- Over the past year, Salesforce has been balancing investing in the future and managing risk.
- CFO Amy Weaver is spearheading Salesforce’s efforts to spur innovation while spending wisely.
- This article is part of “The CFO Project: Future of Finance” series that drills down on what’s on the agendas of some of today’s most influential financial executives.
The cloud giant Salesforce has big ambitions, working toward a target of $US50 ($AU70) billion in revenue by 2025. And it hasn’t been afraid to spend big: It acquired the workplace chat app Slack for $US27.7 ($AU39) billion this year in a push to become the center of the remote-working world.
In charge of managing that delicate financial balance between growing revenue and investing in the future is Amy Weaver, who took over as Salesforce’s chief financial officer in January after Mark Hawkins retired. Before the move, Weaver had served as the company’s chief legal officer.
CEO Marc Benioff has credited Weaver on earnings calls this year with improving the company’s overall financial operating model, praising her approach to growing its finance team while automating and streamlining many of its internal processes. The changes, Benioff suggested, better position Salesforce to achieve its goals.
In an email interview with Insider, Weaver said her approach hinges on making sure the company is efficient as it grows, describing the Slack acquisition and the recent emphasis on serving remote workers as a chance to rethink how it does things.
“Our priority is always our customers’ success and how we can best help them grow, because that drives our success,” Weaver said. “It is important to me that we can both grow and drive efficiencies as we scale, and we are taking advantage of this unique opportunity to re-imagine our operations.”
More specifically, she described three major factors in how she thinks about making sure that efficient scalability doesn’t get in the way of innovation and new opportunities.
First, she said, Salesforce’s generally strong earnings reports over the past several years — reflecting heightened demand for products like its flagship Sales Cloud and Service Cloud software in the pandemic — have allowed the company to maintain profitability, even after megadeals like Slack, Tableau, and MuleSoft.
Second, the company is keeping many of its pandemic-driven sales-and-marketing practices even as it brings workers back to the office, helping cut costs, she said. For example, Weaver said much of Salesforce’s sales and product marketing is now done virtually via apps like Zoom, reducing travel expenses. She said that investing in automating the finance function would pay off with cost savings in the long run.
Finally, Weaver said, Salesforce must be willing to make big investments where it sees a real opportunity, as it did with Slack. Making smart bets now means more revenue later, which will allow it to invest even more in its own efficiencies.
“This discipline will lead to more money to invest in distribution and to support growth mode during this strong demand environment,” Weaver said.
Ultimately, what makes for a smart bet comes down to customer need, Weaver said.
“Customers view us as their strategic advisor, and that relationship enables a constant feedback loop that fuels innovation,” she said. “Our relentless customer focus drives us to innovate for problems customers face today and problems they will face in the future.”
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