IBM, with the power of Watson, is a leader in bringing cognitive intelligence to many industries. As IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, said earlier this week, “this year we expect Watson will touch one billion people—through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars.”  With that kind of market penetration, it is no wonder that companies are lining up to partner with IBM.

At SugarCRM, we’ve had a strategic partnership with IBM since 2010 and continue to work with many of IBM’s lines of business every day. We are also a member of IBM’s Business Partner Advisory Board.

As the world (and CRM industry) figures out how to utilize the power of AI, our team is working closely with IBM to bring the power of Watson into Sugar to help companies offer a better customer experience.

Sugar has been deployed in the IBM Banking Center of Excellence to showcase how Watson and Sugar are helping the financial services industry handle digital disruption and deliver exceptional customer experiences. The IBM team even created a fantastic video to show it off. Because of our longstanding relationship with IBM, this is a solution a customer can view a demo of, and purchase today.

 

Available on SugarExchange, Watson Analytics Expert Storybook for SugarCRM, helps SugarCRM customers identify strengths in their business approach by deal size, campaign effectiveness and company type by evaluating sales wins and losses. We debuted the Storybook at World of Watson last year.

Also, we are very proud that SugarCRM was the recipient of the 2016 IBM Beacon Award for Outstanding Solution for what is now called IBM Watson Customer Engagement (formerly called IBM Commerce).

We look forward to continuing our fantastic relationship with IBM.

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must develop digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

As valuable as the Sugar platform is, it never stands alone. Sugar becomes the hub of a front office when it delivers a holistic view of the customer. To build that 360-degree view, you need to integrate multiple systems together, which is much easier on the white board than in practice. There are often very sophisticated requirements for de-duplication, data transformation, and access control.

Enter Magic Software’s enterprise-class integration platform that helps companies accelerate integration to keep pace with, and get ahead of industry disruption. SugarCRM’s Martin Schneider recently sat down with Brian Pitoniak, Magic’s vice president of sales & operations to discuss how Magic helps companies accelerate integration to better relate to customers and enhance their business.

steintongueA few weeks ago I wrote a blog post around how artificial intelligence (AI) is more of an arms race than a “killer feature” that tech firms will be making themselves.

I referenced Salesforce, and its supposedly AI-powered Einstein as an example of a risky bet to make. Salesforce’s strengths are not in analytics (one could argue they’re not in CRM anyone either, but that’s a topic for another day), so why invest your own resources to build something that has already been built? And, why invest when something has already been built better than you can build it?

So, long story short – Salesforce today (surprise, surprise) announces that it can not complete its vision for Einstein without a real “arms dealer,” which in this case happens to be IBM’s Watson.

We have been working with integrating Watson into the Sugar platform for a while now, and can agree that Salesforce has chosen a winning tool. But, we wonder how much money and time Benioff and co. wasted by trying to do it themselves first?

Again, in the end, those that leverage the powerful AI tools in Watson, Amazon’s Alexa, etc. in ways that are seamless and delight employees and customers alike will win.

Maybe this was just an “I told you so” kind of post, but it is important to see that we may not be recapitulating as many mistakes as we have in the past with cloud and mobile in the world of AI…

(Editor’s Note, this post originally appeared in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and was syndicated in 42 Biz Journal publications across the country)

I’m a big Star Wars fan, so when “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” descended on theaters late last year, I braved the crowds to see it — twice in the first 18 hours. And just like all the other Star Wars movies, “Rogue One” stoked our geeky imaginations with all the technological possibilities of a galaxy far, far away, like holographic displays and all sorts of strange devices.

And did you notice the Imperial server farm? Of course, advanced artificial intelligence (AI) was well-represented too: Like C-3P0, R2-D2 and BB-8 in earlier movies, Rogue One’s K-2SO displayed uncanny humanness.

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The futuristic Star Wars-esque world is still mostly the stuff of Hollywood movies, but technology visionaries are hard at work bringing us ever closer. AI, or “ intelligence exhibited by machines,” is one area that is evolving into reality, and there are some subcategories under AI with practical applications that we use today. Natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning are two of them, and their potential for the future is exciting, especially for B2B technologies like customer relationship management (CRM).

The ultimate destination of AI for the business world is to make people’s jobs easier. Just like K-2SO in Rogue One, AI will become our intelligent personal assistant that saves the day and makes life easier. However, you may have noticed that no one has a droid at the office yet. So, let’s look at what technologies are real right now and what is coming farther down the road.

What’s real: Natural language processing and machine learning

NLP technology is quite adept at decomposing language into parts, understanding the baseline intent of that language, and representing it in both spoken and written word. Perhaps the best-known application of NLP today is Apple’s “Siri.” Ask Siri any number of things — “What time is it in Berlin?” or “When is my next meeting?” — and it can tell you.

NLP has also found a foothold in CRM. Intelligent CRM tools strive to improve customer relationships, and use NLP to mine for topics of interest from customer conversations in email and CRM. What better way to connect than to personalize customer communications? Many agree, and subsequently, NLP has benefited from a lot of investment lately.

Another subcategory of AI that is much more real than ever before is machine learning. Its recent success is due to the availability of huge volumes of discrete data points, and with this deluge of data at the ready — including digital data like social data, data from public records, and IOT data — patterns begin to emerge once analyzed.

Machine learning uses algorithms to understand patterns in data sets, and then applies some logic to the patterns. (“If ‘A’ looks like ‘B,’ and ‘B’ looks like ‘C,’ then ‘A’ also looks like ‘C.’”) Machine learning algorithms are also self-learning and have been designed to take feedback, which means that their “intelligence” grows as they analyze more patterns.

In the last few years, machine learning has made a particularly big splash in image and video recognition. Some visual recognition algorithms can analyze pictures from the Internet and understand the emotional intent behind the picture. This capability is especially valuable in commerce when a brand wants a greater understanding of its levels of customer satisfaction.

For example, one machine-learning technology trawls different social networks, looks for its customers’ brands in photos, and discerns the mood of the people in the picture with the brands. Is the person holding a can of Coke in the picture smiling or frowning? To be clear, the algorithms don’t understand the emotions of sad or happy, but they understand the difference between a mouth that is turned down versus one that is turned up in a smile.

While this latest advance is certainly impressive, machine learning’s greatest strides are yet to be made, and CRM in particular stands to benefit significantly.

What’s not real… yet

In 2013, the world watched as IBM Watson leveled its human opponents on Jeopardy. The idea that a computer powered by NLP and machine learning algorithms could spit out correct answers to so many varied questions was a curiosity. Be fair, though: Watson had a huge data set — the Library of Congress — at its — er — fingertips.

Keep in mind that machine learning’s success practically applied has only come about relatively recently, thanks to the advent and use of SaaS and cloud platforms, which can cost-effectively collect massive amounts of data. It’s also taken awhile to collect, publish and aggregate enough discrete data points in which to find and analyze meaningful patterns.

Organizations in many industries have already found a way to use machine learning to their advantage. In the coming years, CRM, too, will be primed to truly take full advantage of machine learning. Companies have by now collected trillions of rows of customer data to find patterns, and are beginning to train algorithms around how customers act. These algorithms are learning about what customers are most likely to do next based on their behavior patterns.

Tomorrow’s CRM system will be more than just a database. It will capitalize on machine learning to become the ultimate personal assistant. It will not only make a user more efficient and effective at getting the job done, but will also reveal something the user didn’t already know about his customers. This is where machine learning comes in, mining massive amounts of social and other data to uncover unknown details about a customer that will deepen the customer relationship. Tomorrow’s CRM system will also apply AI to supplement declarative rules based on workflow systems that will make predictions as to what a user should be doing next.

Back to Watson. IBM Watson provides a model for CRM to even go beyond the “ultimate personal assistant” with its personality profiler service. The service needs only an email address to scan all content that can be attributed to the person behind the address — every blog article, every tweet, every Facebook post — and then determine the personality characteristics of that person. What would that capability mean for CRM — for the sales engagement process?

The type of personality-rich and amusingly expressive cognitive intelligence displayed by K-2SO is a long way off. But the AI revolution promises new and exciting use cases in the very near future, and holds great possibilities for CRM in particular. With this in mind, in 2017 and beyond, organizations must begin to view their CRM systems as much more than just a database; rather, it must be seen an intelligent tool that has the potential to transform customer relationships.

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must develop digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with a number of our software partners to get their perspective on how they are reacting to and taking advantage of this era of disruption. In part two of this series, SugarCRM’s Martin Schneider talks with Guillaume Seynhaeve, vice president of marketing and business development at 3CLogic. The two discussed 3CLogic’s next-generation call center platform and how they are working with SugarCRM to drive disruption in the marketplace.

Want to hear more partners talk about disruption? Head over to the Sugar Community to view all the disruption series videos.

Last week, a survey by a company out of the UK came back with an interesting headline, “Only 17% of customer relationship managers believe their CRM is generating revenue.”

Hmmm…really? Though those results surprise me, the data is based on a poll of 500 CRM managers. As they say, “you can’t argue with the people.” So, for the 83% who are struggling to understand how to generate revenue from their CRM. Here are five ways a sound CRM investment drives revenue:

CRM increases sales rep productivity – Some industry data suggests salespeople spend only one-third of their time actually selling. The rest is spent on administrative work like qualifying leads, and data entry. CRM will streamline and cut down that time, so reps can spend more time selling. The more time selling, the faster deals can close.

CRM help reps prioritize – If configured correctly, CRM helps reps prioritize their time by focusing on the deals that are more likely to close so they don’t chase low percentage opportunities.

CRM helps with retention – By making sure customer service professionals have access to the CRM to review the details about the customer’s journey with your company including, purchase history and account status, your customers will be less frustrated and less likely to leave. Customers that feel like they are a priority lead to upsell opportunities and solid growth.

Integrated marketing and sales activities – A modern CRM allows not only the sales team, but also the marketing team to stay plugged into leads at every stage in the process. This enables marketing to be part of the sales cycle and helps prevent leads from falling through the cracks. 

Automating post-sales processes – By using your CRM to automate and speed up everything that happens after the contract is signed, activities like user onboarding and the billing process, improves time to revenue and increases available cash flow for an organization.

If you are not seeing revenue from your CRM, you should ask yourself: 1) are my daily users getting the most out of our CRM 2) is it tailored my specific business processes 3) am I partnering with the correct vendor who cares about my business success and considers me a priority?crm

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must come up with digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with a number of our software partners to get their perspective on how they are reacting to and taking advantage of this era of disruption. In the first of our disruption series, SugarCRM’s Martin Schneider talks with Peter Fogelsanger, the vice president of partner enablement at Thunderhead. The two discussed how Thunderhead’s One Engagement Hub is driving digital transformation by helping customers visualize a real time view of their customer journey.

 

Want to hear more partners talk about disruption? Head over to the Sugar Community to view all the disruption series videos.