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IBM and Salesforce Team Up to Tackle Enterprise Artificial Intelligence

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A new partnership between two major players in artificial intelligence has massive implications for marketers. On March 6, IBM and Salesforce announced an alliance to bring even more AI capabilities to their customers. IBM’s Watson cognitive computing platform and Salesforce’s Einstein AI system will work together as a result of the partnership.

“Insights from Watson will now be available directly in Salesforce’s Intelligent Customer Success platform, mixing Einstein’s customer relationship data with Watson’s stores of structured and unstructured data that include weather, healthcare, financial services and retail, the companies said,” reports TechCrunch.

It appears Watson will function within Salesforce solutions. Salesforce gets to provide its customers with deeper insights and AI capabilities; IBM reaches more customers with Watson and opens up new consulting service opportunities. In fact, reports TechCrunch, IBM’s consulting company Bluewolf will, “create a practice unit for Salesforce’s Einstein software and services.”

Astute artificial intelligence watchers know that data is king: the companies that have it rule the artificial intelligence landscape. IBM and Salesforce both have significant proprietary datasets from their business operations. The insights derived from these joint datasets thanks to AI represent a massive, lucrative opportunity to create immense value for both Salesforce and IBM customers.

Both IBM and Salesforce have made huge bets on AI. IBM has spent billions to date on Watson. Salesforce went all-in to integrate Einstein into its products. Now, the companies are doubling down.

As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told Fortune, the companies anticipate gaining first-mover advantage in enterprise AI products and services:

“I do think it's really going to take AI further into the enterprise. I think about 2017 as the year when we're going to see AI hit the world at scale. It's the beginning of an era that's going to run a decade or decades in front of us. [...] An important part of it is the idea that every professional can be aided by this kind of technology. It takes all the noise and turns it into something on which they can take action. It isn't just a sales process; we're going to link other processes across a company. We're talking about being able to augment what everyone does—augment human intelligence. Together, this will give us the most complete understanding of a customer anywhere.”

Marketers need to pay attention to how this deal develops. Why? Because it points to the near future of AI in marketing, sales and the enterprise. That future is summed up nicely in a short commentary piece published by Fortune:

“Do you have an AI strategy yet? Have you hired a Chief AI Officer?”

There exists a ton of hype about AI’s potential and promise. Much of it may not be realized. But this obscures a larger truth: artificial intelligence is a suite of practical technologies that leverage data to help humans achieve profitable insights and action at scale. Top brands, including Coca-Cola, are already using AI to market and sell better. Get too focused on the hype and you may miss the reality: AI is here to stay and it’s about to transform the enterprise.

Related Read: Coca-Cola Exploring Artificial Intelligence for Content Creation, Media Buying and More

That means enterprises need to understand how technologies like AI, machine learning and natural language generation work and what they can—and cannot—do. They must actively test artificial intelligence solutions and hunt for new ones. And it’s critical enterprises hire or tap into AI experts to help them profitably make the transition to artificial intelligence powered operations.

The penalty for moving too slowly is high. Notes Pedro Domingos in his book on AI, The Master Algorithm:

“A company without machine learning can’t keep up with one that uses it. [...] It’s about as fair as spears against machine guns. Machine learning is a cool new technology, but that’s not why businesses embrace it. They embrace it because they have no choice.”

The IBM and Salesforce alliance proves the firms are highly aware that enterprises will require AI platforms and expertise to accelerate success. Says Rometty:

“Within a few years, every major decision — personal or business — will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies.”

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