Salesforce Co-CEO: ‘A Perfect Storm’ Is Yielding Unprecedented Partner Opportunity


There's never been an opportunity for channel success like the one Salesforce partners are fielding right now, Salesforce's co-CEO Keith Block said Tuesday at the company's Dreamforce conference.

"Demand for people in this room is unprecedented," Block told thousands of integrators, consultants and ISVs attending the partner keynote on the first day of the massive conference in San Francisco.

The convergence of forces and trends enterprises are grappling with is unlike anything seen in recent history—eclipsing the technological and business transformations of the 80s, 90s or turn of the century, he said.

"This is a perfect storm," Block told attendees. "We might never see this again. There's so much opportunity here."

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And given the rapid pace at which artificial intelligence advances, and the transformation that technology is poised to bring to every industry, the storm is just beginning.

"How will we respond to this opportunity is probably mission-critical strategic issue number one," Block said.

Salesforce's strategy leans on encouraging its ecosystem to align with targeted industries to most-effectively address a massive and still largely untapped market, he said.

Leading that effort is someone very familiar to Salesforce partners.

Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce's former channel chief, six months ago took the role of leading Salesforce's industry teams.

"But I'm not leaving the partner side," Taychakhoonavudh told attendees. "Industries and partners together offer an amazing opportunity for the partner ecosystem."

The industry strategy is one Salesforce has been executing for several years, and its already proven its wisdom, she said.

"We've done well, but there is still headroom in the form of our total addressable market," she told attendees.

Salesforce has identified seven industries it wants partners to target, she said, and has recruited a general manager for each of the seven teams—financial services, healthcare and life sciences, communications, non-profit, retail, manufacturing, government, higher education—who came from leadership roles in those verticals.

As Salesforce looks to scale beyond $20 billion, 88 percent of the growth potential comes from those seven industries. Together they represent an untapped opportunity of more than $80 billion, Taychakhoonavudh told partners.

Salesforce further breaks down the opportunity to $26 billion for B2B customers, and $55 billion for B2C, which spans all seven verticals, not just retail, she said.

Salesforce is developing specialized technologies to drive that strategy—an effort that started with its Financial Services Cloud and Health Cloud.

Those products have been upgraded, she informed partners, with a commercial banking app on the financial side, and a new release that expands Health Cloud beyond providers to payers.

The training Salesforce is providing across its ranks to target those industries is all being made available to partners, she said.

Salesforce is also building accelerators for partners to more efficiently engage those customers while providing resources to further educate its partner community.

Block said consultancies and ISVs are essential to realizing the CRM leader's goals as "both groups of companies are solving a business problem."

"We recognize the value that partners bring," the co-CEO said. Widespread digital transformation is a massive undertaking.

"If it was easy we wouldn't need partners, we wouldn't need Salesforce," Block said.

The "legacy debt" in every industry is ushering in more complexity, and more opportunity to unlock data. That's why Salesforce acquired integration software developer MuleSoft, he said.

Salesforce's top priority, Block said, is to ensure that partners have the capacity, and the skills, to meet the demand.

"We'll do whatever we can to help you out, to build up your practices and scale out," Block said.

"We have to make sure this ecosystem is set up for success. It's not just about our customers being successful," he said. "Customers won't be successful if partners aren't successful."