Slack Loses Top Talent, Salesforce Launches Automation Everywhere Bundle, Meta’s Metaverse Woes, More News
What a week for Big Tech it was. It’s hard to pinpoint what was most striking about it, but in two cases — notably Salesforce and Meta — the wobble was so pronounced that it looked like the wheels could fall off for at least one of them.
For Salesforce, we saw several significant Slack upgrades. But outside of the technology itself, the big news from Slack this week is the departure of Stuart Butterfield, the founder and CEO of Slack, from the company.
CEO Marc Benioff informed employees on a call last week that Butterfield was leaving, according to people familiar with the matter cited in Business Insider. Salesforce's $27 billion acquisition of Slack closed last year, the largest purchase ever for the cloud giant. The deal was announced in late 2020.
The Butterfield news came only a few days after Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor announced he was stepping down only 12 months after taking the (joint) top job at Salesforce, besides Benioff.
News of Taylor’s departure was somewhat of a bombshell. There had been no indication of problems and he even appeared on stage with Benioff in September at Dreamforce. In a statement that was published on the Salesforce website, Taylor talked about returning to “entrepreneurial roots.”
Maybe that is the reason for his departure. He has an impressive track record having founded the document collaboration company Quip in 2012, which was bought by Salesforce for $750 million in 2016. He had also spent time as the CTO of Facebook, another company that has been in the news this week, but that’s for later. In his leaving statement he said: "Salesforce has never been more relevant to customers, and with its best-in-class management team and the company executing on all cylinders, now is the right time for me to step away."
Mark Nelson, the CEO of Salesforce subsidiary Tableau, and Steven Tamm, a CTO at the cloud tech giant are also leaving.
In a doff of the cap to Oscar Wilde you might conclude that to lose one senior executive is a loss, to lose two is just plain careless. And then you note reports that Tamar Yehoshua, Slack’s product chief, will also depart, along with Jonathan Prince, senior vice president in charge of marketing, brand and communications — and you start to see a pattern. Something is up, but what it is ain't exactly clear for the moment.
Apart from Mark Nelson at Tableau, the only visible link between all of this is Slack. Stuart Butterfield founded it and Taylor was part of the team that guided the acquisition of the San Francisco-based company.
Lidiane Jones, who spent 12 years at Microsoft as group product management for Office collaboration and Azure ML, will take over as CEO of Slack.
Salesforce Launches Automation Everywhere
But it’s not all upheaval at San Francisco-based Salesforce. As mentioned above, this week also saw several major upgrades to the Salesforce platform, as well as the launch of its new Automation Everywhere bundle. Ultimately, this is designed to automate key business processes — including legacy processes — by updating data, ingesting data contained in paper documents and routing that data to the people and systems that need it.
This no-code offering is open for everyone to use so that no process, regardless of where it starts or what information it uses, is excluded.
Of course, like many other automation projects that have been brought into the organization, this new bundle from Salesforce will enable digital workplace workers to automate repetitive tasks and create personalized experiences everywhere.
It’s not all that surprising that Salesforce has come out with this. Salesforce’s MuleSoft 2022 IT Leaders Pulse Report, based on a survey of over 1000 senior leaders, found a significant market for tools that enable non-technical workers to automate their own work.
It showed, for example, that across industries, 58% of organizations are automating tasks and processes, and 53% are empowering non-technical employees with automation tools to meet their own needs.
A number of new tools are included in the bundle:
- Composer: This offers pre-built connectors to the most popular workplace apps along with no-code process automation that connects workers and apps with a click, not with code.
- RFA: This integrates workflows across legacy systems along with cloud-based systems as well as automating document processing and the capture of unstructured data from documents and images.
- Anypoint Platform: This offers AP management governance and automation.
The Pulse report also noted that 91% of senior IT leaders believe existing IT processes are blocking productivity and that they are a major obstacle to innovation and adoption. This release comes at a time of a major rethink by many organizations about digital workplace priorities.
With automation a major concern for many of these people, the Salesforce bundle comes as organizations look to streamline work in the face of economic uncertainty.
Microsoft Releases Teams Communities
Meanwhile, the other big wobble in the digital workplace this week was at San Francisco-based Meta. If Meta has been wobbling for quite some time now, there are others who have been waiting in the sidelines to make the most of the uncertainty around the metaverse.
While Meta was muddling through its problems, Microsoft took the opportunity to announce the launch of Communities for Teams, a new feature that will be available to users of Android and iOS devices.
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With Communities, users will be able to create new groups, link those groups to a community calendar, as well as invite guests, track attendance and chat with attendees through private messenger.
It also comes with an events function. This really pushes it into the business space as it enables users to create virtual, hybrid or in-person events enabling established users and guest to participate by offering dial in details.
According to a blog post about the release, the new tool will also enable the sharing and storage of documents dedicated to a group activity, as well as filter content to provide users access to photos, videos, events and links.
The new offering is free and while it will only be available to users on mobile devices once it is launched, Microsoft has indicated a desktop release is on the horizon.
While Communities sounds a lot like Google Chat it’s unlikely it will create any problems for Google given that Google has always had to compete with Microsoft productivity apps and has managed to maintain its position in the market with little difficulty.
Meta is an entirely different problem. When it comes to messenger users, brand awareness of WhatsApp, Meta’s equivalent to Communities, stands at 79% in the United States, according to Statista. Furthermore 23% of U.S. messenger users say they like WhatsApp. This would appear to give it pretty much an unassailable position for now. However, Microsoft Community is part of Teams, which is in turn part of Microsoft 365 and has access to a massive business market through mobile, where most people use WhatsApp.
With Meta’s current problems and Teams awareness as high as it is, it wouldn’t take much to convince users to make the jump from WhatsApp to Teams.There is little doubt that Communities has been in the works for some time now, but what better time for Microsoft to launch Communities than at a time when one of its major competitors in the space is struggling.
FTC Moves on Meta Case
Meta has had a lot of explaining to do to its shareholders about its massive investment in the metaverse, but it appears to be having trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well.
According to reports in The Street, the FTC announced this week that it will ask a judge to stop Meta’s attempts to buy the virtual reality app Within Unlimited, which develops a dedicated fitness app called Supernatural.
The crux of the problem is competition and the market. According to the complaint, Meta already has one of the most popular VR app stores in the world, along with the Oculus headset that is used among other things to access the metaverse.
FTC Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman said in a statement about the case: "Meta chose to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits. This is an illegal acquisition, and we will pursue all appropriate relief.”
The problem for Meta is not the app itself, but that the FTC seems set on blocking the development of Meta’s metaverse based on acquisitions. Take those acquisitions out of the picture and the cracks in Meta's metaverse ambitions start to show.
The case has moved forward. Over the next two weeks, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, Calif. will listen to arguments from both parties and respond to the FTC's request to stop the acquisition by injunction.
Meta, or Facebook as it was at the time, built up a dominant position in the social network market with the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. This time, however, it looks like the FTC will be a lot less open to a similar action with the metaverse.
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About the Author
David is a full-time journalist based in Ireland. A partisan of ‘green’ living and conservation, he is particularly interested in information management and how enterprise content management, analytics, big data and cloud computing impact on it.