The global artificial intelligence market is set to reach $16 million by 2022, according to the latest data by Research and Markets, which predicts that AI could double economic growth rates within two decades while boosting labor productivity by 40 percent.
Meanwhile, research by Spiceworks shows that organizations are considering their AI strategy and investments; over the next five years, 46 percent of organizations plan to adopt intelligent assistants, 60 percent plan to adopt machine learning, and 72 percent plan to deploy business analytics with AI.
The research clearly indicates that organizations are ready for AI. But is the channel?
Helping break down the barriers that prevent partners from taking advantage of emerging technology like AI is just one part of Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh’s job as senior vice president of partner programs at Salesforce.
She’s been at Salesforce for over 7 years and in her current role is in charge of the overall partner program, which includes a number of categories of partners including systems integrators, consultants, ISVs, and resellers, which she says “is a small but growing part of our strategy.”
“It’s a fun time to be in the channel…partnerships and partnering has become more important than ever," she says.
In addition to growing resellers in emerging markets around the world, an increasing part of Taychakhoonavudh’s role is partner enablement, which she says is typically the number one ask from partners.
“How do partners keep up with the latest technology, with things like Einstein that we launched at Dreamforce, how partners stay abreast and really keep pace with the innovation so they can appropriately represent it with their customers,” she says. Some partner program updates were announced at Dreamforce in October.
According to Salesforce, Einstein is “a set of best-in-class platform services that bring advanced AI capabilities into the core of the Customer Success Platform, making Salesforce the world’s smartest CRM.” Though at Dreamforce some thought the announcements around Einstein were too vague, Salesforce has rolled out updates to its Marketing Cloud Thursday that take advantage of the technology and make its application more clear.
“Everybody wants to be as innovative as possible,” she says. “If you’re working in the Salesforce platform the idea is that AI is automatically built-in. That’s super compelling for partners.”
(To read more about the technical bits of Salesforce Einstein, Fast Company has a good breakdown of the more scientific aspects of its AI platform.)
Trends for 2017
Talkin’ Cloud asked Taychakhoonavudh about her thoughts on trends to watch in 2017. Here's what she expects to gain momentum with partners in the next 12 months.
“The ubiquity of social, the idea that omnichannel and multichannel are really an important part of any businesses strategy now those are the big trends that we want to make sure our partners are well-equipped to take advantage of," she says.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
With consumer experience transferring to the business experience, Taychakhoonavudh says that interest in AI will continue to grow.
“AI is something we use in our phones, but having those same predictive capabilities built into your business apps,” she says. This will definitely be an area for Salesforce partners to watch as Einstein's technology continues to be developed and used in new ways.
Further specialization, or “veriticalization”, is something that Taychakhoonavudh expects to see more from partners in 2017. By understanding the common problems of a particular industry, partners can create pre-packaged solutions.
“As the opportunity landscape expands, you could figure out what hat you want to put on and how to distinguish yourself, and specialization, either on more typically verticals, industries, or just expertise in a particular area -- we’ve seen a huge resurgence in employee engagement. What does it mean to be able to specialize in creating more employee engagement,” she says.
"If you’re just trying to resell a solution and you’re not putting value-add in there, it’s not going to work out for you in terms of the economics," she says.
“There are building blocks that really speed up the development process. Clicks not code,” she says. “The idea is that you could assemble a set of components to solve technical problems without actually writing a whole app from scratch. It’s part of being able to create quickly and deploy quickly.”
These components make it easier for companies to create IP that helps differentiate in the market.
“We’ve seen partners or firms really look for places to add value that are outside of normal bounds. We’ve seen everything from more management or business consultants that have always done more strategy and advice understand that you can advise on transformation but you need to have a technology platform,” she says. “They’ve come deeper into the mix in terms of understanding and in many places being able to deploy technology. Then you get a lot of partners who are maybe more focused on delivering service who are trying to monetize their IP and make it more repeatable.”