First Look at Einstein, Marc Benioff’s Big Bet on AI as the Future of Salesforce
Salesforce unveiled the AI platform known as Salesforce Einstein, the result of CEO Marc Benioff’s massive bet on AI as the future of software technology. Einstein is the culmination of a process which began with buying business intelligence startup RelateIQ for $310 million in 2013. So far, the Einstein project has cost over $4 Billion, including costly acquisitions of some of the hottest AI startups like PredictiveIO, Beyondcore, and MetaMind. Einstein infuses AI into every facet of their customer success platform and brings new capabilities into almost all of Salesforce’s products. A host of new Einstein enabled predictive and intelligent apps and services powered by Einstein will soon be launching across Salesforce’s customer success clouds.
This huge investment is driven by the belief that AI will disrupt not just the CRM industry in the coming years, in fact it will change every facet of the business. “If this is not the next big thing, I don’t know what is,” said Marc Benioff in a recent interview with Forbes. Salesforce has gone from being software for sales teams, to having multiple sales and marketing “clouds”, branding itself as the customer success platform. The shift into SaaS based cloud apps paid off handsomely, quadrupling revenues in the last five years. With this push into AI, Salesforce thinks they have an even bigger game changer on their hands.
In a briefing call with the media, Salesforce execs John Ball, GM, Einstein, Richard Socher, Chief Scientist, Salesforce and Jim Sinai, VP of Marketing, Einstein, Salesforce introduced Einstein and gave a brief look at its capabilities. The sneak peek generates even more interest for next month’s Dreamforce conference, where Salesforce will publicly unveil Einstein at the tech world’s largest event. Einstein will bring the benefits of using AI to the vast majority of businesses for whom it was so far out of reach said Ball, as they bid to turn the world’s biggest selling CRM, into the “world’s smartest CRM.”
They also announced the creation of Salesforce Research to be headed by longtime Stanford AI specialist Richard Socher, founder of deep learning experts MetaMind. With all of the startups picked up in the last two years, Salesforce today employs over 175 data scientists who built Einstein and will as part of the new research arm, work to solve cutting edge AI problems and deliver innovation for Salesforce’s product and engineering teams.
Applying advanced data models and machine learning algorithms to big data sources, and delivered through increasingly powerful cloud computing is enabling tech companies to build AI systems that can make intelligent predictions and decisions the way humans do — but at far greater scale. Salesforce is not the only tech giant betting big on the promise of AI — the likes of Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft are investing huge resources to compete in an “AI first” world. With this platform Salesforce believe they are ahead of the curve when it comes to infusing AI into the corporate experience.
Salesforce is well-positioned to compete because its platform clients constantly generate vast amounts of invaluable data that machines can analyze and learn from. “Einstein’s models will be automatically customized for every single customer, and it will learn, self-tune, and get smarter with every interaction and additional piece of data” said Sinai. The data which comes from the Salesforce clouds includes business data, customer behavior and social data as well as other unstructured sources like e-mail, calendars etc. All of the data is kept anonymously and not seen by data scientists and customers will have a choice to opt out of sharing data and using the Einstein services, said Ball, in response to queries about data security and privacy issues.
Another major breakthrough that Salesforce is promising with Einstein, is they are democratizing AI by making advanced capabilities for building predictive models and making AI powered apps available to everyone. Einstein will give everyone from Salesforce admins to advanced developers, options to build AIpowered apps using tools that millions of users are already using. They are positioning it as AI for Everyone and highlighting the ability to simply drag and drop AI generated results into Lightning apps and also use PredictionIO technology which gives developers services to build custom data models.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud users will get three new predictive capabilities to deliver the optimal timing, channel, content and audience for any marketing message. Predictive Scoring enables marketers to gauge how likely it is that a customer will engage through an email or web visit. Predictive Audiences helps marketers build audience segments of people based on predicted behaviors, and Automated Send Time Optimization for delivering messages when people are most likely to engage. For Salesforce Service Cloud clients, new features for recommending case instructions, responses and predicting close time will be launched.
Within Analytics, the acquisition of BeyondCore has given Salesforce the ability to extend data discovery and advanced analytics capability across the platform with the recently introduced Wave Analytics which allows users to embed insights directly into any business process or apps. Analytics Cloud Einstein will deliver new features for Intelligent Wave Apps that can uncover future patterns within any business process, Smart Data Discovery for insights, and an Automated Storytelling feature that will automate and narrate in natural language and smart charts, the next insight the user needs to know.
Regarding pricing information, while some capabilities powered by Einstein are going to be included in existing licenses, others will carry additional charges. Pricing for each Salesforce Einstein feature will be announced as the different products are launched. The whole point of Einstein say Salesforce, is to create a layer that enhances the user experience until we eventually reach a point where AI technology is so pervasive that users won’t even notice when a feature is powered by AI. For end users today, the benefits come in the form of smarter business processes, automating tasks, and getting intelligent suggestions and context from machines.