IBM, Salesforce join forces in enterprise AI push

Salesforce and IBM are teaming up to provide generative AI for the enterprise, combining their respective efforts into what the companies hope will be a more attractive package for CRM customers.

The partnership, announced on Thursday, will focus on several areas in the CRM value chain, including the integration of Salesforce offerings for sale with IBM’s consulting business. IBM said it will use its Garage digital transformation methodology to help customers implement Salesforce AI technologies such as Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud.

Customers will also be able to access IBM’s Data Classifier tool; it’s designed to simplify data mapping via industry-specific AI models, on their Salesforce-generated data, and to complement Salesforce’s AI tooling with its watsonx AI and data platform.

The collaboration should allow enterprises to get genAI working for them more simply and easily, according to Matt Candy, IBM Consulting’s global managing partner for generative AI. “We see how the need to increase employee productivity while simultaneously elevating the customer experience with speed, personalization, and convenience has surged exponentially,” he said in a statement.

The start of a partnership of this kind has been in the cards for some time, according to Arun Chandrasekaran, distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner Research. He said one of the major focuses for IBM’s consulting business of late has been attempting to increase the company’s wallet share with non-IBM products.

“To that end, they’ve been increasing the workforce and consulting capabilities with third-party partners,” Chandrasekaran said.

Despite IBM’s work with Watson, genAI is an area where the company is lagging behind, forcing it to become more strategic in its moves around the technology, he added.

“I think one of the areas where they believe they can add value is to help other vendors deliver AI in a more responsible and a more trustworthy way,” Chandrasekaran said. “What I mean by that is, they’re building tools for everything from model explainability to model monitoring to bias protection and so on and so forth.”

The partnership is unlikely to slow either company’s in-house efforts to develop more advanced genAI technologies, however. There’s too much at stake for both Salesforce and IBM for either company to stop doing core work on model development.

“I don’t really see this as the kind of partnership where [it’s] ‘You do this, I do this,’” said Chanrdasekaran. “I see this more or less like, ‘Hey, I’m bringing more and more products to customers, and I really want a services partner that could help us implement them very well.”

The joint offerings from the partnership are available now.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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