How much further Slack’s clients can go on their deployments will be contingent on Salesforce’s ability to articulate the value of the Customer 360 vision to the acquired clients. Execution of this portfolio strategy will be critical to complementing Salesforce’s inorganic growth by driving demand of existing front-office suites like Sales and Service clouds, in addition to broadening the company’s presence beyond the front-office with recent product launches like middle- and back-office-focused suite Revenue Cloud.

Integrating Slack’s value proposition with existing go-to-market efforts

The acquisition of Slack would bolster Salesforce’s Customer 360 portfolio strategy by adding a robust collaboration product at the center of the platform. This tactic mirrors recent investments by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) around Teams, such as tighter integrations with products like Dynamics 365, which, combined with enterprise needs as a result of the pandemic, accelerated Teams’ daily active user growth by a reported 53% from April to October. Further, the acquisition will increase the competitiveness of Slack in larger-scale multiproduct engagements, a dynamic the company struggled with in the past, given its lack of portfolio breadth compared to Microsoft. This is evidenced by Slack’s July filing of an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in the European Union, citing unfair market competition as the company frequently included Teams as a free trial within multiproduct bundles, such as Microsoft 365.

With this in mind, TBR believes the planned acquisition’s success will be contingent on Salesforce’s ability to integrate Slack’s value proposition as an internal collaboration into its customer-focused suites, thus allowing Salesforce to generate cross-sale opportunities within the acquired install base. For instance, Salesforce used investments around Work.com, a platform the company released in May in response to the pandemic, to create revenue opportunities from support for remote workforces. Specifically, Salesforce launched updates in September around employee engagement and productivity, including Employee Workspace, which provides users with a central hub to access and manage resources like learning platforms, payroll systems and collaboration applications, providing a clear path for integration with the capabilities that will be acquired from Slack. Aligning Slack capabilities with products like Work.com could help Salesforce differentiate Slack and use it to strengthen the Customer 360 portfolio strategy with clients.

After a week of market speculation, Salesforce confirmed ahead of its 3Q20 earnings call the company’s intent to acquire Slack for $27.7 billion, which would be the largest acquisition in the company’s history. The deal, which is expected to close in 2Q21, will be funded by a combination of new debt and cash on hand. The planned acquisition would inject an estimated $600 million in revenue in 2021, supporting Salesforce’s 2021 revenue guidance of approximately $25.45 billion to $25.55 billion, representing a yearly growth of about 21%.