May 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

Salesforce debuts business software for the coronavirus era

Screenshots from Salesforce's Work.com
Photo: Salesforce

Salesforce is announcing new products Monday to help businesses navigate reopening during a pandemic, tackling newly necessary tasks like scheduling office workers in shifts, managing employee health and handling emergency responses.

Why it matters: Firms like Zoom and Slack have seen their existing services flourish during the coronavirus crisis, but Salesforce's new products are some of the first designed specifically to help navigate it. Expect many more to follow.

The big picture: Businesses are facing a whole set of new considerations as they look to reopen in the coming weeks with little to no playbook to follow.

  • "People are just learning the right questions to ask," Salesforce operating chief Bret Taylor told Axios. "This is us enlisting hundreds of people around the company in a very short time to create something new."

Details: Salesforce is introducing several new products, including:

  • A Work.com command center dashboard where businesses can see their readiness across locations, merging internal data, survey information and public data.
  • A suite of emergency response management products built in collaboration with Accenture, aimed at public health institutions and government agencies as well as businesses. It's designed for tasks, including contact tracing. Salesforce has been gaining experience there, working with Rhode Island's governor on that state's efforts.
  • An employee wellness check system is designed to let companies query and monitor the health of employees and visitors to make informed decisions on opening and closing offices, among other things.
  • Salesforce's shift management system helps business leaders figure out how to reduce density, schedule breaks and reduce other bottlenecks so employees can safely return to work.

Between the lines: Taylor said that businesses will be faced with all kinds of tasks they've never had to manage. For example, they may have to divide their office workers with some coming in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and others on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with deep cleanings scheduled in between.

  • At Salesforce Tower, he said workers may even have to schedule a time to take the elevator to their floor to prevent overcrowding. Businesses will also need tools to check in with employees on their health and suggest whether workers should stay home or come to work.
  • "For us, this is really looking at what we’ve seen and turning that into a product," Taylor told Axios.

Salesforce has been active on many fronts during the pandemic, from procuring personal protective equipment for health care providers to calling for coordinated plans for safely reopening business.

  • The company, which was early to close its offices, also recently said it was shutting down in-person events for the year, including its flagship Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

Yes, but: The new offerings aren't philanthropic efforts. Salesforce is charging for the various components, with prices ranging from $5 to $50 per user per month.

What's next: Taylor said he expects the product to evolve rapidly. "Honestly, I know there will be things it is missing," he said. "I don’t know that we know every aspect of what it will take to reopen."

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