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Partners Hail Salesforce's Move To Elevate Keith Block To Co-CEO

By delegating leadership over executing Salesforce's growth strategy to his right-hand man, Benioff has freed himself to focus on vision, innovation and culture

Since coming to Salesforce five years ago, Keith Block has been a driving force in the CRM leader's surge past $10 billion in revenue -- faster than any software company before it.

Promoted Wednesday to co-CEO, the former Oracle exec's new position formalizes his role as the key architect and implementor of Salesforce's strategy to also hit $20 billion in record time.

Block's elevation frees founder and now co-CEO Marc Benioff to focus on loftier issues of vision, technological and marketing innovation, stakeholder engagement and culture, according to a statement from the company.

[Related: Salesforce Doubles Down On Its Vertical Strategy As New Channel Chief And His Predecessor Align Partners And Industries]

Partners applauded Benioff's decision to delegate leadership over execution and operations to an equal officer.

"It's a smart, strategic step for Salesforce," Gireesh Sonnad, CEO and co-founder of Silverline, a New York City-headquartered Salesforce partner, told CRN.

Benioff will be able to focus on what he does best—driving innovation and increasing the standard of customer success, Sonnad said.

"I’ve seen first-hand how Keith's [Block] focus on industry verticalization of the Salesforce platform has increased growth over the last five years," Sonnad said.

Pat Morrissey, CMO at Altify, a Salesforce partner headquartered in San Jose, Calif., said Block's promotion is a smart move on Benioff's part, as the founder's job has always transcended running day-to-day operations.

"Partnering with Block frees Marc [Benioff] to spend more cycles on product, people and culture," Morrissey said.

As co-CEO, Block will remain dedicated to commercial operations, customer success, and expanding Salesforce’s push into verticals, he said.

"This move is a win for Salesforce’s employees, customers and partners," Morrissey said.

Eran Gil, CEO of AllCloud, a Salesforce partner headquartered in Israel that recently moved into the North American market, said Block's operational skills complement Benioff's vision in a way that will benefit Salesforce and its ecosystem.

"Keith's nomination makes perfect sense as a next step in Salesforce's evolution and growth," Gil told CRN, adding he and his team have directly "seen and experienced Keith's abilities" in areas that touched AllCloud's business, including collaboration with partners.

After a rancorous split with Oracle, Block landed at Salesforce in 2013 to lead customer-facing operations across the rapidly growing SaaS vendor's global sales, customer support and consulting services organizations. As the new Salesforce president, he simultaneously took a seat on the company's board.

Block, increasingly perceived as Benioff's right-hand man, was promoted to chief operating officer in early 2016, reflecting the integral leadership role he was playing across the company.

Block left Oracle as executive vice president of the company's North American sales operations, including the software giant's channel organization—a position he held since 2002.

After 26 years at the software giant, he was dismissed in June 2012 for reportedly writing emails critical of Oracle's management and $7.3 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010.

In his new role at Salesforce, Block will report directly to the board of directors on which he sits.

"Keith has been my trusted partner in running Salesforce for the past five years, and I'm thrilled to welcome him as co-CEO," Benioff said in a prepared statement. "Keith has outstanding operational expertise and corporate leadership experience, and I could not be happier for his promotion and this next level of our partnership."

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