We’ve heard an awful lot over the past couple of weeks about the executives who are leaving Salesforce, but not a heck of a lot about the woman who is taking over for Stewart Butterfield as CEO at Slack when he takes off to spend some time gardening. It's time we changed that.
Her name is Lidiane Jones, a woman with a deep background in enterprise software. (I requested an interview with Jones for this piece, but the company was not making her available to speak with the press.) Surprisingly, many of the analysts I confer with about Salesforce knew little about her, but that could be because she just hasn’t been made available on analysts' days.
That will likely change when she takes over at the end of next month.
But she didn’t come out of nowhere. Jones, who lives in the Boston area, has been at Salesforce for three years and quickly rose up the ranks: She started as head of product for Commerce Cloud, then was bumped up to GM of Commerce Cloud before — prior to her promotion this week — holding the title of GM of Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Experience Cloud, which basically encompasses the company’s entire B2C business.
Before that, she spent 13 years at Microsoft working on a variety of products, from Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project to Enterprise Application Virtualization, Office Collaboration and finally Azure Machine Learning.
She also spent almost four years at Sonos as VP of product management. Her unique mix of enterprise and consumer experience should prepare her well for her new job running Slack, where she will have to walk a fine line between user experience and enterprise requirements.
In Butterfield’s farewell Slack announcement, made available to TechCrunch by sources earlier this week (was it only this week?), he effusively praised his replacement. While he could be trying to sell her to a skeptical group used to his decade of steady leadership, it sounds like he also genuinely likes her:
So, about this Lidiane. You’re going to love her. She’s pragmatic and practical, insightful, passionate, creative, kind, and curious. She’s right at that little diamond-shaped heart in the four-circle Venn diagram of Smart, Humble, Hardworking, and Collaborative. Before Salesforce she spent four years leading product at Sonos where she fell in love with Slack. She has a deep respect for our approach to product, our customer obsession, and our unique culture. She’s one of us.
That’s a pretty strong welcome, and Anand Thaker, a marketing technology advisor and the founder of several startups who follows Salesforce closely, also believes that she’s a good fit for Slack.
“She has a solid technical and management background, and the projects and groups she has been working on within Salesforce — experience, marketing, commerce — were all places Slack would fit and drive the best value. Each of these has strong consumer commerce elements where the larger growth (or less churn) will likely come and is in line (reading the tea leaves) with where Benioff has wanted Salesforce to go,” Thaker told TechCrunch.
Butterfield added that Jones's roles inside Salesforce will make her a strong voice for Slack inside the larger organization, which could come in handy as the leadership handover occurs.
Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder and principal analyst at the firm Deep Analysis, said that in many ways, she is better prepared for this job than some longtime CEOs.
“I don’t know Lidiane personally, but she seems the logical option as she seemed to do a good job running the Marketing, Experience, Commerce Clouds, and running those is not much different from running multiple large businesses, so ironically she has more true CEO experience as a first-time CEO than many experienced CEOs. Plus she was with Microsoft a long time — and might bring some of their rigor to the table,” he said.
Jones certainly has big shoes to fill, taking over for a founder-CEO in the midst of a big transition for the company, but with a couple of decades of tech experience behind her, she seems more than prepared for the challenge.