The State of Salesforce Future of Business

A look forward, IBM and C-level leaders share their view on the changing state of Salesforce inside the enterprise.

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The State of Salesforce

Workforce of the future

Redesigning how work gets done in the digital-first era

The State of Salesforce

Intelligence with intention

Reimagining operations and experience across the enterprise with AI

The State of Salesforce

Open tech and converging ecosystems

Revolutionizing how industries go to market

10th annual edition of The State of Salesforce

A look forward into the changing state of Salesforce and the future of business.

Looking ahead

The mandate for change, accelerated by the pandemic, has offered us a chance to reimagine and expand The State of Salesforce. Our commitment to reflecting on “how the best companies use Salesforce” remains — but starting this year, we will also look forward, offering a view of how IBM and C-level leaders around the globe see Salesforce, and their expanding portfolio, reshaping every industry.

From the battle for tomorrow’s critical skills to redesigning your business with intelligence, the rules for engagement and competing have already changed — and every business must modernize to survive and innovate to emerge stronger.

    In our look ahead, we’ve uncovered three major needs that enterprises must address to stay relevant and competitive:

  • Redesigning work for the digital-first era
  • Reimagining operations with AI,
  • Revolutionizing their go-to-market

The entire business landscape has leaped forward, and this year’s The State of Salesforce Future of Business maps out why and what businesses will need to do to keep up.

There’s no question that Salesforce’s portfolio, aided by some farsighted acquisitions, is shaping the future of business. And together, IBM and Salesforce help companies not only accelerate but also act differently — purposefully, strategically and with empathy. We are helping enterprises tap into an increasingly connected ecosystem of employees, partners and stakeholders to lead their markets and get ahead of their customers’ evolving needs.

Al Jenkins

Al Jenkins

Managing Partner and Global Leader

IBM Services

Methodology

Report and survey methodology

This year’s 10th annual The State of Salesforce Future of Business is a thought-leadership report based on two elements: qualitative interviews with executives and industry leaders within the IBM organization and a quantitative survey of C-level Salesforce customers. The survey and interview questions look forward to reveal how IBM and C-level leaders around the globe see Salesforce, and its portfolio, shaping modern business tomorrow.

The themes in all three articles are examined through a future-looking editorial lens, offering IBM's perspective on ongoing and upcoming developments in the Salesforce ecosystem. These key topic areas were driven by a primary thought-leader and a supporting group of industry and topical experts. Eleven IBM executive interviews, each approximately 60 minutes in length, were conducted between May and July 2021. The survey was fielded between June and July 2021. It consisted of 300+ responses from C-level leaders, with an equal mix of CEOs, CMOs, COOs and CIOs spanning North America, Europe and Asia.

IBM collaborated with Oxford Economics on the development and recruitment of the quantitative survey as well as in conducting the qualitative executive interviews.

  • Location of
    respondents
  • Length of product
    use
  • Amount of products
    used
  • Location of respondents
  • Length of product use
  • Amount of products used

Where our C-suite executives are from

World map

60%

U.S. & Canada

10%

UK

10%

France

10%

Germany

10%

Japan

60%

of respondents are located in the United States and Canada

How long respondents have used Salesforce

More than 10 years

1 – 5 years

6 – 10 years

2 / 3

of people say they have used Salesforce for more than six years

Amount of Salesforce products respondents use

62%

use four or more Salesforce products

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The State of Salesforce

Workforce of the future

Redesigning how work gets done in the digital-first era

Featured article

Workforce of the future

Color Accent Image

Everything digital is the ultimate expectation in the workplace now. The flexibility, the automation — every process and workflow benefits from going digital. The pandemic pushed lagging companies to invest in digital transformation because without it, remote work was almost impossible. Employees need the best tools to collaborate, innovate, and succeed, and they need that anywhere. And companies like Salesforce can help with that significantly.

Tina Marron-Partridge

Tina Marron-Partridge

Managing Partner of Talent Transformation,

IBM

Building a tech-savvy, flexible digital workforce and office is and will continue to be a top challenge — and opportunity — for businesses in 2022 and beyond. Business leaders will need to embrace cloud portfolios like Salesforce to implement systems that are smarter, flexible and more intuitive.

    The leading companies of the future will:

  • Close the skills gap
  • Modernize communication and collaboration
  • Redesign work to meet new employee expectations

Business leaders must transform their talent operations and business culture to align with values important to employees and support how people want to work.


Meet the experts

Survey data

The workforce of the future is prioritizing culture, experience and purpose.

AI investments in customer channels continue, with emerging investments in employee collaboration and personalization.

Leaders prioritizing collaboration believe Salesforce drives both revenue growth and culture.

  • Shifting priorities
  • Emerging AI investments
  • Collaboration business
    objectives
  • Shifting priorities
  • Emerging AI investments
  • Collaboration business objectives

The workforce of the future is prioritizing culture, experience and purpose.

Growing areas of importance for employees:

Employee health, safety and well-being

Human-centered, conversational ways of working

Leadership guided by a clear mission and values

AI investments in customer channels continue, with emerging investments in employee collaboration and personalization.

Current AI and automation investments:

Customer service

Sales

Marketing

Fastest future growth area for AI and automation:

Collaboration

Leaders prioritizing collaboration believe Salesforce drives both revenue growth and culture.

Top two business objectives expected from using Salesforce for Collaboration:

Revenue growth

Development of organizational culture

Industry benchmark

What are the top three growing areas of importance for the employees in your business over the next 18 months?

Select up to three responses.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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The State of Salesforce

Intelligencewith intention

Reimagining operations and experience across the enterprise with AI

Featured article

Intelligence with intention

Color Accent Image

Businesses need to reimagine their processes end-to-end. When it comes to employee and customer experience, the dividing lines between back- , mid- and front-office are disappearing. Business leaders need to take a step back and evaluate their entire system, identifying points of friction and applying AI and business intelligence strategically to create seamless, flexible experiences.

Cathy Reese

Cathy Reese

Senior Partner-Analytics Practice Leader,

IBM Global Business Services

Every company is leaning into technology, but without integrating modern, intelligent workflows, they will never succeed in bringing their mission to life. As customers expect more and employee skills evolve, Salesforce is quickly becoming a central application layer that uses AI and automation to enable end-to-end workflow transformation.

    The leading companies of the future will:

  • Capture the right data, not all data
  • Transform digital EX & CX with intelligent workflows
  • Design the future, now

The modern intelligent enterprise is one that not only invests in AI but has a cohesive vision and framework to build cooperative, integrated intelligent workflows that connect every person and system.


Meet the experts

Survey data

Salesforce is more than a CRM — it is a platform connected to core business processes enabling broader transformation.

AI investments are expected to shift to the back office as AI usage in the front-office matures.

Top concerns as AI usage grows are not about business profit, but focus instead on human engagement.

  • Essential business
    platform
  • AI back-office growth
  • AI ethics
  • Essential business platform
  • AI back-office growth
  • AI ethics

Salesforce is more than a CRM — it is a platform connected to core business processes enabling broader transformation.

8 out of 10 respondents believe Salesforce is important for delivering AI and process automation

AI investments are expected to shift to the back office as AI usage in the front-office matures.

Functional areas of AI growth:

Risk / Compliance

Finance

Supply Chain / Procurement

Top concerns as AI usage grows are not about business profit, but focus instead on human engagement.

Top concerns with AI businesses need to consider:

Transparency /
ethical use of data

User trust

Data bias

Industry benchmark

What do you think is the biggest concern businesses need to address in how AI is used in the future?

   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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The State of Salesforce

Open tech and converging ecosystems

Revolutionizing how industries go to market

Featured article

Open tech and converging ecosystems

Color Accent Image

The natural progression is to extend out beyond the company itself and think about how to connect with others in the ecosystem to define a great customer experience. That trend was going on before the pandemic, and certain industries were way ahead of others. With the pandemic, the physical channel was shut off in many industries, and so that led to an acceleration and a realization that market and channel expansion and new partnerships weren’t just things that needed to be tended to — but were survival requirements.

Philip Payne

Philip Payne

Senior Partner

IBM Strategy Group

Customer expectations for experiences that are personal, responsive, timely and intuitive are now table stakes. They’ve created new market pressures that require brands to serve diverse, ethically aligned, mission-driven purposes. It’s this quest to differentiate the customer offering that will lead to a meteoric rise in multi-party partnerships and industry platforms.

    The leading companies of the future will:

  • Participate in open-source industry innovation
  • Pivot to new markets and engagement models
  • Partner to expand reach and increase value

The business requirements for innovation, speed and flexibility in this modern era will blur the lines separating competitors, partners, employees and customers. Future-focused leaders will prioritize Salesforce ecosystem integration with a network of partners and competitors to build unique offerings and effective go-to-market models.


Meet the experts

Survey data

Focused on growth, C-level leaders are investing in building out their partner ecosystem.

As market disruptions force businesses to adapt, many are leaning on the Salesforce platform.

C-level leaders are focused on emerging business models to attract new customers.

  • Strategic partner
    ecosystems
  • Adapt to grow
  • Emerging business
    models
  • Strategic partner
    ecosystems
  • Adapt to grow
  • Emerging business models

Focused on growth, C-level leaders are investing in building out their partner ecosystem.

Future partnership investments are aimed at:

Growing customer base

Extending into
new markets

As market disruptions force businesses to adapt, many are leaning on the Salesforce platform.

8 out of 10 C-level leaders believe Salesforce transforms business models — half of those think it is essential.

Salesforce transforms business models

Salesforce is essential

C-level leaders are focused on emerging business models to attract new customers.

Leaders believe business models that will continue to emerge include:

New payment options

D2C

New customer segments

New forms of monetization

B2B2C

New marketplaces

Industry benchmark

To what extent do you expect Salesforce to be useful in transforming your business models over the next 18 months?

   
   
   
   
   

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