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What Should Be First on Your Company’s AI Agenda?

As the business goals begin to come into focus, an important strategic checkpoint is clarifying the reasoning and justification for the AI implementation. [erhui1979/ iStockPhoto]

The best way to make sure your AI implementation is strategic and effective is to have clear business goals, and to ask the right questions.


For anyone who has seen films like Star Wars, Metropolis, or, more recently, TikToks of Beyoncé’s latest tour, the concepts of robots, cyborgs, and other sentient machines have been around since at least the turn of the 20th century. While these pieces capture both the most fantastic and menacing ideas about this kind of technology, reality has been catching up since the 1950s, when Alan Turing published his paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Artificial intelligence isn’t new.

What is new, though, is how accessible AI is. When Turing first asked, “Can machines think?” he was met with so many barriers, including computing limitations and cost. A better question might have been, “Can we even afford to find out?” Now, there’s been such an explosion of AI offerings that 94% of business leaders see AI as essential to their work. But, with better access and more choices, AI implementation has become less an abstract vision for the future, and more akin to a New Year’s resolution — you know you should do it, if only you could get started.

Which brings us to today’s big question: How can your business get started on an AI journey, and in a way that reduces costs, increases value for your customers, protects your data, and doesn’t leave your people behind?

Where to start your AI implementation

In my role leading Salesforce Professional Services, I speak with business leaders around the world who are facing this challenging question. AI in its current state, with its myriad uses and capabilities, lends itself perfectly to my team’s advisory work. When AI can be used for anything from sales to customer service to marketing to backend code development, choosing where to start can feel overwhelming. So, before we help you build the roadmaps for your AI journeys, step one is finding what fits your goals.

Dont go it alone — we can help

Salesforce Professional Services offers teams of trusted advisers providing specialised solutions for businesses in need. Advisers help you align on a vision, establish a tailored roadmap, and get faster value.

Where will AI add value?

A journey needs a destination. From that outcome, we calculate a roadmap using the best route to get to a successful AI implementation. This means thinking about the end goal first (the business version of “manifesting”). Typically, goals for AI implementation fall into one of three categories:

  1. Increasing revenue where AI unveils new market opportunities and streamlines operations 
  2. Reducing costs where, through automation and process optimisation, AI reduces operational costs and enhances overall business efficiency
  3. Driving customer loyalty where AI creates personalised experiences to help customers feel valued and understood, which builds and maintains loyalty, and in turn, translates to increased revenue and reduced costs

Once you figure out which of these goals aligns with your current business needs, we can get on the road(map). 

Recalibrate expectations

Knowing the destination doesn’t make the journey predictable. The technology may be more widespread now, but AI can still surprise. 

Consider the example of a retail company with a disastrous customer service call centre. Their high abandonment rates and low net promoter scores (NPS) indicate terrible customer satisfaction. Initially, they might focus an AI solution on the front end, like a customer service chatbot. But, on deeper exploration, they realised a better understanding of customer needs will provide a bigger benefit.

AI can play a critical role here in customer service automation and also in analysing feedback and purchasing patterns. But getting to this shift in perspective requires stepping back, looking at your business process, and finding inefficiencies or potential improvements. AI can emerge as more than a singular tool and instead as a strategic force, combining the best of computer science and data to reach business goals. 

Make the AI business case

As the business goals begin to come into focus, an important strategic checkpoint is clarifying the reasoning and justification for the AI implementation. When rolling out any big project or new technology, there should be a hard look at benefits, disadvantages, cost, and risk.

But, since AI has the potential to be a more transformative technology than others, and comes in many different shapes and sizes, it’s even more important to take this disciplined approach. Think of this as the last exit before the highway.

Need help with your generative AI strategy?

Prioritise trust

Again and again, one of the top concerns about AI is trust. Luckily, that’s our #1 value at Salesforce. That means we strongly believe in addressing concerns about data security, privacy, ethical use of AI, and trust right at the onset. Transparency and clear communication about responsible AI practices are crucial. 

The most common questions that I’ve encountered are:

  • “Where’s my data going again?” Understanding the flow and storage of data is fundamental. Once the data is collected and stored, it needs to be managed with the utmost care and respect for privacy.
  • “Who are you sharing it with?” This is the heart of data-sharing policies. Data sharing should be governed by strict protocols and transparency, ensuring that information is only shared where necessary and under stringent conditions.
  • “Is it protected?” The security of all data is vital. Implementing robust security measures to safeguard data against breaches and unauthorised access is a top priority in any AI implementation.

These valid concerns echo the early days of software as a service (SaaS), when businesses were initially hesitant to embrace that new technology. We’ve since seen that SaaS has transformed the landscape of software delivery and usage. AI has the potential to have an even greater impact. But this can’t happen if we don’t address issues up front and create trust.

Shape your company’s AI plan with a (human) AI Coach

When the Turing Test was first introduced in 1950, it was originally called “the imitation game” — the idea being if a computer could successfully imitate a human, then the answer to the question, “Can a machine think?” would be a definitive, “Yes!” Though it’s up for debate whether the Turing Test is still a useful measurement, the fact that it’s being debated at all means we’re not quite ready to go human-free.

Readiness for AI implementation transcends technology. There needs to be a comprehensive evaluation of AI’s potential business value, organisational data quality, the trustworthiness and security of the AI solution, and an organisation’s adaptability —  not to mention preparing for a new way of working. This is where Salesforce Professional Services’ trusted advisors come in. 

We bring the specialists and technology together with our AI Coach program. Through this process, we evaluate a company’s overall readiness, including internal skills and expertise, existing technology infrastructure, data preparedness, governance, and ultimately build the roadmap for long-term success. 

For now, the human part of AI might be the most important. Make it the experts at Salesforce Professional Services.

Mark Wakelin
Mark Wakelin EVP, Global Professional Services

Senior executive with experience as a CEO and the Chief Success Officer for the Salesforce Platform, managing organizations with 10,000+ employees and sales exceeding $3B. 30+ years of expertise in ERP, Front-Office, cloud computing, SaaS, and generative AI, driving innovation and business value. Focused on diversity, inclusivity, and equality in the workplace, with a commitment to philanthropy. Leverage deep financial and technical expertise to achieve success.

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