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Salesforce President: Our society is "not going to snap back to way things were" pre-pandemic

Salesforce President & COO Bret Taylor joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman and Julia La Roche to discuss their Work.com for Vaccine announcement.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: I also want to highlight Salesforce shares here moving to the upside as well, up by about 2%. The company today announcing work.com for vaccines as we move forward with plans to undergo the world's largest-- the largest ever-- mass vaccination program in human history here to battle the current pandemic.

And Salesforce is doing its part with an extension to work.com, already used by a lot of cities and states out there around the world. But now that same software is going to be used to help navigate the logistics around the mass vaccination program here. And here to discuss that with us is our next guest, Bret Taylor, Salesforce president and COO, along with Yahoo Finance's Julia La Roche.

And, Bret, thanks for coming on to talk with us. I mean, talk to me about what this platform is going to do to help everybody involved here in this vaccine program actually get the product out the door should we see that it's safe to distribute.

BRET TAYLOR: Well thanks, Zack, and thanks, Julia, for having me. You know, since the beginning Salesforce has had really one focus, which is how can we use our business as a platform for change to help all of our customers and all of our communities get to this other side of this pandemic-- to recover from it, to accelerate into this new world we're all living in, this all-digital, work-anywhere world.

It started with 50 million units of personal protective equipment to hospitals. As you alluded to, we launched our work.com platform which is helping states like Rhode Island and the leadership of Governor Gina Raimondo reopen. It's helping universities like University of Kentucky reopen.

But now on the cusp of what will be the largest mass vaccination campaign in human history, how do we actually handle the logistics of that? You know, what will be hundreds of millions or even perhaps billions of vaccines and boosters distributed over 6 to 12 months. And we think technology can play a big part in making that successful, and we're considered privileged to play a part of it.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Bret, it's Julia here. And when I think about Salesforce's pandemic playbook, you all have come out with a number of products. You were just referencing work.com, of course-- the vaccines here as an extension of work.com. But let's just step back.

I know you as a product guy, because when you build product, there's this quote, jobs to be done framework that Clay Christensen used to talk about. In other words, you're putting the customer's needs at the forefront, trying to understand what are the jobs that they need done now. Of course, we know that we're going to have to deploy vaccines when that is safe, but my question for you is how do you navigate and come out with products, especially in this environment? Things are so complex. There's a lot of fear. There's a lot of uncertainty and just, in general, a lot of complexity.

BRET TAYLOR: Yeah, it's the question on every CEO's mind right now, right? And I really think it comes down to one word, which is relevance. And, you know, how do you actually provide the most relevant solution right now? And, you know, we've been talking for years on shows like this about digital transformation and the future digital world. Well, I've got news for you. We're living that future right now. It's the present.

And all of the leaders in every industry are sort of coming to grips with that reality and saying, how do I navigate this? How do I sell service and market to my customers working from home, just like the two of us are right now? You know, how do I reopen my offices safely?

You know, I don't think I knew what the phrase contact tracing was six months ago, but, you know, welcome to 2020, right? And so we're saying, how can we use our platform to help make our customers successful? How can we help them grow? And right now, it's platforms like these. It's work.com helping them reopen.

But it's also, as you alluded to, just really deep transformations in our economy. You know, on this show we've talked about things like consumer goods companies going direct consumer. We have people deploying things like curbside pickup. Behind all of that is technology transformation. It's business model transformation. And so we've really tried to say how do we reimagine our platform to be as relevant as possible to all these needs that-- they're not new, but the level of urgency around them is orders of magnitude larger now than it was six months ago?

JULIA LA ROCHE: Yeah, Bret, you bring up a really good point, and it's really been this acceleration of digital transformation that we're already going through. And you can't just take something analog and put it digital. It has to be a true transformation.

And I imagine in your role as COO and president, you're having a lot of conversations with a lot of CEOs across industries, and you're alluding to some of the changes we're seeing. Talk to us about some of the things you're hearing that aren't necessarily being discussed, because I think before there's a lot of paralysis. But now maybe folks are taking action. Would love to get some insight from you.

BRET TAYLOR: You know, I think at the beginning of this pandemic, every time I had a conversation with a CEO, you know, she would talk about the pandemic as something temporary, right? You know, we're going to get through this, and on the other side we'll do, you know, whatever. Now I think people are really coming to grips with the fact that we're not going back.

You know, just as an example, I did a curbside flu shot yesterday. You know, I ordered groceries online for the first time nine months ago, and I'm going to continue doing that when this is all done. And I think the uncomfortable reality is the change to our society, the change to our workforce, the change to our customer expectations-- they're not going to snap back to the way things were.

And so I think right now, the trend I see is a lot of leaders saying, I don't want to just get through this pandemic. I really want to plan for what does a transformed version of my business look like. And if you're a leader of a business right now, that should be your number one priority, which is how do I transform now because we're not going back.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, very interesting to see how quickly all these things have changed here in 2020. And now, putting effort here into a different direction there at Salesforce. Bret Taylor, Salesforce president and COO, appreciate you taking the time to chat along with Yahoo Finances' Julia La Roche. Thanks again.