Microsoft just poached Salesforce's chief data officer as the competition between the two tech giants intensifies

  • Microsoft hired Salesforce chief data officer Hernan Asorey to take the same role within its commercial business unit, according to the executive's LinkedIn.
  • At Salesforce, Asorey was the first to hold the chief data officer role, and was responsible for the company's data-driven products — helping to scale its Einstein line of AI products.
  • The hire comes as Microsoft steps up its efforts to gain ground on Salesforce, the market-leading CRM tool.
  • Microsoft and Salesforce did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
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Microsoft has tapped Salesforce first-ever chief data officer Hernan Asorey to take the same role within its commercial business unit, according to the exec's LinkedIn profile.

The key hire comes as the battle intensifies between the tech giants for dominance in the customer relationship management industry, which helps sales teams track and manage leads. Microsoft and Salesforce did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Asorey could not immediately be reached for comment. 

A former Sears and HP executive, Asorey joined Salesforce in 2014 as a vice president of product data science. He was appointed the cloud software giant's first chief data officer in 2018 — a role in which Asorey helped scale the company's AI platform, known as Einstein.

In a LinkedIn post welcoming him to the new role, Microsoft technical fellow John Shewchuk praised Asorey's technical expertise and knowledge of AI.

"He enjoys making complex things simple and leveraging his business background on the strategy, ideation and development of disruptive data products with fundamental business impact," Shewchuk wrote, also noting that Asorey will take a leadership role, with a mandate to "co-innovate and co-develop solutions with our commercial customers that accelerate their digital transformation."

 

Chief data officers are becoming an increasingly common role in the C-Suite as corporations look to sift and analyze their storehouses of information to turn them into business advantage. This is an area in which Asorey has experience: At eBay, for example, he helped create what was then known as the world's largest data warehouse.

Asorey's departure comes about four months after Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher, widely credited as the brains behind Einstein, made his own exit.

AI is a key area of investment for Salesforce, helping differentiate its products from its many competitors, including Microsoft. While Salesforce remains the clear leader in market share in the CRM market, Microsoft's competing Dynamics 365 tool has been steadily gaining ground.

Salesforce has 18.4% of the market, while Microsoft had 3.7% in 2019, according to an IDC report. However, when Microsoft reported quarterly earnings last month, it reported 38% growth for its Dynamics 365 business. That could position Microsoft to grow its market share even further over the next few quarters, analysts said. 

The 38% growth of Dynamics is in-line with past quarters, though its revenue grew 47% year-over-year in July. Salesforce tends to see roughly 20% to 30% year-over-year growth each quarter. 

In a broader sense, analysts recently told Business Insider that while Einstein has made great strides over the years, competitors like startup C3.ai are stepping up their efforts in a way that could pose a threat to Salesforce.

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