How IBM shifted into a higher gear of productivity by partnering with Slack

"We use Slack every day at IBM. The fact that I can connect my Salesforce opportunities inside Slack and see exactly what’s going on from one single source of truth is invaluable."

Jenn BoothGlobal Salesforce Partner, IBM

A ship can’t reach its destination if the crew isn’t rowing in the same direction. But organizing a crew the size of IBM’s—250,000 strong and counting—is no small feat. That’s why this global technology innovator relies on Slack as its intelligent productivity platform.

Employees at IBM send an average of 9.2 million Slack messages a day and have built more than 10,000 workflows and apps, both custom and off-the-shelf. But IBM isn’t just our largest customer; it’s an essential consulting partner of both Slack and Salesforce. In fact, we honored IBM with a Salesforce Partner Innovation Award in 2022, to recognize the transformative ways IBM uses Slack to help organizations overcome business challenges and drive success.

IBM’s impressive productivity gains have been possible thanks to Slack’s ability to automate busywork, connect employees and help them find and share the communal knowledge they need to do their work at the highest level.

“We use Slack every day at IBM,” says Jenn Booth, a global Salesforce partner at IBM. “The fact that I can connect my Salesforce opportunities inside Slack and see exactly what’s going on from one single source of truth is invaluable.”

As one of the world’s largest technology enterprises, IBM’s operations run the gamut from sales to support, and Slack powers it all.

Maximizing team selling with Slack Elevate and Sales Cloud

Thanks to Slack Sales Elevate’s integration with Salesforce Sales Cloud, IBM’s sellers have lifted their win rate while cutting approximately four days off the average deal cycle. Sales Elevate offers IBM’s salespeople a deep reservoir of client information, allowing them to move with confidence and speed as they sell to key accounts. This easily accessible data is crucial for team selling, which 81% of sales reps say helps them close deals more efficiently.

“Our sales team is really enjoying this integration, because it allows us to create intelligence around our sales records,” says Michael Peeler, IBM’s head of global digital transformation, analytics and collaboration engineering. “When I first introduced it to our head of sales, he got his phone out, jumped in the channel, looked at the dashboard and said ‘This is the best thing ever!”

Before Sales Elevate, records contained much less context. Now, reps are able to create much deeper intelligence around opportunities, including prior conversations about what was originally pitched but may not have made it into the deal. Reps can avoid situations like walking into a meeting with the client and suggesting something that was pitched six months ago. And by tying these records together, sellers can jump between accounts quickly, execute their daily tasks and close up their week in Sales Cloud—all without leaving Slack.

At IBM, sales opportunities often start with either a digital or in-person interaction, perhaps from a campaign or a connection made at an event like Dreamforce. “Any time an opportunity enters IBM, our sales pursuit team is named, identified and brought into a Slack channel where we collaborate on that opportunity,” Booth says. “For instance, if one person gets on the phone with our client and gets a quick update, we as a team are able to collaborate efficiently via Slack to get that solution ready for the client.”

As the opportunity develops, triggers inside Sales Cloud automatically alert IBM’s specialized solution teams and subject-matter experts and invite them to join what’s known internally as a “Deal Desk”: a dedicated Slack channel that allows the team to tailor custom solutions to an individual client’s needs. The client, too, is brought into the loop via Slack Connect, which allows external users to join certain internal channels and makes for a more transparent and efficient sales motion.

Clips have also transformed communication within IBM. Instead of having to spend hours crafting the perfect email, Clips allow team members to convey their messages quickly and personally through video or audio. Not only does this feature save time, it also captures the nuances of body language and tone that text-based communication often lacks.

Even the onboarding process benefits from connecting Slack and Salesforce. IBM’s new-hires team analyzes the best practices of the company’s top performers and designs intelligent workflows that guide new employees through training for their roles. In combination with—IBM’s advanced artificial intelligence system that can analyze large amounts of data and provide industry-specific insights—these Slack workflows go beyond mere task automation; they actively equip teammates with relevant insights from their successful colleagues.

Sharing institutional knowledge and best practices in Slack helps IBM build a strong internal culture across the entire organization. Before adopting Slack, coordinating group calls across multiple time zones was a significant challenge. But Slack has made it possible to collaborate across geographical and cultural boundaries, fostering a flat, inclusive environment where expertise is valued over background or tenure.

This commitment to culture-building also shines in IBM’s habit of celebrating sales victories. Sales Cloud and Slack make it easy to locate colleagues and acknowledge their achievements. “Three or four people have to check a box, but it’s all connected through Slack and Sales Cloud,” Booth says. “Let’s say Isabelle gets promoted, my approval and feedback can all be captured inside Slack. Then of course we go nuts with emojis under the post when I announce in the group channel how Isabelle did a great job.”

Transforming customer support with Slack’s intelligent productivity platform

By opening direct channels with customers inside Slack, IBM’s support team creates better opportunities for communication and collaboration throughout the case process. This link allows for real-time updates, eliminating the need for customers to regularly check in.

Swarming is the cornerstone of IBM’s customer service model. This process—where subject-matter experts are alerted about support tickets that could benefit from their focus area—quickly brings a vast array of expertise to the table.

Swarming is particularly effective in critical incidents, where knowledge from multiple technical areas is required and time is of the essence. Hosting the incident response process in one contextual channel is the key, as Bob McDonald, vice president of CRM experiences, explains: “We can open up a Slack channel and link it to the case and bring all the right expertise to that case almost instantaneously to drive a faster time to resolution.”

Every service organization wants to improve its time to resolution, and Slack has enabled IBM to do exactly that. IBM’s service workspace is fully integrated with apps, bots and services such as Tableau, and workflows have had a profound impact on helping agents harness these tools as efficiently as possible. This connected network allows for real-time alerts, up-to-date information and collaborative document sharing with version control—all of which drive the fastest possible results both internally and to customers.

One example is the PagerDuty integration. When an incident causes a major outage, it sends an alert to the IT agents on call and prompts them to complete a Slack workflow that assigns a first responder and point of contact. 

“I’m not stressed anymore, because we know everyone is paying attention to the incident-response channel,” says Guillermo Valdivia, who manages CIO toolbox engineering and data insights at IBM. “It notifies all stakeholders automatically. I don’t have to pick up the phone and call them; I just press the button, it notifies them and they know what they need to do.”

In the event that an incident requires real-time problem solving, Slack’s huddle feature simplifies spontaneous discussions. Managers and coworkers can quickly connect in a huddle, making conversations more agile and reducing the need to juggle multiple communication platforms.

Empowering customers to revolutionize their own operations

In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, it’s a major challenge for companies to navigate digital transformation while maintaining their day-to-day operations. That’s why Slack, Salesforce and IBM have partnered to offer strategic guidance to companies as they evolve.

Sales operations are a primary focus, since they’re so often at the forefront of customer interaction and business growth. Helping clients mirror IBM’s own onboarding strategies is one area where productivity gains are skyrocketing. “Our clients are looking at their new employees and trying to help them be as productive as their top sellers,” Booth says. “Inside of IBM, we’ve implemented intelligent workflows that have increased the productivity of sellers by 33%, in one specific case.”

Through these efforts, IBM demonstrates how strategically using technology and intelligent workflows can pave the way for successful digital transformations across industries.

Slack boosts growth and innovation at IBM

By optimizing team selling, transforming customer support, and empowering clients to revamp their operations, Slack has proven to be more than just a tool; it’s a facilitator of organic growth and adoption. 

Slack’s intuitive nature and ease of use have enabled IBM to enhance productivity, streamline communications, and foster a more inclusive and collaborative work environment. The use of intelligent workflows and adoption of digital platforms like Slack and Salesforce exemplify IBM’s forward-thinking approach when it comes to digital transformation and put them in the perfect position to guide other organizations to do the same.

“The beauty of Slack is that its adoption is viral,” McDonald says. “People just gravitate to it and want to use it. It’s that intuitive. It’s that effective.”