Salesforce announcing that it was acquiring Slack for $27.7 billion in cash and stock signaled a monumental shift in terms both of the future of enterprise software and, more broadly, the future of work.
Specifically, it signaled the end of the era that Salesforce itself created — that of full-stack packaged cloud apps liberated from the limitations of on-premise software.
That era — call it SaaS 1.0 — constituted a quantum leap in mankind’s ongoing march towards full digital transformation, mostly by making software more available.
But it didn’t bring us all the way there. Software remained siloed, and as a result, its value remained limited. Specifically, two categories of software tools emerged: one for where people worked, and another for where data was stored. The two could only be bridged manually or with a lot of deep technical work.
Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack is an acknowledgment that this siloed approach is massively inadequate — that, in simple terms, you must meet people where they’re at.
Call it SaaS 2.0.
This next wave of SaaS will be less about where software is run, and more about how it is leveraged holistically, with a focus on where people work.
The difference will be stark. For example, users will be able to access data managed in Salesforce from within their preferred interface (be it Slack or any other system). This means users will be able to execute quality work without leaving their preferred interface. The integration will come not as an afterthought or as a “patch,” but as an integral part of the solution’s design.
That’s an absolute game-changer in terms of efficiency, flexibility, and usability.
It’s also an example, more broadly, of technology working for people, instead of demanding that people work for technology.
To make a difference, SaaS 2.0 software will need to be more adaptive and more flexible. Instead of an endless line of apps providing purely standalone experiences, it will give birth to platforms that are process-centric and that provide customizable and connected experiences.
Most importantly, it will feature operating systems that finally, more seamlessly bridge the divide between where data is stored / businesses are run and where people spend their time.
It’s a big, important step. It’s a step I’m especially encouraged to see, given how I’ve spent the better part of the last decade developing a platform designed precisely for this purpose of not only empowering our companies’ most valuable assets — which are our people — but of realizing software’s promise of real and complete digital transformation.
The $27.7 billion that Salesforce paid for Slack is, in this sense, an acknowledgment of this new paradigm and an investment in our future.