Bluewolf MD Vera Loftis explains the implications behind Salesforce and IBM joining forces in artificial intelligence
Earlier this year Salesforce and IBM announced a partnership that will see the two companies combine their respective artificial intelligence (AI) systems as part of a deal to deliver joint products.
Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff had previously stated the firm’s intention to dive wholeheartedly into the potentially lucrative AI world and this partnership between Einstein and Watson is a clear sign of this strategy starting to take shape.
It was a bold move by both companies and Vera Loftis, managing director at IBM-owned Bluewolf, a specialist in Salesforce and cloud consultancy, believes it should have their competitors running scared, primarily because of the way it combines different data sets.
Speaking to Silicon at the Salesforce World Tour in London, she said: “This conversation around AI is really a conversation around data and if you look at that deal it’s bringing together both customer data from inside the Salesforce platform and it’s bringing external third party data, which is the ultimate goal.”
She explained how the holy grail for businesses has been taking the information that they already know about their customers and being able to complement it with external sources.
However, this hasn’t previously been possible, either because organisations haven’t had the right tools to be able to carry out the proper analytics or because they simply haven’t had access to the required data.
“Actually being able to predict and change the conversation to something you didn’t even know you needed takes something external so I think people will see a massive benefit in that,” she added, suggesting that the deal would likely “accelerate the conversation around AI” due to the benefits on offer.
Loftis went on to highlight that, despite rapid developments, there is still a large amount of fear and hesitation around AI adoption.
“Any big trend, any big shift in how people do business and how people interact with their customers comes with some level of fear,” she said. “And it should, because every time you interact with your customer, the onus is on you to make it a good interaction.
“Every time you’re touching data there’s risk because you’ve got things like regulations and things that you’ve got to be aware of that definitely limit you in some cases, but the pioneers get the risk in a much different way.”
She also warned that there will eventually be a point where the risk will become not investing in AI, because businesses that hesitate will fall behind those with extra information and insights about their customers.
And all of this will be driven by the development of industry-specific use cases where people can see the return on investment.
Of course, this is already happening. From driving efficiency in smart factories, to streamlining traffic management in cities and catching rogue traders in financial services, the practical implications of AI are starting to emerge thick and fast.
“People are doing this now, this isn’t some concept that people are exploring,” Loftis added. “There are real use cases where people are seeing the benefit.”
This is exactly what organisations will be depending on to light the way.