Salesforce COO Keith Block on 4½ Years of Transformation

In a recent interview with CNBC, Salesforce COO Keith Block discussed the transformation of Salesforce since he joined 4 ½ years ago.  Based on FY 2019 Guidance, revenue will have roughly trebled during his tenure as the firm transformed itself into a multi-cloud platform supporting companies of all sizes.

“We’ve moved very, very aggressively, both globally, in terms of our international expansion, as well as moving into the enterprise,” said Block.  “And if you look at our business mix, you can see that the enterprise business has been on fire.”

SFDC also adopted a verticalization strategy last year beginning in financial services and healthcare. The initial offerings focused on wealth management and a Health Cloud, but the firm recently announced a retail bank solution. “So, we have deep industry expertise, deep industry knowledge. Our customer-facing teams are focused by industry. We’ve released products specific to those two industries.”

Over the past 24 months, Salesforce has emphasized CEO-level discussions concerning digital transformation.  “We have a steady drumbeat of CEOs who are coming to us to talk about: What does digital transformation mean in my industry? What is your point of view? What is disruption? How can I leverage all these amazing technologies of cloud, mobile, social, data science, artificial intelligence in changing our business model? And it is a regular dialogue with the CEO.”

Block described his biggest challenge over the past few years as one of market awareness.  “Some companies thought we were just in sales force automation and clearly we’re not; we are a customer success platform.”

A Salesforce Investor Day slide (Nov 2017) demonstrates the growth in TAM and revenue due to new clouds including commerce, industries, communities, and collaboration. Over the past four years, the firm has also added new platform capabilities including Lightning, Einstein, IoT, Heroku, Analytics, and Trailhead.
A Salesforce Investor Day slide (Nov 2017) demonstrates the growth in TAM and revenue due to new clouds including commerce, industries, communities, and collaboration. Over the past four years, the firm has also added new platform capabilities including Lightning, Einstein, IoT, Heroku, Analytics, and Trailhead.

The firm also has undergone a cultural change “to think differently about the life cycle, the relationship, the strategic nature of going after those customers.”

Internationalization was also key to supporting global enterprises as enterprise companies need to provide global service.

Salesforce has also benefited from three annual releases instead of big bang offerings every few years.  Block noted that both technology and markets change too rapidly for such approaches.  “Increasingly, customers are embracing the notion of agile, very quick.”

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