Brett Taylor, Salesforce Co-CEO, speaks at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris on June 15, 2022.
Nathan Lane | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ten months after being promoted to co-CEO of Salesforce, working alongside famed founder Marc Benioff, Brett Taylor is preparing to take the podium at the annual Dreamforce conference for the first time under his new title.
Taylor, a professional technologist who holds a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University, admitted to CNBC that the big Salesforce product it’s going to be revealing for this year’s event is “unabashedly eccentric.” It’s called Genie, and it’s designed to update Salesforce’s dominant sales database software with state-of-the-art technology that provides salespeople with real-time information at their fingertips.
“We’re really adding new technology capability to our platform,” Taylor said in an interview. Taylor and Benioff will give the opening address Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m. PT in San Francisco.
To some extent, Salesforce acknowledges that its current systems are becoming somewhat outdated. The 23-year-old company’s original data storage software works with Oracle’s transaction database, where Benioff spent 13 years before starting Salesforce. The world has become much more complex in the intervening decades, and companies are flocking to databases that can process data from many sources and enable faster decision-making.
Salesforce’s move toward Genie began in 2019, when the company introduced a customer data platform, or CDP, that marketers could use to collect data on customers before sending ads to them. With Genie, marketers will have the most up-to-date information available through Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud.
Taylor said that over time, Genie will be integrated into other major Salesforce products — the Sales, Service, and Commerce cloud. A spokesperson said companies could pay to add Genie capabilities to existing Salesforce facilities.
Taylor, a Google Maps co-founder who also led Facebook’s tech group before joining Salesforce in 2016 with the acquisition of his startup Quip, is under some pressure from Wall Street as higher interest rates and the threat of a recession drive investors out of growth stocks. . Salesforce shares are down 40% this year, more than double the drop by the S&P 500, and are trading near their lowest level since April 2020.
Salesforce vs. S&P 500
In its earnings report last month, Salesforce trimmed its full-year forecast for earnings and revenue. It now expects sales to grow this year at about 17%, down from 25% last fiscal year, which would represent by far the slowest pace of expansion since the company went public in 2004.
Taylor also has a lot going on outside of Salesforce. He is the chairman of Twitter, who is engaged in a heated and very public legal battle with Elon Musk that will determine the future of the social media company. Twitter sues Musk for trying to enforce the Tesla CEO’s takeover agreement that he later tried to terminate.
Taylor declined to talk about the ordeal itself and said it “doesn’t come around very often” when he meets with Salesforce customers. This is how he spends most of his time.
With the addition of Genie, Salesforce will enhance the capabilities of Einstein, the company’s artificial intelligence engine that runs in the sales cloud and other applications. Einstein can recommend business opportunities most likely to convert to sales, and Genie will pull up the most recent information, so suggestions are extracted from data in seconds, and soon, in just milliseconds.
Genie will also work at Tableau, the data analytics tool that Salesforce acquired in 2019, making the charts as modern as possible.
Salesforce’s competitors in marketing software, including Adobe and Oracle, have been touting the importance of real-time content data platforms that can draw on a variety of data and respond to the latest motivations of existing and potential customers. Salesforce is trying to bring these capabilities to other departments, such as customer service.
Sheryl Kingston, vice president of customer experience and commerce for S&P Global’s 451 technology industry research unit, said she wasn’t surprised that Salesforce was working to bring in real-time data across its entire portfolio.
“I was more than shocked that it took so long,” she said.
Since at least 2017, Salesforce executives have been promoting a concept called Customer 360, which involves providing a patchwork of information about each customer to deliver a better transaction. The problem was that the data about the events was not being fed into the system as it was happening. Taylor is familiar with this criticism.
“I’ve heard these comments before,” he said. Taylor added that with Genie’s “tech breakthrough,” this shouldn’t be an issue in the future.
First Horizon Bank in Memphis, Tennessee, implemented Salesforce’s CDP earlier this year. The program helps the bank guide and push new customers into mortgages, said Erin Pryor, the bank’s head of marketing, and is more behavior-engineered than the manual, batch-processed system that First Horizon has relied on in the past. Unlike online ads that can make some people feel as if they are being closely followed, Pryor said this level of product targeting is welcomed by consumers.
“I don’t think there will ever be a complaint about your knowledge of your organization and their ability to really provide you with content and advice on the things that matter to you,” Pryor said.
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