The Salesforce/Slack merger: From service provider to super-enabler ecosystem

Written by Julian Kawohl I Raffael Schmidt

December 4, 2020

Salesforce buys Slack for 27.7 billion dollars! What does this merger mean from an ecosystem perspective? These are our thoughts…

The facts

Both companies inherit the Enabler role by supporting other companies (i.e., other Enablers, Realizers, or Orchestrators) with focused B2B services: Salesforce especially in the areas of CRM, customer service, marketing automation, analytics, and application development; Slack in the area of business communication. This ecosystem positioning is shown on the two Ecosystem Strategy Maps below.

Both companies have already established ecosystems with a significant amount of partners (e.g., Slack App Directory and Salesforce AppExchange with hundreds of integrations). So this merger is not one of two companies but a merger of two ecosystems which form a gigantic joint Enabler ecosystem with a focus on life area Work.

Ecosystem positioning of Salesforce and Slack in the Ecosystem Strategy Map

Future ecosystem potential

The merger immediately allows Salesforce to compete better with other enabler ecosystems. For instance, it allows Slack to compete with Microsoft Teams by increasing the userbase through existing Salesforce enterprise relationships.

Furthermore, both together have the potential to provide even more holistic (and user-centric) offerings. By combining their software products, advisory and workflow services, as well as, data and knowledge solutions they could generate additional value for their B2B customers. Thus, they have the opportunity to create a more seamless and integrated work and workflow experience, e.g., by integrating front-end applications even better with existing tools to streamline business processes (e.g. through bots) within the Salesforce/Slack ecosystem. This will increases switching costs for their clients and solidify the dependency of their enterprise software solutions. 

Conclusion

The Salesforce/Slack merger is another showcase demonstrating the acceleration and evolution of the ecosystem economy. And from an Ecosystem-to-Human (E2H) perspective,  both companies are riding the trend wave of working from everywhere (which is especially important for companies in times of a global pandemic).

In the future, we expect much more M&A activity, as well as, more cooperations such as the recently announced Oracle/Tiktok deal or the Microsoft acquisition of ADRM software, a leader in large-scale, industry-specific data models. The fight of giants within the super-enabler ecosystem in the life area work and in the ecosystem category B2B services has just begun.

However, not only big digital players get under pressure. All Enabler companies (from manufacturing and engineering to infrastructure providers) should review their portfolio and their partner network with an ecosystem perspective. Our research indicates that only companies that are part of ecosystems will survive the next decade from a position of strength.

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