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AI has become 'a tremendous innovation proof point': Slack CEO

Salesforce (CRM) acquired workspace messenger Slack in 2021 for $27.7 billion. Two whole years later, the tech companies are plotting out how to best integrate and collaborate with each other through new automation trends.

Slack CEO Lidiane Jones joins Yahoo Finance Executive Editor Brian Sozzi to discuss Slack and Salesforce’s strategy to implement AI for their clients, stating: “We are seeing a faster adoption to automation. We’re using our platform for every part of the organization.”

Jones references Slack's State of Work report, highlighting how workers are seeing a "need for connection" by returning to the office and emphasizing the need for "more purposeful time together" when teams are in the office together.

"We are a platform that supports this hybrid work environment, so customers are taking advantage of the platform to support this evolution of how we all work together," Jone told Sozzi.

Video Transcript

MARC BENIOFF: This AI wave is going to be the biggest that anyone has ever seen. I think that the success of OpenAI is the point of evidence that this is going to be one of the fastest growing moves not just in the consumer market but in the enterprise market.

BRIAN SOZZI: That was my conversation with Salesforce co-founder and CEO, Marc Benioff, back in June. Earlier this year, he told me the tech giant wanted to be the most profitable software company in the world. That he was ready to hit the hyperspace button as well. He was also trying to outmaneuver a string of activist investors like Elliott Management and Starboard urging him to cut expenses and boost profits. One of their big complaints was the lack of a clear integration between Salesforce's core products and some very pricey acquisitions.

At the top of the heap with Slack, the messaging service acquired in 2021 for $27.7 billion. The deal is meant to make the business more connected than ever before. Now under the leadership of CEO, Lidiane Jones, Slack has leaned into the world of generative AI. So two years after this mega deal and with a new leader at the helm has the Slackification of Salesforce actually happen.

Let's dive in here with Lidiane Jones, Slack's new CEO. Lidiane, welcome to Yahoo Finance. Good to connect with you here. Six months into this job, what is the state of Slack? And what is the state of this business inside of Salesforce?

LIDIANE JONES: Brian, thank you for having me. We are seeing incredible momentum from our customers that are really bringing to bear the Slack intelligent productivity platform across every line of business. And today, we are announcing a brand new integration, native Sales Cloud integration into Slack, which really showcases the power of bringing productivity for the customer base that Salesforce has been a great leader over the course of the last 25 years. So it's an exciting day to showcase what we can do across our products.

BRIAN SOZZI: Has the Holy Grail of this integration between Slack and Salesforce been realized or do you need more time?

LIDIANE JONES: We certainly are seeing phenomenal customer feedback and excitement for what we can do with products like this. So we are already innovating, bringing Slack and Salesforce together in great brands like Ford, IBM, Target, that are really transforming automation in connecting teams with Slack and connecting all of that incredible CRM data directly into our products. So really, bringing collaboration in CRM to supercharge productivity for their businesses.

So that's been a phenomenal proof point, Brian, that we are excited to continue to drive forward in the quarters to come.

BRIAN SOZZI: I think the team a couple of weeks ago garnered a lot of excitement on the street regarding pricing for new generative AI tools. How does the pricing for this product get weaved into a broader Salesforce product?

LIDIANE JONES: Certainly, we are excited to focus on augmenting our pricing to launch a productivity gain for revenue teams. So we will price per user as we have on our Sales Cloud products. But bring a consumer grade, consumption grade pricing for AI on top of that. So it is just very aligned with the rest of the pricing strategy for Salesforce.

BRIAN SOZZI: How are these new advances on Slack and broader work from home tools as it pertains to AI, how are they going to change my working life?

LIDIANE JONES: Brian, as you and I, I'm sure experience in many of our customers, there's just a lot happening. Teams are trying to be more productive, trying to do more with less across every part of the organization. And AI has really become a tremendous innovation proof point. So we can now bring in Slack native experiences that will help you catch up to your work. So email referencing to be able to bring insights.

So if you go into a channel and there's a lot of conversation happening, you can catch up on Threads, you can catch up on what you have missed maybe in the last week. It just really accelerates productivity for everybody on the team. So we are really excited about that.

But we have also seen a lot of our customers use our open platform to develop AI-led automation as well. So we are seeing a faster adoption to automation. We're using our platform for every part of the organization.

BRIAN SOZZI: Having covered Slack for a long time, I know small businesses are very important to your platform. We just had a pretty strong ADP employment report earlier this morning, small businesses leading the charge. What are you seeing from that customer base right now?

LIDIANE JONES: Over the course of the last several quarters, we continue to see a very rapid growth of new organizations adopting Slack. So we really measure, Brian, how many new teams and customers are choosing Slack at our SMB self-service business, and that number continues to grow. So we see that as a great sign that the small business economy is revamping up, and it's been a really exciting number to see.

BRIAN SOZZI: And a lot of these small businesses are joining larger businesses and mandating people go back to the office. Lidiane, there's really this, I think, old guard trying to get human beings back into offices for creativity purposes or just to flex their own muscle or their own leadership baton. How is this impacting Slack?

LIDIANE JONES: Brian, we launched a state-of-work report a couple of months ago. And there is certainly a desire for more people to go back to the office. But we have seen from employees as well that there is a need for connection.

So what's been most effective and certainly what we are adopting in Slack and many of our customers are is using more purposeful time together in the office, where people are really coming together not just to be there with people they don't work with every day, but rather really be there for actions that will help them all succeed. So for us, it's been onboarding employees. It's more effective to do that in person. It's in product planning. It's more effective.

And teams really needed that connection to understand the culture of their organizations, to feel connected to their colleagues, and to accelerate their decision-making. So that purposeful time in person has been very impactful.

And what's been great about Slack is that we are a platform that supports this hybrid work environment. So customers are taking advantage of the platform to support this evolution of how we all work together.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Lidiane, I would argue, you are now leading the most important acquisition, the most important business inside of Salesforce that they have acquired in the last decade. Again, that's my view. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into that seat?

LIDIANE JONES: Well, Brian, it's an honor of a lifetime to lead a product that is as loved as Slack is in an organization like Salesforce that customers truly believe and bet their companies on. So it's a tremendous opportunity.

And I think what makes me the right person to lead this team is that I've been here with Salesforce for four years. So I understand our Salesforce customer base. But I have also been a customer of Slack for the last seven years. So bringing the best of both worlds is our vision. Really bringing Slack as the front door of experiences for all of our Salesforce customers is what we're aiming for. And so I'm thrilled to be leading this team.

BRIAN SOZZI: What's your biggest hope in terms of leading Slack? And how would you describe your leadership style?

LIDIANE JONES: I really believe in doing what's right for our customers, first and foremost, and it's very aligned with our values of customer success and trust. So what I envisioned for the future is that we are going to transform how every part of our customer 360 of Salesforce, how work is done. And we believe it is-- I certainly believe that it is all of our teams coming together. It's the sales team collaborating with the service team and the marketing team. So really bringing the connecting tissue that will help companies break organizational silos to be more productive and better serve their customers.

So I'm excited to bring that vision to bear. I think it's been an exciting six months and just the beginning of optimistic and future ahead.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, well, good luck on your CEO journey. Looking forward to seeing you potentially in a Dreamforce in a couple of months. Lidiane Jones, Slack CEO, we'll talk to you soon.

LIDIANE JONES: Thank you, Brian. See you soon.