Archives For Salesforce

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…

robocopRemember when SaaS CRM companies needed to build their own multi-tenant architectures to bring their CRM to market? And how they needed to maintain expensive and unwieldy architectures that took focus away from actual product development? And how the cost and complexity of said proprietary architectures was passed along to the customer to maintain revenue goals?

Oh wait. That’s still going on with companies like Salesforce.

But, even Salesforce has finally admitted that CRM vendors should not also be cloud infrastructure providers anymore. The company’s recent partnership announcement with Amazon tells us all we need to know. Salesforce needs to focus on innovation, since its core product is old and the cost of maintaining the underlying delivery and development infrastructure itself is proving costly.

So, why is Salesforce potentially repeating past mistakes by trying to create a proprietary AI product for CRM?

Let me explain. What I see brewing with Salesforce’s Einstein concept is a hodge-podge of Wave analytics, generic machine learning (pieced together by several small pocket acquisitions), SalesforceIQ, and elements of Data.com – all components of Salesforce’s portfolio. In short, Salesforce is building yet another proprietary stack in AI.

By “owning” the entire stack, one could argue the profits (as noted, something perennially eluding Salesforce) can be much higher. But at what cost? By instead focusing on integrating industry standards and expert-AI platforms into its tools – a CRM provider can have more flexibility and be able to keep up with the rapid pace of change.

Today, companies like IBM with Watson, and Amazon with its AI platforms are opening these up to software manufacturers as a service. These companies have both the deep pockets and expertise to offer broad and even focused AI-tools for CRM usage scenarios – without CRM vendors having to do much if any heavy lifting.

Here at SugarCRM, we are taking a “best of breed” approach for a number of reasons. One, it will speed our time to market to leverage pre-built, highly scalable and proven AI toolsets and platforms. And, of course, the cost to bring AI-powered CRM offerings to our prospects and customers will be lower, which we can pass on to the user and remain a value-driver for our partners and customers.

And again, by leveraging larger platforms and standards, we will be more nimble than those building hulking masses of analytics engines, giant data warehouses, etc. We will be able to quickly hone our offerings to adhere to market demands, without having to re-architect massive purpose-driven AI stacks.

In short, it is becoming clear to me that AI is an arms race – and categories like CRM should not be trying to reinvent the wheel. Just as with cloud delivery – when you integrate and build upon expert, proven strategies – you can cut costs, speed time to market, and focus on building exceptional customer experiences.