Parker Harris: Salesforce Co-founder and CTO Previews Trailblazer DX 2022

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, Parker Harris: Salesforce Co-founder and CTO Previews Trailblazer DX 2022. The summary for this episode is: <p>It’s that time of year again! Trailblazer DX - The Salesforce Developer Conference is back in person and online!</p><p><br></p><p>And in this episode of Blazing Trails we are going to get a preview with Salesforce Co-founder and CTO Parker Harris. Parker will discuss the evolution of the Salesforce platform and the power of seamlessly integrated automation and how that is transformational to the customer experience. </p><p><br></p><p>Trailblazer DX is happening on April 27th and 28th in-person in San Francisco, and, of course, you can join online at Salesforce Plus. Just go to<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"> <u></u></a> and register with a Trailblazer ID to join.</p>

Michael: Welcome back to Blazing Trails. I'm your host, Michael Rivo from Salesforce Studios. Well, it's that time of year again. Trailblazer DX, the Salesforce Developer Conference is back in person and online. And in this episode of Blazing Trails we're going to get a preview with Salesforce co- founder and CTO Parker Harris. Parker and I will discuss the evolution of the Salesforce platform, what excites him most about the future of tech, and some of the innovations that we're going to hear about at Trailblazer DX. All right, let's get right into it. Welcome back to Blazing Trails, Parker.

Parker: Thanks for having me back, Michael. Pleasure to be here.

Michael: Great. Well, I wanted to start by talking a little bit about automation. It's so relevant to businesses right now about creating flows, and automating lower level work, and freeing people up to do more rewarding work. What's happening with automation at Salesforce right now, what's our POV?

Parker: Well, it is funny. I think a lot of people don't understand the power of the automation that we have, and even how easy it is. You can do it with low code, you can do it with no code even, and you can create a lot more productivity in your own corporation, or if you're consulting and doing work for other companies that you could add an incredible value. And I think we're all looking for squeezing out more productivity from all of us. And why do it yourself if you could have the computer do it for you.

Michael: Absolutely. I love this quote from John Kucera here at Salesforce, which is,'Humans are uniquely capable of managing relationships while machines are great at synthesizing lots of information and extracting relevant insights.' Talk to me about this intersection of systems and people, and how they work together.

Parker: Yeah, John stole that, I think, from Stewart Butterfield. Our biggest acquisition yet was Slack well over a year ago and just transformative for us. And if you listen to Stewart Butterfield talk what he'll say is, there's human workflow where humans are working together, and then there's the automation of the enterprise. And obviously what we're talking about is we need more automation in the enterprise. And yes, computers are well suited to automate the processes of an enterprise, but what if you can bring those two together in this beautiful way where you automate the workflow of, let's say it's an approval process. What if you can automate all of that, but when a human needs to be pulled in, instead of humans being the orchestrator, what if automation is the orchestrator? The humans get pulled in at the right time, especially in an interface like Slack, and that it just comes to you in Slack. So imagine, what if enterprise software is something you don't go to, but it comes to you. And it only comes to you when it feels like it needs you as a human being, because it needs your intelligence, your sentience to say, I'm going to weigh in here and that's important.

Michael: I mean, it's great that you're talking about Slack, because that's a big part of Trailblazer DX this year, the Slack integrations. I mean, just talk to me a little bit about what that's going to open up across the platform, having this spine of communication and bringing stuff to the user like you're talking about. Super interesting.

Parker: Yeah. So many trailblazers out there know about the power of the Salesforce platform and they can understand how to build what we think of as applications. And you think of those in a lightning interface, for example. And you might have workflows, or forms that you're building. You might have integrations bringing data from other sources. Slack has a different view. Slack has more of a chat based interface and occasionally you might enter a model or bring information to you. We're bringing those platforms together. It's a powerful workflow platform in Slack, and powerful forms building. But imagine if all of the IP that you're doing in Salesforce, all of these applications, the workflows, the forms, what if you could bring those together with Slack? What if some of that information... I'm in slack and I have a workflow that says approve this opportunity, this deal. And so it comes to me in Slack. So I've connected the workflow from Salesforce to Slack. And then I'm like, you know what, Mike, I'm not sure I want to approve that deal yet. I don't know enough about it. Do I log back into Salesforce, switch to a swivel chair, like in a service cloud implementation? Don't swivel chair in Slack. Have that integration work so that I could just with a Slash command or other type of interface in Slack quickly just open a model and show me just enough information on that opportunity. Great. I see it. Awesome. I'm good. Click approve. And I'm done. And so the idea is that we're going to enable all the trailblazers with all the skills and the tools they have to really build workflow applications that join the platforms together, and to build forms based applications that bring the two platforms together. And I just can't wait to see what that unleashes in creativity among our community. It's going to be incredible.

Michael: Yeah. It's super exciting. And this year's Trailblazer DX is all about uniting all developers across the customer 360, MuleSoft, Slack, Tableau. We've got this great momentum happening and it's going to bring all this opportunity to do this. I'm curious about that creativity and what the feeling is sort of inside Salesforce that people are thinking about of what this is going to open up in terms of supporting these transformations of so many of our customers.

Parker: Well, yeah, we're still in this pandemic, but we're getting back to the office. I'm working from home today. I was in the office yesterday. And now we're entering this new world of kind of it's both. We're in person, we're online. Going digital has never been more important. And the problem of doing this and transforming in this new world is speed. And not only do you need to get there quickly just to catch that customer base in terms of demand, or in terms of service, you want to get there quickly and you want to do it for your customer, your company, exactly how they want. The only way to do that is with powerful platforms where they're just easy. And I think easy for me, we can talk about automation, but easy, I think, in terms of a value, why isn't it just simple? Early on I would say to my fellow developers at Salesforce," Let's make it fast, simple, and right the first time." I want to just go quickly, I want to build these things quickly, I want it to perform quickly, and I want it to be as simple as possible. And I want someone to look at it and not go," Wow, that's really complex. It's amazing you put that together." I want someone to look at it and say," I could do that. That doesn't look that hard." And often it's hard to... The difficulty in bringing the simplicity, actually, you never see it once you get that result. But low code, no code platforms like Salesforce automation and workflow building that we just talked about, all of those are capabilities that are so important in this new world. And it's so important for trailblazers out there to be able to scale up quickly. So I love, obviously, the Trailhead platform that you have that. We have the tools and the power for you to go quickly in this digital transformation. And if you don't quite know how to use them, you can go quickly to learn them, the power of that. And so that's why I meet trailblazers. I was just in France last week. We meet trailblazers from all walks of life. There's a mother, gave her a golden hoodie in France, and it was just incredible. She was just talking about how she was at home during the pandemic with her son. Needed to kind of pivot her job. She took some Trailhead modules, got certified, and she's got a new career. And those stories always just blow me away. And I know we have many more stories to come and I'd love, for everyone listening, to hear your stories.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that need for speed is so critical. The other day I had to reset an Apple TV. And so I had to get Netflix and HBO Max and reload them. And the experience between the different applications of having to recover a password and type in through a terrible interface. So I get to Prime, and I know Amazon is an early inspiration, and I get to Prime and they put a QR code on the screen. I take a picture of it with my phone, it knows who I am, and says activate this device. I click one button and it's done. And so it was having to do several of these tasks in a row and seeing the power of making it easy. It was incredible.

Parker: And someone probably thought a long time, and went through a lot of complexity in how they were thinking about and solving a hard problem to something beautiful and simple. And that's what we all want. We want to solve things quickly. You want that incredible experience for that end user that's just simplicity and beautiful.

Michael: Yeah. And to create something like that from a big organization too, where you know there's so many stakeholders and everything else that goes on. So I was in praise of that experience. It was great. Last year when we talked you mentioned that there was a quote that you said, that just because it's possible to write code doesn't mean you should write code-

Parker: Yeah.

Michael: ...which our conversation about speed makes me think about that. Can you expand on that within the context of the platform? Sort of low code-

Parker: Absolutely.

Michael: ...and the power of that?

Parker: Speed and simplicity are very related to this point. And that's that just because you could do something in a complex way, why? If you could do it faster and more simply why not just do it faster and more simply. I celebrate when my developers take code out. If they were able to take it out, obviously what results is something that's probably a lot simpler. I could understand it more quickly. It's probably going to perform better. And so I think the problem is one tool doesn't solve everything. And guess what? You're going to go faster, your business is going to be much happier. You're going to be able to iterate much faster, there's much less to maintain. It's one thing to have fun writing some code. It's another thing to own it and maintain it forever. And code lives a long time. But once you write it stays there for a long time. And then, what if you're not the one, you wrote it and somebody else has to deal with it? Then they've got to learn it. It's kind of like the story of all the people who have jobs maintaining the mainframe code. And companies that keep paying them more and more money and say, please don't retire because no one else in our company understands this. That's a huge problem. And so what if that was going to more of a no code platform, no code solutions, low code solutions. So we always say make the easy things easy. So that means do it with no code if possible. But the hard things possible. And when I think hard things possible, okay, it's really hard. You might have to write some code. But I would love to keep innovating and keep replacing those hard things and making them easy. And I encourage the whole community out there when they see opportunities, how could Salesforce innovate to keep moving the needle to getting rid of code.

Michael: And it speaks to the experience. In the developer community at large we're seeing the same thing that we've seen all over workplaces, which is this great resignation. People are making changes. And we've seen that across the Salesforce developer community at large. And I'm just curious how we're addressing this and what we think about that?

Parker: Well, I think everyone out there needs to really think about themselves, and their own health, and their own balance. I like to say I'm always striving for balance, but I'll never achieve it. And so when we think about burnout, it's just about how can you rethink what you're doing? So at Salesforce we're doing interesting things, like having a week of asynchronous work. We call it asynch week. So we shifted from in person meeting culture to an online meeting culture. And it's like, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Hangout, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. Whatever technology you're using. And what if some of that could be replaced by, I'm going to collaborate around a shared document, and I'm going to go do some work and then leave some commentary for you, and then you're going to pick it up and we're going to work together. But maybe not at the exact same time. Or in Slack I'm going to record a video message to you, a clip, and I'm going to save it. A very rich content, way more than text. It has the visual, the voice, everything I can convey a lot to you in a clip, send it to you. And then imagine. We have people all over the world. If you're an engineer, let's have a little respect for the fact that the developer community's a global community, and they don't all live in one place. It's not one time zone. And that's caused a lot of burnout too. Work when it's optimal for you, whether it's your time zone, or what's going on in your life. People at home with children, there might be times a day when it's just not the right time to do work. And rethink it and think about how technology could help you get there.

Michael: Yeah. I know we've certainly dove into that as a company with asynch week, and just all the different interactions you have across so many different teams, and getting a big organization to sort of learn how to work this new way. And I know for me, it's been a journey with that, of getting comfortable with, okay, I don't have to answer this right away, or really use a notification to say where you are, what you're doing. I mean, it's some basic stuff, but it's a mindset shift of-

Parker: So kind of, I think we all have to try new things. Even going back into the office. It used to be the people that were remote had issues and they were the second class citizen, because everyone's at a conference room and you have the big video screen, and you see the person online but they see this little person around a table. And now we've just done very low tech solutions, like if we have a meeting now, and we know that there's someone or a number of members not in person, we all Zoom in or log in on our own machine so that my image of what I'm saying and projecting would look just like this does right now, even if I'm with you, Michael, in person. Other people that might be joining us may not be. And how do we level the playing field and keep it even.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I still like the phone, too. Rachel, who I work with on this podcast, will attest.

Parker: Yeah, yeah. It's okay. It's kind of like back to that simplicity and complexity thing. Sometimes simple things are good.

Michael: That's right.

Parker: And the phone, it's pretty simple, and actually works pretty well.

Michael: It does. Millions of years of evolution so that we could talk to each other like that.

Parker: Yeah, exactly.

Michael: Well Salesforce has a thriving developer and trailblazer community. There's 15 million people that use the Salesforce platform to build successful careers, and communities, and companies.

Parker: Yeah.

Michael: What's been the big draw? Why do you think that Salesforce community has been so successful?

Parker: I think it's about impact. And I think that having an impact is what we all want to do in our jobs. And the Salesforce platform, the Salesforce community delivers that. Trailhead being a way to, for free, skill up is unique and incredible. And the combination of our platform being so easy, and the enablement being free, brings people from all walks of life too. And so it brings a very diverse community. They're not all people who have gone through traditional computer science education that they've learned on the job maybe, or on the side of a job that they currently have as they're pivoting to their next career. And I think that has made it truly vibrant. And the stories I hear of people who have created new careers for themselves. You think about the veteran community that comes out of the military service. And we thank all of you, if you're listening, for your service, and want to get back in the workplace. It's amazing to see them get on our platform and create jobs for themselves. Or underprivileged minorities that need to reboot their careers, or make a place. They're doing it on the Salesforce platform. And we're partnering with a lot of those companies, and nonprofits, and developer groups. And if you have those out there, we want to work with you too, to help create a more equitable world, which is obviously, we think at Salesforce, is part of the mission of being in business is making the world a better place. And the trailblazer community and the platform are really enabling a lot of that.

Michael: Well, it leads to my next question, which as we're talking here and I'm thinking about being a founder of Salesforce, and starting it from the small place and to what it's become now, and what you're talking about. The question I had was looking back at the evolution of Salesforce. What's one thing you feel most proud of, which you kind of just talked about, but I'm just curious your thoughts about that?

Parker: Well, I think I'm most proud of Mark and his vision to create integrated philanthropy day one with our 1- 1- 1 Model that cemented in our culture this idea of doing more with this company than just, which is wonderful, the CRM, and the technology, and the platform, and our business and doing more than that. And then letting our community, our employees, our trailblazers, everyone keeps making it bigger and better. And so I think I'm most proud of the impact we have on the world. And I can't take credit for most of it. It's happening because of everyone that's listening because of all that we started so long ago, but now it has a life of its own. So, I just watch it and I'm in awe, but I'm most proud of the impact we have as a company, probably because we started with that foundational culture of giving back and doing more.

Michael: Right. Well, so you're giving the keynote TDX this year. Tell me what you're most excited about for this year's event.

Parker: I'm most excited to get back together and have a conference. And I want our Salesforce employees to be there. I'm hosting a real intense offsite to work on parts of the Salesforce platform around our data architecture and data platform. We have people coming from all over the world, and I said," You should come this week and let's do it early this week. And then I want you to come to our conference and experience our conference, and meet all the trailblazers that will be there." So I'm just excited. Obviously we have some great announcements. I won't talk about them right now. But getting back together and being with everyone I think is going to be so amazing. Can't wait to see everybody.

Michael: So looking ahead at the broad tech industry trends, what excites you most about what's coming in the next years?

Parker: I'm definitely watching things like 5G, which I think are really exciting, and will transform in ways we don't really understand yet. Imagine if my phone has better connectivity than my house does right now by orders of magnitude, what would that do? But I would say what I'm most excited about right now is data platforms, and a lot of focus, we call it our customer data platform, it's not, it's a product for marketing automation. But underneath it there is some incredible technology. And that technology is based on open source. It's based on a lot of open standards. And when I think about all the customer data that we serve for our customers, it's not our data, it's all our customers data, but that data is so important. And the proliferation, we talk about it. There's more and more data in the world that's coming off of devices, that's coming off of activities of customers on websites, or physically coming into stores, or what have you. Calling up call centers. All of that is information that's very important of how could our customers give their customers a much better lifelong customer experience, and the power of these data platforms, and having them move to a more real time nature, which has been a vision of mine for decades. I think it's coming together now. And then seeing these data platforms. We will not have the only one. Everyone is building or leveraging data platforms. They're incredible partners like Snowflake and Databricks that have. And AWS has incredible data services. Microsoft and Azure have great services. And our customers are using those. And the amazing thing I'm seeing is we can create a customer data platform, Customer 360, we'll serve that up and it's going to be incredibly powerful, but in the future our platform will just work seamlessly with data that's happening and it's on all your other platforms. So that's, I would say, what I'm so excited. And I spend most of my days with some deep architects at Salesforce looking at our future in this area. So it just gets me really jazzed.

Michael: Yeah. Wow, that's a huge topic, and we'll have to follow up on that another time because there's-

Parker: Absolutely.

Michael: much interesting stuff there.

Parker: Yeah.

Michael: And then any concerns about tech over the next five years? I know there's a lot of issues that people are concerned about. Anything for you that we should be thinking about?

Parker: Well, I think there's a couple of things. I think that the Internet's global, but nations are looking at the world a little bit more from a sovereign and national perspective. So in around technology, how do we think about data sovereignty, and data privacy, and data locality in this future world. That's why Hyperforce is such an important invention that we created so that we can bring our services all over the world to where our customers need them. I do think that, I just talked about data and how excited I am about the power of data, and the power of data for good to create better outcomes for customers. That could also be used in the wrong way. And so I think we have to be careful about, how can Salesforce lead with values, not just technology, in this future to make sure that as we provide these incredible capabilities for our customers that we're giving their customers transparency and trust in how their data is being used is and used for their own good. And if they're not happy, or they don't think it's being used in quite the right way, that they have the empowerment to do something about it. And so as we move into this future we have an office of ethical use that stands right by us as we're inventing the future that looks at these types of things. And that's why, I think, we're well positioned not only to give the technology to create better customer outcomes, but also to make sure that customers demand that those outcomes are the ones that they want and not the ones that might be in a negative nature.

Michael: Well, Parker, I'm excited for Trailblazer DX this year. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Parker: Absolutely, Michael, it was a pleasure. Really good to see you today. And I can't wait for our event.

Michael: Yes. See you in person soon.

Parker: All right. See you in person, and see all of you in person.

Michael: That was CTO and Co- Founder Parker Harris. You're not going to want to miss him and so many others who are going to be a Trailblazer DX this year. Like podcaster, editor and author, Kara Swisher, who's been a guest on Blazing Trails, Paralympian and author, Mike Schultz, also a Blazing Trails guest, and Olympic speed skater, Maame Biney. So join us at Trailblazer DX where we're bringing together developers, admins, architects, partners, entrepreneurs, and students for a world class learning experience that you will not want to miss. Connect to product managers, experts, and the community of trailblazers across the ecosystem. Again, Trailblazer DX is happening on April 27th and 28th in person in San Francisco. And of course, you can join online at Salesforce Plus. Just go to salesforce. com/ plus register with a TV ID and you are in. So thanks for listening today. If you like this episode be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcast. I'm Michael Rivo from Salesforce Studios.


It’s that time of year again! Trailblazer DX - The Salesforce Developer Conference is back in person and online!

And in this episode of Blazing Trails we are going to get a preview with Salesforce Co-founder and CTO Parker Harris. Parker will discuss the evolution of the Salesforce platform and the power of seamlessly integrated automation and how that is transformational to the customer experience.

Trailblazer DX is happening on April 27th and 28th in-person in San Francisco, and, of course, you can join online at Salesforce Plus. Just go to and register with a Trailblazer ID to join.