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Einstein, my Dear Watson. As predicted, Salesforce joins IBM at AI’s top table.

I never think of the future — it comes soon enough.” Einstein

Salesforce (the world’s most innovative software company according to Forbes) and IBM (the world’s most inventive company according to number of successfully filed patents) signed a monumental agreement in the last 24 hours. Exactly two years ago today I wrote an article predicting that Salesforce would go from an almost standing start to joining the top table of software companies in AI. IBM was referenced four times in ‘Salesforce.com fixes an eye firmly on Data Science’. The primary predictions have all come to pass and Salesforce is now one of the most important companies in AI applied to pragmatic business needs. More on that later.

Einstein and Watson will work together to accelerate smart decision making for their clients. Watson’s insights will now be available directly in Salesforce’s Intelligent Customer Success platform. In this platform Einstein’s customer relationship data will be meshed with Watson’s vast library of structured and unstructured data — including healthcare, financial services, retail, and even the weather. In the IoT space the possibilities are mind-boggling.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein

Marc Benioff referenced an example of a joint customer in the manufacturing space. Kone’s elevators and escalators are connected to the cloud. Salesforce’s CRM capabilities help Kone manage it’s relationships with its customers and to manage it’s products. IBM’s Watson can analyse the IoT generated data and predict maintenance problems and alert Salesforce’s Service Cloud to generate a case that results in rapid intervention. There’s a seemingly infinite number of use cases. For instance, an insurance company for farmers could feed weather forecast data from IBM Weather directly into Salesforce and advise it’s clients on any operational precautions required due to impending storm risk. IBM’s consulting company Bluewolf (which was built on the back of the Salesforce ecosystem) is to build a practice unit for Einstein.

You have brought detection as near an exact science as it ever will be brought in this world.” Watson (Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes)

Here are highlights of some of the predictions in ‘Salesforce fixes in Salesforce.com fixes an eye firmly on Data Science:

* “Benioff has been considering the data science opportunity for years. He’s joining the fray while it’s still relatively early. There are powerful software companies that sit at the top table of AI — notably IBM (the world’s most inventive company) and Google (the world’s biggest born in the cloud company). So it will be no small challenge to take a seat beside them in this domain … Salesforce is the only major born in the cloud company with a very deep footprint inside companies.”

* “Salesforce plans to be a major player in data science in 5 years time.” It has happened even more rapidly than predicted of course.

* Referencing the quote ‘We’re in an AI Spring.’ “Marc Benioff rarely makes off the cuff comments — it’s all planned. Salesforce.com is new to this AI forum, but Benioff would not be talking about it publicly if he did not have a definite plan to take a seat at the AI table with Google and IBM in the coming years. However it’ll be a seat with a narrow, lucrative focus ….. Off the cuff? Yeah right.”

* Predicting a then 8 month old MetaMind would be Salesforce’s most important acquisition. Their ex-CEO Richard Socher is now Salesforce’s Chief Science Officer (heading up a team of nearly 200 data scientists). “But Benioff is also watching even smarter entities like MetaMind. MetaMind is an impressive enterprise AI startup focussing on deep learning, natural language processing (NLP) and image prediction. They are applying new deep learning research in language and vision to easy-to-use applications. Marc Benioff sits on the board. He says MetaMind’s deep learning technology is going to have enormous impact in multiple industries, and has the potential to provide a generalised mathematical model for building machine intelligence that could be adapted for almost any discipline.”

* “Salesforce plans to integrate deep learning to empower better predictive analytics.”

* “Email is dead. No software. We’re in an AI spring. etc. All carefully planned and orchestrated.”

* “Our current crude baby-step AI powers IBM’s Watson, Apple’s Siri, much of Google’s core functions, Netflix’s movie recommendations, self-driving cars and autonomous drones. Imagine what Salesforce can achieve with that technology applied to such a vastly rich database.” and “Benioff has also been a lead investor in machine translation company Cloudwords since seed funding days. Machine translation is a problem we’ve been trying to solve since the 1950s. It’s a problem that frightens away a lot of people. An aura of perceived difficulty creates enormous opportunity for those who understand that the timing is right to solve a particular problem. We’ve slowly come some way since the heady, unrealised statements that followed the Georgetown-IBM experiment in 1954.”

* “So why is Salesforce obsessed with data science? Because of the quantity and, especially, the quality of data at their disposal. They have platinum and gold in their mines. They have a deep footprint in many companies and an unbelievably rich global database. 3 billion transactions go through Salesforce daily. And much of the data is hugely valuable. By becoming leaders in data science, Salesforce can empower companies to do amazing things. In purely qualitative terms forget Big Data. Salesforce has Vast Data.”

* “What he’s really saying is: ’Data science is becoming huge and Salesforce will become a major player in this domain.’ But he’d never be so boring as to state things so plainly.”

* On how Salesforce innovated and on this being a phase in which Marc Benioff is fertilising the market and building expectation: “Benioff always tells us what he is going to do in advance. He plants the seed. He moves our thinking in that direction and associates his company with the destination long before it even gets there. But, crucially, he makes very good bets when he’s at A. Even more crucially he makes sure his company gets to Z. Like all master innovators in technology, Benioff is a futurist and looks to ensure his company becomes an early mover in any groundbreaking domain. He looks at technological trends and predicts what areas will be lucrative in the future. Benioff then asks himself which of these areas will become ripe opportunities for Salesforce.com. He does this roughly 5 years in advance of making noises about it and then nails his colours to the mast another 5 years out. There’s no fixed number of course. The 5 + 5 pseudo-rule happens to fairly neatly fit the agenda with data science in my view. The point I’m making is that he plans innovation further out than other entrepreneurs. And he allies his evolving product roadmap to his public communications more strategically and successfully than others. Once he’s decided he’s interested, he starts talking with Parker Harris about the practicalities. When the two agree on something, they turn their heads to the product roadmap and start planning, implementing, hiring, acquiring etc. Further on down the road Marc starts dropping hints in the media. If innovative cycles could ever be described as ‘Groundhog Day’, this is it.”

* “…. they’ve miles more to go before they sleep. This is no small ambition, but past experience has shown us that Benioff’s statements are far more substantial than bravado. Benioff once more is threading his own tried and trusted path to success. Even if the process and the noises are familiar, it’s a brave new adventure nevertheless. An adventure that only an arch entrepreneur with an insatiable hunger for success and a genuine interest in progress would embark on.”

Big Blue has generated more patents than any other every year for last 20 yrs. It’s employees have won 6 Turing Awards, 5 Nobel Prizes, 5 US National Medals of Science, 10 US National Medals of Technology. Salesforce.com has been ranked the world’s most innovative company four times and the world’s second most innovative company twice by Forbes in the 6 years’ existence of the ranking system. That ranking is across all industries. Salesforce has been named the most innovative software company every single year. IBM, as much as MIT, is the history of computing. And Salesforce, more than any other company in existence, is the history of cloud computing.

Salesforce and IBM are very different entities culturally, but they share enormous core values. A drive to innovate, invent and create. While creativity abounds in the startup and scale-up worlds, these 2 companies are the reigning kings of creativity in the land of the giants.

I’m thrilled to form an alliance with IBM — no company’s core values are as close to Salesforce’s as IBM’s. It’s the best of both worlds.” Marc Benioff

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination …. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen.” Watson (Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes)

Live long and prosper! Stephen Cummins, March 7th, 2017