Salesforce looks to democratise AI, IoT with latest customisable platform play
- 07 November, 2017 04:18
Giving users direct ability to customise artificial intelligence-powered apps and mobile experiences, tap Internet of Things (IoT) data and create personalised training programs are among the key product announcements being made at this year’s Salesforce Dreamforce.
The vendor is pitching the latest platform services enhancements as foundational for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, and key in the quest to deliver ever-more personalised digital experiences to connected customers.
Top of the list is myEinstein, a new platform service based on Salesforce’s Einstein AI platform allowing business administrators to build custom AI-powered apps across any of the vendor’s cloud-based offerings. Einstein Prediction Builder, for example, allows customers to create custom AI models that can learn from and predict outcomes for any field or object in Salesforce’s core platforms. It does this by automating the model building and data scoring processes.
As an example, Salesforce said a user could create an attrition model to predict a customer’s likelihood to churn, or the value of an account, by identifying the fields to build the model on, and which data to use.
The vendor has also joined the throng of players leaping onto chatbots with Einstein Bots, which can take historical service and CRM data in order to respond or redirect customer inquiries and service situations. The two offerings take advantage of Einstein Language and Einstein Vision, new APIs launched in June aimed at encouraging more developers to build AI-powered CRM apps.
Salesforce GM and SVP of Einstein, John Ball, noted more than 475 million predictions are being generated daily by the CRM giant’s AI offering just one year after its debut. Einstein is now fuelling lead scoring and opp scoring in Sales Cloud, product recommendations in Commerce Cloud, and engagement scoring in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. But the key is offering Salesforce customers the ability to also customise AI like they do customise apps, Ball said.
“Today, we are further democratising AI by empowering admins and developers to transform every process and customer interaction to be more intelligence with myEinstein,” he said. “No other company is arming customers with both pre-built AI apps for CRM and the ability to build and customise their own with just clicks.
“There are just not enough data scientists to build all the AI we need. MyEinstein allows an admin to build a prediction, just as easy to build a custom object, workflow or page layout."
The first two myEinstein offerings are due for full release in mid-2018.
IDC principal analyst, Gerald Murray, told CMO launching myEinstein as a service open to all customer-facing clouds is a critical move for organisations that are serious about customer experience.
"The key to CX infrastructure is the orchestration between and around departmental systems and AI will play a critical role there," he commented. "Secondly, the use cases being released are within the cloud apps, so they are delivered in a very familiar places for users. This will make adoption very easy for customers, especially marketers."
Salesforce has also set up a team of data scientists dedicated to customer support. "This is a big deal because questions users have of AI models are new and different and front-line customer support staff cannot be expected to handle them," Murray said.
Punt-IT principal, Charles King, said that in ideal circumstances, myEinstein will enable end users to easily create AI-based tools and gain their predictive benefits far quicker than they would through traditional means.
"Of course, questions remain about just how 'ideal' myEinstein will be but Salesforce's reputation for delivering other powerful, easy to use customisation tools means the company's claims should be taken seriously," he said.
However, Raab & Associates principal, David Raab, sounded a word of caution about opening up these capabilties to the wider user base without comprehensive training and insights about the right way of doing things.
"Even if they avoid stupid mistakes, it’s not clear whether marketers can really understand where AI will help without considerable training," he said. "That said, I wholly agree AI is essential for marketers to take advantage of the many possibilities offered by today’s wealth of channels and data. So Salesforce is moving in the right direction. It’s probably better to get there quickly and then add some guardrails than not to go there at all."
Learning, IoT, mobile customisation
Another headline offering launched at Dreamforce is myTrailhead, an extension of Salesforce’s gamified online learning platform. Also aimed at democratising utilisation, the latest release allows companies to customise their learning environment through disparate content sources, branding and visual look and feel. Key features include Trail Mixer, which allows employees to build and share personalised learning paths; Trail Tracker, an app for motivating staff that also covers off mandatory training requirements; and Trail Checker, which allows users to rate and reward learning via interactive challenges.
According to SVP of developer relations for Trailhead, Sarah Franklin, 4 million badges have been earned to date, up from 1.2 million last year, with 15 million challenges completed across 500,000 active trailblazers.
Salesforce chief product officer, Alex Dayon, also saw a potential opportunity for Trailhead to extend into marketing activity and strategy.
"We see Trailhead as the next wave of marketing somehow... the lines between marketing, onboarding and so on are blurring," he said. "Trailhead is a very big idea for us."
In a similar vein, myIoT is designed to give business users the ability to leverage Internet of Things data, such as device, sensor and application data sets, in order to create rules-based automation for processes within the Salesforce platform. The new mySalesforce is also a customisable tool for creating mobile apps using point-and-click functionality.
The public is becoming more informed about the massive data and industrial strength analytics and AI that brands have and new expectations are emerging accordingly, Murray said. Both the AI and IoT announcements are a reflection of this shift.
"This will have big implications for marketers. Customers may start to prefer brands based not only on product and price but also privacy and personal value," Murray continued. "Marketing will become more and more a data as a service model designed to deliver value to the relationship over and above the product and service offerings. It will be obvious to customers which brand use their data for their benefit and which continue to think only in terms of messaging and targeting. Brands that get ahead of this trend will make it very painful for laggards."
Yet another move to lower the barrier to entry is Salesforce's new myLightning offering, an app custom building tool allowing users to personalise CRM experiences through use of brand images, colours, backgrounds. And rounding off the tools launch is the Quip Collaboration Platform, which integrates in Live Apps to allow teams to collaborate digitally, pooling together documents, spreadsheets, communications and real-time applications information for use in one live document.Salesforce acquired Quip in August 2016.
Overall, King said focusing on customers and a dedication to helping them solve critical problems and challenges have been central to Salesforce since its inception.
"You could say that these newest announcements simply underscore the company's intention to retain those values in the years ahead," he concluded. "But at the same time, Salesforce's past lend additional, substantial weight to its myEinstein and its IoT efforts."
This year’s Dreamforce is expected to attract attendees from 91 countries and more than 10 million online viewers.
- Nadia Cameron travelled to Dreamforce in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.