Salesforce's Parker Harris offers CXO insights for managing complex IT integrations and handing the inevitable crisis

At Salesforce TrailheaDX 2019, Parker Harris shared his advice for tech leaders on everything from multiplatform integration to managing a crisis.

Salesforce's Parker Harris on managing complex IT integrations and handing the inevitable crisis At Salesforce TrailheaDX 2019, Parker Harris shared his advice for tech leaders on everything from multiplatform integration to managing a crisis.

Salesforce celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and at TrailheaDX, the company's annual developer conference, I had a chance to speak with Parker Harris, CTO and co-founder, about everything from the recent Pardot outage, and his decision to take down all Salesforce services, to how he manages to bring together all of Salesforce's different products into the company's existing platforms.

How Salesforce manages multiplatform, multicloud integration

Bill: Parker, how does Salesforce bring together the core Salesforce and Lightning platform, Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and now MuleSoft Anypoint together into Salesforce's existing legacy stack, and what is your strategy for successfully integrating so many different platforms both for Salesforce internally and for the company's customers?

Parker Harris: Probably about three, four years ago, I did make the switch, changed my title to CTO. I used to just be co-founder. I thought, "Well, maybe I should, first of all, let people know what I do."

But I also moved pretty much all of my engineering to one of the best leaders in the world of technology, Srini Tallapragada. I said, "Srini, you need to run all of the engineering, all of the infrastructure. What I'm going to do is, I'm going to work across all of our engineering teams," to work on exactly what you're talking about, which is integration. Integration's hard.

So the key to that was architecture. We're not going to go rewrite a lot of the technology that we have. Most CTOs in the world can't afford to do that either, right? So we have our sales cloud, our service cloud, our Lightning Platform, those are awesome, and we have our marketing cloud to take that as an example. We're integrating at an identity level for login and authentication. So a CXO is going to have to do that.

We're integrating at a UI level so that it feels like the same service. Many of our customers do that with Lightning, bringing together the UI. Then at the data level, and the data's probably the hardest, but that's where something like MuleSoft comes in and makes it so easy to sync the data together because you create APIs over all of your properties.

SEE: Top cloud providers 2019: AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud; IBM makes hybrid move; Salesforce dominates SaaS (ZDNet)

Salesforce Customer 360 on track for second half 2019 rollout

Bill: Salesforce announced Customer 360 at Dreamforce last year, with a general release date in the second half of 2019. How is the rollout going and are you on track for that date?

Parker: Yeah, we're absolutely on track. At the heart, when you asked about integration and bringing things together, for us, we're a CRM company, we're a customer company. So figuring out how to help our customers translate all of our technology into how their customers are working with them. So the Customer 360 is about, well, how do I know it's the same customer across all of my different areas where I'm touching the customer? From sales to service, marketing, commerce. Then once I know that it's the same customer, how do I actually know what I've done, so that I can actually understand that relationship in a full 360?

Years ago, the CXOs of the world will probably cringe when I use this word, master data management, right? Whenever you say that they're like, "Ah, that really failed. That was horrible." But the Customer 360, you could think about that as customer mastering. It's about making sure you understand your customer uniquely across all your systems, and yet, don't rewrite everything. Don't bring all the data into one thing. The world is more and more federated. It's more and more connected. Leverage APIs to connect it together and leverage Customer 360 to understand your customer better.

Salesforce wants to go where their customers are

Bill: In today's world of Digital Transformation, it's more important than ever for companies to change how they interact with their customers. How is Salesforce helping customers do this?

Parker: The customer is always right. Like when you say customer and centricity, it's not about the company, it's about the customer. So we all have to go where the customer is. More and more, the customer is mobile. More and more, the customer is social. More and more, the customer has expectations of AI. Like they expect apps to be magic now, right? That's why we have Einstein. Like I want the app to know me, I want it to tell me what I want before I ask. So these are hard problems to solve, and we want to go to where the customer is.

Managing enterprise-scale Salesforce development projects and deployment cycles with DevOps

Bill: As the size and scope of Salesforce deployments grow, how is Salesforce helping customers manage large-scale, enterprise development, deployments and potential rollbacks? I'm thinking specifically about DevOps.

Parker: I meet with a lot of customers, and one thing I like to do is, especially our largest customers, they have complex architectures like you're talking about. They have Salesforce, they have SAP, Oracle, Workday. They have workloads on AWS, workloads on Azure.

I like to say, "Let's look at your architecture from a customer-centric perspective." I don't want to talk about the Salesforce architecture to a customer. What's the customer's architecture, and how does Salesforce fit in? Then within that, how do we make sure the development process of Salesforce, whether you're developing UI or integrations or workflows or business process, how do you make sure there's a consistent way to actually write that code, to store it in modern ways, like on Git for example? Whether it's UI or logic, store it in code, version it, right? Upgrade and downgrade if you need to, or rollback.

So when you think about the Lightning Platform, you think about the Heroku Platform, as an example, we're bringing those together. We want the development experience to be consistent. So if you go from no code to low code to high code, it's the same experience, it's the same feel. But we're always looking for input. We always want to know from all the geeks out there, what more can we do?

Also, look at our partners, the whole partner community is also jumping in. We have incredible partners here at the Expo that are doing incredible work around DevOps, adding to everything that we provide as a company.

SEE: Salesforce handily tops Q1 earnings targets (ZDNet)

Pardot outage: Taking down Salesforce services was a hard call, but the right thing to do

Bill: When you're dealing with so many different systems, things don't always go right. In the recent Pardot outage, Salesforce decided to take down all services as a precaution until they knew what was going on. Walk us through this decision and give advice to other technology leaders who may need to make that kind of decision within their organizations.

Parker: So all the CXOs out there, my advice is, you need to be ready for a crisis because a crisis will happen to you. How will you guide yourself through that crisis? You need to guide yourself by your values. You've seen us talk about our values over and over again. Trust is the highest value. Within trust, security is most important. I did make that decision along with our Chief Trust Officer Jim Alkove. We said, "We have a big issue. It's going to take us a little time to fix it." So we made a very hard call, and we pulled the plug on the network because we wanted to protect all of our customers' information.

I've been on numerous calls with our customers explaining the issue and apologizing, telling them how it will never happen again. But over and over again, our customers have thanked us for staying true to our values and being very clear in the heat of the moment that security is more important than anything, and the trusted safety of their data is job one.

For Salesforce, transparency and trust go hand-in-hand

Bill: How important is transparency to building trust with customers?

Parker: Again, that's where you have to stay true to your values. Even if you think, "Oh, maybe it's going to be okay," guide yourself by your values, not by some gut instinct. Our values, again, we're about security.

Then about transparency. Transparency's so important. We were the first enterprise company to put up our availability and our security on a public website called trust.salesforce.com. We put all of our information out there. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes we don't know everything about an issue. So we're doing our best to get that information out to our customers.

Our customers get frustrated, sometimes. They say, "I want more information. I want it faster." But it's that dialog that's important. It's important to get as much information as you can out to be as transparent as possible and to have as many direct conversations with your customers because they need you. They are relying on you. And in the cloud especially, they're saying, "I'm relying on you to run my service, to secure it, to make it available, to make it fast." You need to have that trusted relationship. Again, trust is number one. Security, availability, but also transparency.

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