News / Slack

Parker Harris to Become Slack Chief Engineering Officer After Co-Founder Leaves

By Ben McCarthy

Since Salesforce acquired Slack in late 2020 for $27.7B, it hasn’t been a straightforward path to success for what seemed like a match made in heaven.

Since the acquisition, Slack has seen employee churn at the highest levels, including Co-Founder & CEO Stuart Butterfield, who left the company in late 2022, Lidiane Jones, who left in late 2023, and now Co-Founder & CTO Cal Henderson, who has had his departure confirmed by Fortune.

These departures aren’t all bad news and are natural to some extent, as founders often leave their companies once acquired. “I think there’s an average amount of time that founders stay after an acquisition, and this is way longer than that,” a Salesforce spokesperson told Fortune.

But this news does have a silver lining: Salesforce Co-founder & CTO, Parker Harris, has taken on the role of Chief Engineering Officer of Slack, confirmed by CEO Marc Benioff on Twitter.

As well as spearheading the groundbreaking Salesforce platform over the years, Parker has had notable projects, including the Lightning Experience launched in 2014 and Hyperforce, which has just started rolling out to most Salesforce customers.

A Brief History of Slack & Salesforce

It’s safe to say that Slack is an impressive piece of software, pioneering the business messaging space. As my generation mostly grew up on Skype, MSN Messenger and ICQ, it was a bit odd to get into the business world, only to use pretty rudimentary tools such as Google Talk, which didn’t provide the same functionality of tools ten years ago.

So when Salesforce acquired Slack in 2020, the Salesforce ecosystem was overjoyed at what this could mean. Could we see Slack replace Chatter, embedding Instant messaging inside Salesforce? Could Slack become a new UI for Salesforce?

At this time the world was also amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and with Salesforce being one of the first companies to declare that employees could and should work from home, followed by many others, business messaging tools like Slack became imperative.

READ MORE: 10 Productivity Slack Tips & Tricks for Users

But ever since Salesforce announced the acquisition, Wall Street has stated that Salesforce has overpaid for Slack, with Salesforce shares falling the day after the announcement. This topic was raised again last year as Activist Investors were circling, as many analysts stated that Salesforce should look at selling Slack to focus on its core market opportunities.

Another thorn in the side of Salesforce is Microsoft with their Teams product. Teams was only launched in 2017, as opposed to Slack in 2009. And it’s estimated on various websites that Teams has about 10x the amount of users than Slack, some 320M to Slack’s 32M.

Microsoft’s dominance is mainly due to the fact it can bundle Teams with Microsoft 365, one of the largest business suites that only really competes with Google’s Workspace.

However, by my own anecdotal evidence, Slack is often the preferred product. This is backed up with PC Mag rating Slack “Excellent” with 4.5* and Teams “Good” with 3.5*. Sam Altman has also proudly announced that his most used app isn’t ChatGPT, but Slack (Sorry Microsoft Teams!).

How Does Salesforce Succeed with Slack?

It seems to me that Salesforce has two challenges to overcome with Slack to maximize the acquisition and the price paid…

Firstly, it’s been widely reported that there have been some cultural integration issues between the two companies. Whilst I wouldn’t want to speculate, as these have mostly been reported based on leaked memos’, employee churn as well as a lack of product integration may point to some issues between the two companies.

This brings me to the second point, which is the lack of technical cohesion between the two products. Salesforce has announced many integrations and new products such as Slack GPT & the Workflow Builder, as well as the major announcements of Canvases that took the spotlight at Dreamforce ‘22 (Slack Canvases is based on Quip, another product owned by Salesforce).

Whilst these products all sound fantastic in theory, I haven’t seen much mention of them, or integration of them into product demos to really sell us the vision of how Slack fits into the wider Salesforce ecosystem of products.

It seems to me that for Salesforce to beat Microsoft, and win over some of the many Salesforce customers that use Teams instead of Slack, they need to make Slack indispensable to a Salesforce implementation.


There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Slack is a fantastic tool for business collaboration, and that regardless of price, Salesforce has landed itself one of the best tools in the business messaging category. But in order to really see the strategic value from the acquisition, Salesforce must integrate Slack into its Customer 360 workflows.

Now with Salesforce Co-founder & CTO Parker Harris at the helm of Slack, hopefully, we are to see some overdue magic from this tool.

READ MORE: Denise Dresser Replaces Lidiane Jones as Slack CEO

The Author

Ben McCarthy

Ben is the Founder of Salesforce Ben. He also works as a Non-Exec Director & Advisor for various companies within the Salesforce Ecosystem.

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