Meet the ‘chief availability officer’: Salesforce names Seattle-area exec to unusual C-suite role

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Meet the ‘chief availability officer’: Salesforce names Seattle-area exec to unusual C-suite role

Darryn Dieken, chief availability officer for Salesforce. (Salesforce Photo)

Salesforce, the San Francisco-based cloud company known for its flagship customer relationship management software, has created a new C-suite role: chief availability officer. And it has appointed as its first CAO, Darryn Dieken, who for more than three years has worked out of the company’s Bellevue, Wash., office as the executive vice president of infrastructure engineering.

The somewhat squishy-sounding title is actually pretty literal, according to Dieken. It’s about making sure the company’s services are reliably up and running for customers, and that their customer’s services are, in turn, always available for their own customers.

While individual Salesforce teams will still be accountable for availability, “we felt like this was an important enough role, where we’re needed to be one voice to our customer, one place where all these things came together,” Dieken said, “so that we had a common voice, a common model for our customers to engage with us on.”

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Dieken became CAO in May. Before coming to Salesforce, he held leadership roles at Microsoft for more than 20 years with stints in most of the company’s engineering teams. He said he expects other companies to create their own CAO positions in the years ahead, predicting it will be similar to the widespread adoption of the role of chief security officer.

An incident in May 2019 illustrated the importance of the issue, as a major Salesforce technical glitch kept customers from accessing two of its most widely used services, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, for the better part of a day.

#Salesforce down on a friday morning and you are the Admin?!?

— Claudia Alarcon (@ClaudiaMAlarcon) May 17, 2019

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In its annual report, Salesforce said its growing use of third-party cloud platforms and other technology vendors adds to the risk.

“As we increase our reliance on these third-party systems, our exposure to damage from service interruptions may increase,” the company said. “Interruptions in our services may cause us to issue credits or pay penalties, cause customers to make warranty or other claims against us or to terminate their subscriptions and adversely affect our attrition rates and our ability to attract new customers, all of which would reduce our revenue. Our business would also be harmed if our customers and potential customers believe our services are unreliable.”

The company last year shifted its Marketing Cloud to Microsoft Azure, and it also works closely with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.

Of course, Salesforce is far from the only company that grapples with outages, but creating a dedicated role in the C-suite is unusual. Salesforce teams involved in the effort include a group working to optimize the company’s platform for availability, and an incident response team to fix problems and figure out what went wrong.

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The reliability of their platform matters, Dieken said, whether it’s being used by an emergency response organization to send out medical help, a call center shifting to a work-from-home model, or a business relying on online sales.

Salesforce has been expanding in the Pacific Northwest, employing more than 1,000 people in the Seattle area directly. In addition, the company last year acquired Seattle-based Tableau Software for $15.7 billion, prompting co-CEO Marc Benioff to declare the region the company’s “HQ2.”

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