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Connect18 - Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on what happens next with MuleSoft

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright May 9, 2018
With its acquisition of MuleSoft complete, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff gave the audience at Connect 18 a taste of how things will change

Marc Benioff w Greg Schott MuleSoft CONNECT 2018 pic by Ruba Aleryani 370px
Marc Benioff and Greg Schott

Coming just a week after Salesforce formally closed its $6.5 billion acquisition of the integration vendor, MuleSoft's Connect18 conference provided a timely platform today for Marc Benioff to explain what happens next. The ebullient Salesforce CEO didn't disappoint, and he wasn't talking only about MuleSoft's role at the core of the Salesforce Integration Cloud. He had plenty to say too about values, trust and equality, along with some advice for Facebook's leadership.

For those who want the tl;dr of Salesforce's vision for the Integration Cloud, I'll begin with Benioff's conclusion. But everything that led up to it in the twenty-minute fireside chat — in which his interlocutor, MuleSoft CEO Greg Schott barely got a word in edgeways — put it within a much broader context.

The fit with MuleSoft — in which Salesforce had already been an early investor — and its API-centric Anypoint integration platform is all about enabling Salesforce customers to get a single view of their customer, says Benioff. Salesforce aims to bring together as much as possible within its own core platform, but many customers also have to connect systems and data from elsewhere, he explains:

When we're not doing that in our core, it's Anypoint. This is why Anypoint is so important, because for [a customer such as] Louis Vuitton to be able to go out and talk to all the different data sources that they need is critical. And for industries where they have extreme examples of integration requirements over a single view of the customer like healthcare, where they have to tap into insurance or they have to tap into all kinds of other medical records systems, that is Anypoint as well.

We can go industry, by industry, by industry. If we're going to deliver our vision for the future, you have to have the best integration platform in the world, the best integration cloud in the world, and that's why this has always been a great match, and that's why this is an even stronger match now ... It's because our two platforms together are stronger together. They're better together. And that is why Salesforce acquired MuleSoft.

Shifting the focus to values and trust

But before they got to hear about the technology strategy, Schott and the Connect audience were left in no doubt about Benioff's top priorities. Schott's opening question was to ask how Salesforce innovates at scale. Benioff quickly shifted the question onto different ground:

If you want to innovate at scale, you have to get really clear about your values. What do you really want in your company. What is really important to you?

The most important value is trust, he went on, citing the downfall of his friend Travis Kalanick as Uber CEO last year, and offering some advice to Facebook's leadership with its current data privacy challenges:

Something shifted with Uber, when it became successful and became a meaningful part of all of our lives. It wasn't just about the best idea wins anymore. It's about trust, and that shift did not happen until Dara [Khosrowshahi], the new CEO, came in.

Now we see that going on with Facebook, same thing. What is their highest value? Is it connecting the world? Where's the trust? And the reason why they're losing trust with so many of their key stakeholders, and why they've called the congressional investigations, is because it's not clear to the world, is trust their biggest value or is it product?

Talking about gender equality

Warming to his theme, Benioff went on to cite equality as another core value and, on that front, had some blunt criticism for MuleSoft's agenda planning for the conference:

If you want to talk about gender equality then you have talk about four things. You talk about equal advancement. You talk about equal opportunity. You talk about equal pay, and you also talk about preventing sexual harassment. These are the four lights of gender equality.

Even at this conference I've heard talk backstage that we're at 13% of our speakers are women. That's not acceptable to me. We need to see gender balance when we come to tech conferences and we need to see gender balance in our community and our customer base and in our employee base.

This is critical right now for us. We cannot create one society full of technology and then another society where we push people away. So when we look at gender equality, bringing in under represented minorities, equality is a critical part of innovation at scale.

This was followed by a reminder of Salesforce's uncompromising support for LGBTQ equality and its 1:1:1 philanthropic model. It was only then that Benioff went on to talk about what customers are looking for and why the digital transformation they're all going through has made the MuleSoft acquisition necessary:

They've got all sorts of data centers, multiple data centers, multiple architectures. They're using public cloud — not one, multiple public clouds. They have private clouds too. How do you bring all of that information together and deliver a single view of the customer?

If you have a massively heterogeneous environment that's getting more heterogeneous, not less, then the way that you're going to do that is with Anypoint. That's the power of MuleSoft's strategy, and I think coupling that with our customer success platform is very, very powerful. That's when we can really show up for a customer — like we have so many times already — and say we're going to bring all this information together for you and then be able to help you deliver your digital transformation. That's very powerful.

My take

It was the not the most auspicious first appearance with his new boss for MuleSoft's CEO. The on-stage demo by the vendor's CTO had run late and as the Salesforce introductory video rolled, many attendees assumed the session was over and started filing out of the keynote hall before Benioff arrived on stage. Then when Schott and Benioff sat down together, there was the lecture about values and the comments on gender equality in the conference agenda.

But it was good-natured, and there was some characteristic Marc Benioff humor, too. Asked about the acquisition and sitting beneath MuleSoft's logo — a huge M — he commented, "I love the giant M, obviously."

For MuleSoft employees and customers in the audience, it set down a marker for how the company is likely to change in the wake of the acquisition. The general message was well received, even if this tech-focused audience didn't get to hear much from Benioff on technology directions — detail on that will likely wait until the annual Dreamforce conference in September.

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