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, 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 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%.

Tableau will add customers and seats with best practices, new capabilities and utilization of Salesforce’s sales teams

Tableau aims to help enterprises create a data-accepting culture

From the opening keynote to the breakout sessions, Tableau was consistent in its message that many enterprises are falling short of their analytics goals. Part of the reason why these enterprises are falling short of their goals is because of their corporate cultures, in which people do not understand the value of their data and business users are apprehensive about manipulating data. To help chief data officers and data analytics advocates shift company culture, Tableau created the Tableau Blueprint. In the analyst breakout session “Leading to Data Culture,” Tableau VP of Product Marketing Mark Jewett defined a data culture as “the collective behaviors and beliefs of people who value, practice and encourage the use of data to improve decision making.” Tableau Blueprint is a free, 190-plus page document of best practices curated from Tableau customers that have successfully shifted toward a data-accepting culture. Shifting a company’s culture to be accepting of data necessitates an executive team that makes it a strategic priority, as well as implicit changes such as cultural habits and explicit policies and resources. Implicit changes may seem ambiguous, but TBR believes that creating an environment in which employees feel comfortable and encouraged to learn about data analytics will breed a data-literate workforce that can better utilize Tableau’s products, enabling customers to achieve a greater return on their technology investment. Tableau Blueprint incorporates this ethos into each step of the customer’s journey, from bringing Tableau onto their infrastructure to training their employees on Tableau to creating an ecosystem that can answer questions for their Tableau users. While Tableau Blueprint will largely be used by data advocates within an organization, TBR expects that Tableau’s consulting partners will also use the set of best practices when implementing Tableau for their enterprise customers.

To further ensure customers are getting the most out of their Tableau products and realizing their strategic objectives and business goals, Tableau’s customer success teams help customers throughout their journey, from acquiring licenses to post-implementation. This is a strategy that Salesforce, which acquired Tableau, has used since its inception, leveraging its customer success team to help customers — and partners — through customer management, customer support, and advisory and consulting services. Tableau collaborates with partners as well, but TBR expects that Tableau’s customer success group will become more akin to that of Salesforce in offering support to both customers and partners as the two vendors collaborate to help customer and partner ecosystems utilize their Salesforce- and Tableau-integrated systems.

Tableau Conference 2019 (TC19) took place in Las Vegas, where Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky, Chief Product Officer (CPO) Francois Ajenstat, Senior Product Manager Graeme Britz and others presented to 18,000 Tableau customers and partners as well as the analyst community. Some of the keynote topics included new augmented analytics and self-service data management features, as well as changes to the company’s strategy. These topics were complemented by success stories from enterprise customers, such as Nissan, highlighting how Tableau helped transform their organization.

Embedding multicloud and software-driven services in portfolios helps vendors execute on strategy, expand addressable markets

Google Cloud revenue surpassed the $2 billion mark in 2Q19, doubling in size in six quarters. Under the guidance of CEO Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud is improving its enterprise appeal by launching its multicloud management tool set, Anthos; leveraging acquisitions to build out its migration, storage and analytics capabilities; and expanding its global sales and delivery capacity. Similarly, Salesforce complements internal innovation around solutions such as Customer 360 with ongoing acquisition activity and investment in its partner network. TBR estimates the vendor attained $3.95 billion in revenue as sales teams expanded single-product customer engagements, many of which are led by Service Cloud, into multiproduct deals.

Additional assessments publishing this week from our analyst teams

Capgemini continues to gain momentum in cloud services, with cloud revenue driven by offerings in the Capgemini Cloud Platform portfolio, which supports clients when building, migrating and managing applications and infrastructures in cloud environments. By delivering a cloud-first option, Capgemini enables enterprise and public sector clients to become agile through offerings related to data center modernization, cloud-native solutions, application modernization, intelligent applications, and emerging technologies such as IoT, blockchain and AI. Offering each client its entire portfolio enables Capgemini to provide holistic transformational solutions and effectively compete with peers. Elitsa Bakalova, Senior Analyst

TBR’s Public Sector IT Services Research practice will publish its 2Q19 ManTech report this week.  With top-line revenue expanding 9.4% year-to-year to $537 million, ManTech should be one of the top-performing vendors in 2Q19 in terms of sales growth. ManTech’s top-line expansion owes largely to accelerating spend among classified customers in the Department of Defense (DOD) and Intelligence Community that are increasingly engaging ManTech to enhance warfighting capabilities across all domains, but particularly in space and cyber. ManTech’s addressable market is set to expand and diversify into the civilian sector as the integration of Kforce Government Solutions (KGS) continues. KGS will add 500 employees with large-scale IT infrastructure modernization and transformation expertise, primarily with the Department of Veterans Affairs, to ManTech, while contributing roughly $100 million in revenue (based on revenue of $98 million reported by KGS in 2018). Inorganic sales will largely accrue in ManTech’s Mission Solutions and Services segment, where the core customer focus is the DOD, the Department of Homeland Security and federal health agencies. Look for TBR’s 2Q19 Perspecta report next week, as we examine how the company is leveraging its R&D-led approach to maintain its growth momentum as it begins its second full year as an independent, federal IT competitor. John Caucis, Senior Analyst

Weakness in Cognizant’s core industry segments overshadowed increased growth in digital in 2Q19. The company’s ability to rapidly scale its digital revenue will be key to offsetting this weakness, specifically in Financial Services and Healthcare. In the near term, Cognizant must emphasize cross-sales of acquired assets, such as Zenith Technologies, within its existing and acquired install bases. Kelly Lesiczka, Analyst

Why license when you can buy? Salesforce to acquire ClickSoftware

After 3-plus years of licensing, Salesforce intends to acquire ClickSoftware to augment Field Service Lightning

One week after Salesforce completed its acquisition of Tableau, the vendor announced its intent to acquire ClickSoftware, a field service management solutions provider, for $1.35 billion. ClickSoftware is a practical acquisition target for Salesforce; the vendors have been partners since 2016 and Salesforce licensed ClickSoftware’s field service scheduling and optimization technology to build Salesforce Field Service Lighting. Once the acquisition closes, Salesforce would integrate the remaining capabilities from ClickSoftware’s flagship product, Click Field Service Edge, such as demand forecasting and contractor management, into Field Service Lightning. These additional capabilities would better enable Salesforce to fulfill customers’ field service needs, particularly those of enterprises to manage the scheduling and dispatching of large field service employee bases.

Field Service Lightning is part of Salesforce’s Service Cloud, which exceeded $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 1Q19. TBR expects Service Cloud will surpass Sales Cloud as Salesforce’s largest revenue driver this year. Based on the inflated value of technology companies, ClickSoftware’s revenue contribution to Service Cloud would likely be marginal. Rather than acting as a catalyst for Service Cloud’s revenue growth, ClickSoftware would fill capability gaps in Salesforce’s soon-to-be flagship offering. Why would Salesforce make this acquisition after a four-year-long successful partnership in licensing ClickSoftware’s technology? Well, that licensed technology would become part of the foundation for Field Service Lightning. If a competitor was looking to purchase ClickSoftware’s technology, it could leave an unexpected gap in Salesforce’s portfolio following a fast breakup between the two vendors. So, why not get hitched and make sure no one else takes ClickSoftware off the market?

Salesforce’s front-office portfolio will help the vendor fend off competitors in the field service space

Augmenting Field Service Lightning with the remainder of ClickSoftware’s technology will better enable Salesforce to compete with vendors such as Microsoft, SAP and most notably Oracle. In 2016, when Salesforce first launched Field Service Lightning and partnered with ClickSoftware, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle were acquiring around field service. Since then, each vendor has developed a field services value proposition. For Microsoft, field service is a module within its Dynamics 365, where the vendor also offers AR apps and HoloLens devices that can be utilized by field service workers. Oracle and SAP are leaders in the ERP market but are complementing their field service applications with growing front-office and service-related SaaS offerings. However, a broader and more deeply integrated front-office portfolio would help Salesforce fend off competition, particularly if it integrates a field service leader into its arsenal.

Salesforce to acquire Tableau as the market moves to no-code and low-code environments

Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau Software would make additional data visualization and analytics capabilities available to business users

Salesforce announced its intent to buy Tableau Software in an all-stock deal valued at $15.7 billion, in which Salesforce will exchange 1.103 shares of its common stock for each of Tableau’s Class A and Class B common stock. Salesforce has been improving its Einstein analytics capabilities with functionality such as preconfigured templates and drag-and-drop analytics that enables users to create data visualizations without code. Tableau would expand Salesforce’s data visualization and analytics capabilities, as its data sorting and no-code and low-code data visualization capabilities will enable business users to manipulate data and create new data visualizations without a data scientist. While Tableau would continue to run as an independent company, TBR expects Salesforce would create integrations between Tableau and Customer 360, Salesforce’s app that connects data from its sales, service, marketing and e-commerce offerings. Since data from Customer 360 can also be pulled into Einstein analytics, the integration of Customer 360 with Tableau would enable Salesforce customers to leverage Tableau’s technology from a central touch point. If finalized, the acquisition would also increase Salesforce’s value proposition as a front-office provider for Tableau’s 86,000 customers, creating new cross-selling opportunities.

Salesforce’s front-office provider partners and competitors develop no-code- and low-code-enabled data visualization analytics as the industry trends toward codeless data manipulation

Salesforce’s announcement comes four days after Google announced its intent to acquire Looker, an analytics and data visualization company. While it is unlikely that Salesforce’s planned acquisition of Tableau was in reaction to Google, these developments further highlight the increasing importance of data visualization in the public cloud market. TBR does not expect Salesforce’s partnership with Google would be significantly impacted by the vendors’ recent investments, as Salesforce’s broader SaaS portfolio still targets a larger front-office audience and Google remains a strong IaaS partner. However, Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau would improve Salesforce’s position against Oracle in the front-office space. Oracle is improving its own analytics capabilities and unifying its data through CX Unity, its offering akin to Salesforce’s Customer 360. Additionally, the same day Salesforce announced its intent with Tableau, Microsoft announced AI Builder, which makes it easier for its PowerApps and Microsoft Flow customers to manipulate data to create AI models. Microsoft’s Power BI is in the same Power Platform product family as PowerApps and Microsoft Flow, showing Microsoft is trying to make it easier for customers to manipulate data as well. However, Microsoft’s Power Platform solutions still require a layer of coding and technical knowledge that exceeds the skill set of the typical business user. Given Salesforce’s and Google’s announcements, TBR expects Salesforce competitors such as Oracle and Microsoft may acquire data visualization companies to quickly enhance their capabilities in the space and level the balance of power in the public cloud front-office market.

Integration challenges ahead for Perspecta and SAIC as federal sector IT services vendors position for the rest of 2019

Publishing this week from TBR’s federal IT research program are our initial assessments of SAIC’s and Perspecta’s 1Q19 earnings performances. Perspecta is wrapping up its first complete fiscal year as an independent business entity. Its inaugural year has been characterized by significant challenges integrating a trio of large-scale legacy federal IT competitors, and we expect this will be reflected in its fiscal performance for 1Q19 and its FY19. The company won major contract extensions and successful re-compete bids to close out its FY19, setting the stage for improved performance in an increasingly growth-friendly federal IT market in its FY20.

SAIC will fully integrate Engility and its nearly $1.9 billion in revenue and 7,500 employees during the year, finishing a process that started in 1Q19. SAIC will leverage Engility to further accelerate its expansion with a more balanced, diversified and de-risked portfolio and an enhanced competitive stance in markets (space and intelligence) adjacent to its core Department of Defense and federal civilian sectors.

Read more of Senior Analyst John Caucis’ assessment of federal IT services vendors through the quarter and the upcoming quarterly benchmark.

Additional assessments publishing this week from our analyst teams


  • Salesforce continues to expand its global reach with new infrastructure investments and local partnerships in key regions. These developments, alongside ongoing improvements to its core portfolio in recent quarters, will enable Salesforce to deliver $3.68 billion in revenue for CY1Q19, according to TBR estimates. — Jack McElwee, Analyst


  • TBR’s 1Q19 Cisco report explores how Cisco sustained revenue growth momentum in 1Q19 despite a significant slowdown in its Service Provider customer segment, where communication service providers are focusing much of their investment on the RAN layer and software-defined networking is causing disruption. Outside the service provider segment, however, Cisco’s refreshed product lines and strong brand are resonating across SMBs, large enterprises and public sector organizations. Cisco completed the refresh of its enterprise switching lineup with the introduction of the latest Catalyst product in 1Q19, which will help drive continued growth across non-service provider segments. — Michael Soper, Senior Analyst
  • Cisco Customer Experience’s use of partners to develop its portfolio around analytics, IoT and security as well as supplement delivery enables the company to maintain profitability and generate growth, as highlighted in TBR’s 1Q19 coverage of the company. Its pursuit of partnerships with technology-led vendors, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, will help Cisco Customer Experience generate additional advisory, implementation, and software and solutions support engagements. — Kelly Lesiczka, Analyst

And sign up here for the next TBR webinar, The Makings of the Telecom Edge Compute Market.

Not your father’s partner programs: How vendors and partners are evolving cloud ecosystems

Chicken or egg first? For partner programs, that makes a big difference

As Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) created the modern computing era in the 1990s, partner programs were at the forefront. The success of these companies and the distributed computing era in general was largely built on the backs of technology and distribution partners. In fact, these companies still rely on partners to drive a majority of their revenue today. The same cannot be said for the cloud era of IT, which was led by the direct sales strategies of top vendors such as Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) and Amazon Web Services (AWS; Nasdaq: AMZN). These two vendors became leaders in their respective cloud markets by selling directly to customers, bypassing distribution partners altogether. Partners are certainly playing a larger role now, but the timing does impact their position in the value chain for cloud. Without a well-defined value-add in the self-service, transactional and passive sales strategies for cloud, partners are forced to create or carve out activities that are both unaddressed by the cloud provider and hold value for the end customer. Rather than traditional IT vendors relying on partners to drive their business, in cloud those partners are on their own in many respects to identify and develop their own value-add. Being creative, developing intellectual property and focusing on the gaps between multivendor solutions are much more important activities for partners in cloud programs compared with traditional ones.

Partners may look the same, but are in fact quite different

“What does a cloud partner look like?” was a common question as these new cloud-centric programs came to be. It was unclear if a new startup class of born-on-the-cloud partners would come into existence, or if the existing stock of VAR, distributor, MSP, systems integration (SI) and hosting partners would eventually transform their businesses to align with the new cloud business opportunities. As shown in Figure 1, the types of partners participating in new cloud programs is just the first category of changes programs are undergoing. As the answer to what type of partners are needed for these programs comes into view, it is looking like a little bit of the former and a lot of the latter. Cloud-native partners that are focused on consulting, managed services, intellectual property development and cloud solution integration hold a small but important space in the market. The difficult thing for vendors is that there are not very many of these newly formed partners, and to make matters worse, many are being acquired. It is also difficult to spur their creation or fit them into a traditional partner program. While traditional partners are cattle that can be controlled and herded in a consistent direction, cloud-native partners are wilder animals that create, forge and follow their own path. In terms of existing partners changing to focus on cloud solutions, that, too, is a difficult task. The truth is that many traditional VAR-type partners, focused on reselling and implementation activities, may not survive the transition to cloud solutions. Part of this is generationally driven, as many of the baby boomer-owned partner businesses lack the incentive to adapt their business model with retirement looming. Many of these partners will ride the slow decline of traditional IT opportunity until eventually closing their doors. Those traditional partners that do make the transition to a more cloud-focused business model will compose the largest segment of cloud partners. While they may keep the same name, these partners will be operating in a fundamentally different manner compared with traditional partner models.

emerging trends in partner program attributese
Figure 1: Emerging Trends in Partner Program Attributes

Informatica adds intelligence to data management but faces unusual competition as traditional roles blur

The Customer Data Management landscape

Informatica continues to thrive in its position as an agnostic third-party data management vendor that supports enterprises’ applications and data initiative. This approach has served Informatica well, as tailored solutions such as Customer 360 have complemented and supported leading front-office applications like Salesforce with customer data management. As front-office application vendors innovate to challenge Salesforce for market share, many are building customer data platforms that enhance the information feeding these applications and build a case for full-suite sales across front-office touch points. Among this competition, there is also a driving need to build greater insight and intelligence into customer data. Informatica’s acquisition of AllSight greatly strengthens the intelligence it can deliver around its clients’ customer data, but applications-led vendors will increasingly challenge Informatica in the customer data management space as they look to build out their value propositions.

Unifying and adding intelligence around customer data is a ubiquitous priority

Vendors across the cloud-based and traditional software landscapes want to elevate the value they provide customers and increase their addressable market by prioritizing unified and intelligent data to power enterprises. Data efforts are following the same workloads trends as cloud applications, focusing on CRM first before HCM and ERP to build traction in the market.

Applications-led vendors such as Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and Adobe are leveraging the data their individual sales, marketing, customer support and commerce applications generate and consume. This allows vendors to craft partnerships, new solutions and data model transformations to unify and enrich the data across all discrete application areas. The message shapes up to enable an enterprise to equip all front-office functions with a single and complete depiction of each customer or prospect that tracks and contextualizes actions at every point of the customer life cycle. In the last nine months we’ve seen numerous developments along these lines, including:

  • SAP announced the unification of its customer experience applications into a single suite, C/4HANA, with plans for deep integrations and layers of intelligence.
  • Adobe, Microsoft and SAP announced their alliance under the Open Data Initiative to give joint clients a more comprehensive view of their customers by enriching data across each vendor’s front-office applications.
  • Salesforce announced Customer 360 to update records across its systems with new information via a unique customer identifier.
  • Oracle announced CX Unity as a data platform that unifies data across Oracle and partner front-office applications to provide a comprehensive view of engagement points and additional data intelligence.
  • Salesforce announced intentions to offer a customer data platform to store a unified profile of customers.
  • Adobe announced a customer data platform.
  • Adobe and Microsoft expanded their relationship, launching new tools and leveraging data from LinkedIn to provide purchasing insights for B2B sales and marketing.
Customer 360 solutions graphic by Informatica

CX customers are buying into Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience vision as competitors innovate similarly

Data unification, enhancement and intelligence are key

Out from under the ERP and autonomous database narratives of Oracle’s (NYSE: ORCL) top executives, Oracle’s CX leadership was able to curate an inspiring event around its CX portfolio with themes of empowerment and valuing people’s time — both employees’ and customers’. The bulk of Oracle’s Modern CX event built on announcements made five months prior at Oracle OpenWorld 2018, most notably the capabilities that will be enabled through the launch of Oracle CX Unity and the acquisition of DataFox. These advancements will enable CX clients to engage with their customers in a more informed, timely and intelligent manner.

Through CX Unity, Oracle’s customer data platform, clients will be able to create and act on a unified customer profile that is retained and enriched within the persistent data store, for use across all other CX products, whether from Oracle or a third party. Ultimately, the goal is to leverage hyperpersonalized profiles that are updated from all CX systems in real time to best engage and delight customers. Integration across all front-office systems enables sales personnel to be aware of factors that may impact a sales opportunity, like a service ticket that implies sales personnel should hold off on a pursuit until a customer’s issue has been remedied.

The data curation assets that Oracle has acquired further enrich these customer profiles and contextual points. Augmenting the largely business-to-consumer (B2C)-oriented data that many of its previous acquisitions enabled, Oracle touted the ability of the acquired DataFox platform to utilize current, relevant market data to inform business-to-business (B2B) interactions, such as identifying when a prospective customer appoints a new executive or closes a new round of funding that may make the prospect more likely to purchase. These data assets, paired with the company’s first-party data, bolster Oracle’s Adaptive Intelligence Applications (AI Apps) portfolio, which is set to expand rapidly from eight to 17 AI Apps. Among those being added to the CX suite are Lead Optimization, Smart Talking Points, TAM Expansion and Churn Prediction.

Held in conjunction with Oracle’s Modern Business Experience, Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience brought together more than 4,000 customer engagement professionals to inspire a deeper understanding of the functionality Oracle is adding to its customer experience (CX) applications and prompt adoption against competitors’ offerings.