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What a year! 2018 brought us deeper advancement in AI, with features like voice, predictive actions and bots becoming more commonplace. We also saw customer experience move to the forefront of nearly everything, bringing much deeper levels of personalization into our day-to-day lives — both personal and professional.

We sat down with some of our product leaders, marketers and visionaries to see what the future holds for CRM and beyond, let's take a look below!

 

Public demands for responsible AI will increase

2018 was the year of awakening. 2019 will be the year of action. It won't be just data ethicists and human rights advocates demanding fairness, accountability, and transparency. We'll see a greater number of pledges and declarations about the responsible creation and use of AI as more companies begin to lead with their conscience — whether they are buying AI solutions or building them — and seek assurances that the systems are fair and ethical for all. — Kathy Baxter, Architect of Ethical AI Practice


AI becomes a salesperson's new BFF

Sales reps spend more than half of their day not selling, which is why we're seeing reps reap such huge benefits from AI. Instead of spending time logging emails, searching for contacts and sifting through leads, AI helps reps claw back their time with automation — giving them more time to actually sell. We saw AI really take shape in the sales industry over this past year and expect it to move the needle even more in 2019, with AI-powered features like voice, data capture and forecast indicators. — Robin Grochol, SVP, Product Management, Salesforce Sales Cloud


Customer service moves from reactive to proactive

Traditionally, customer service has been about reacting — taking calls from angry customers, attempting to resolve issues with products that don’t work as advertised, showing up for service calls to find that your machine has been broken for some time. With the rise of connected devices (Gartner estimates there will be 20 billion of them by 2020) and AI, we’ll see companies resolving problems almost at the point of origin, often doing so without the customer even having to report it, which will lead to more uptime and happier customers. — Bill Patterson, EVP & GM, Salesforce Service Cloud


Self-serve IT will go mainstream

In 2019, organizations need to change the way they operate and shift IT from a tactical function to a strategic business partner. To fuel this shift, IT should encourage teams to build assets in widely consumable ways versus one-off. Then, it should drive teams to a default mindset that what they need already exists and can be self-served in an enterprise marketplace of IT assets. By aligning development teams with this mindset, a strong bank of reusable, externalizable API building blocks will grow into an application network, allowing CIOs to decentralize IT and empower the business to move faster. — Ross Mason, Founder & VP, Product Strategy, MuleSoft


Marketing gets more personal at the crossroads of trust

Marketers are increasingly prioritizing personalization, leveraging the power of AI and turning to numerous data sources to improve customer engagement. However, they’re challenged with earning customer trust and respecting privacy more than ever before. Marketers’ use of AI has grown at a rate of 44 percent since 2017, but as personalization improves, only 30 percent of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to balance it with privacy. These trends will show no signs of slowing down as we head into the year ahead. — Chris Jacob, Director, Product Marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud


A shift toward openness empowers developers

For so long now, developers have been forced to make choices about what programming languages they become proficient in and what models they use when spinning up apps. In 2019, we'll see a move towards openness, multi-substrate support for developer tools and new models based on industry standards — not on a vendor’s proprietary approach. This will empower developers to select the tools that work best for the project at hand, and bring about innovations on an unprecedented scale. — Anne DelSanto, EVP & GM, Salesforce Platform


Collaboration takes action with a vertical approach

Today's collaboration tools deliver a slow, siloed and antiquated experience. In 2019, we'll see more companies dive deeper into digital transformation by turning to modern, vertical-specific collaboration solutions. Workflows, templates, and platforms built specifically for highly regulated industries — like healthcare and financial services — will be crucial for business success in the connected world. 2019 will be the year collaboration drives action and minimizes cycles. — Rafael Alenda, VP, Marketing, Quip


Data will be the currency of the retail renaissance

Customer data, and integration of that data across enterprise systems, will be a strategic imperative in 2019. We’ve been talking about the importance of “customer centricity” for some time, but did you know that brands still operate an average of 39 disparate systems to manage customer relationships? With the introduction of mature data management and intelligence, this will all change and 2019 will bring the dawn of a new level of customer engagement. — Rob Garf, VP, Strategy & Insights, Salesforce Commerce Cloud


Transparency is the key to making analytics accessible

Business leaders understand that analytics is crucial to making smarter decisions. However, insights provided from analytics have been hard to scale and often catered toward advanced data analysts and the C-suite. In 2019, we're going to see analytics adoption skyrocket across all business users. With features such as storytelling and recommendations, AI-powered analytics is becoming more transparent, so that even business users without a background in data science can understand why something is happening and why they should take an action. — Ketan Karkhanis, GM of Salesforce Einstein Analytics


Employee education needs a new approach

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, every job is being redefined with new skills. Traditional corporate learning techniques and tools simply won't cut it. Companies have an opportunity to go one layer deeper and understand the role of new technologies, cultivate the skill sets needed within organizations and introduce new approaches to retraining and re-skilling the existing workforce. In this digital age, continuous learning is more critical than ever to keep pace with rapid technology changes and the increasing velocity of business. — Sarah Franklin, EVP and GM of Trailhead and Developer Relations, Salesforce

 

2019 – bring it on!

For now, we're going to get cranking on making some of these predictions a reality. Stay tuned for what's to come in 2019 and beyond!