Generative AI catapulted to the forefront of public consciousness in late 2022. Since then, interest in the technology has only grown, and now, companies are looking for ways to deploy generative AI to improve productivity and better serve customers. Yet, while 99% of senior IT leaders believe their businesses must position themselves to effectively leverage AI, nearly two-thirds say they aren’t yet prepared to utilize it.
Salesforce Professional Services is helping companies build actionable plans to set the right foundation for implementing AI, data, and CRM to achieve their business goals. We recently met with Mark Wakelin, EVP of Global Professional Services, to find out why building a strategic plan to set the right foundation is so important and what’s in store as companies in every industry ramp up.
Q. Why is combining generative AI with data and CRM so important for businesses?
Generative AI, data, and CRM together create a significant opportunity to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the way we work, regardless of the field. A human supported by a machine will likely outpace a human on their own. This combination is a gamechanger, speeding up processes and, in some cases, eliminating the need for someone to do them altogether. AI has now reached a stage where we can truly “reengineer” business processes.
If someone else happens to take advantage of this tool and you don’t, you will get left behind. Now is the time for organizations to build the right strategies around how they’re going to blend human and machine-assisted work to create a highly optimized workforce and competitive advantage in the market.
Now is the time for organizations to build the right strategies around how they’re going to blend human and machine-assisted work to create a highly optimized workforce and competitive advantage in the market.
Q. What challenges are companies facing in applying generative AI?
Broad application of this technology is relatively new, raising questions about trust, privacy, and liability. Research shows 83% of C-suite leaders claim they know how to use generative AI while keeping data secure — compared to only 29% of individual contributors. Companies also have to figure out technical integration challenges. Models are trained on vast volumes of data, and if the data is of poor quality, outputs will be flawed. This is called a “hallucination.” Another issue is the sheer computing power and cost to run generative AI models.
Even more important will be finding the best way to combine human beings and machines. A recent survey of sales and service professionals found that many are worried about losing their job if they don’t learn how to use generative AI. Managing that transition in a way that empowers the workforce needs to be an important focus.
Q. Why is it important for businesses to use the right strategies to implement AI, data, and CRM?
Companies need to clearly define how AI, data, and CRM will augment and differentiate their customer experience and suite of products, and how it fits into their strategic roadmap. You want to prioritize how to bring the most value to your organization. Otherwise, everyone runs the risk of using the technology in an experimental state and not actually integrating it into processes that generate results.
Companies need to clearly define how AI, data, and CRM will augment and differentiate their customer experience and suite of products, and how it fits into their strategic roadmap.
Leaders also need to consider the broader impact that generative AI will have on the organization. For some, that could mean significantly reshaping. For example, those in legal, creative, or research fields need to ask themselves difficult questions about what their practice will look like in five years. That inquiry might completely change the direction of the company or at least the future operating model. I recommend customers to think about the big picture.
Q. How is Salesforce Professional Services helping businesses implement strategies for AI, data, and CRM?
The proximity we have to Salesforce’s product teams and strategy gives our team of more than 10,000 consultants deep insight. That is critical given the accelerated pace of the tech industry and AI innovation. We help customers understand how products fit into their landscape, how to adjust their operating model roadmaps, how to train people, and how to deal with data and integration challenges. We do this with a relentless focus on how to drive business value for our customers.
We typically start with something we call “Phase 0.” This is a discovery and strategic planning process to understand a company’s strategy, business value opportunity, potential obstacles, and mitigation. When it comes to AI, data, and CRM, we look at data accessibility and quality and often use Data Cloud to combine data, with a full view to power an overall AI strategy. Basically, we build a strategic plan and a detailed roadmap plan to set the foundation for long-term success. From there, we can provide expert technical advice working with our partners or, in some cases, take full responsibility for program implementation.
Q. Can you share an example of a customer that Salesforce Professional Services has helped succeed with AI?
Formula 1 has exploded in popularity with over 500 million fans globally. But with less than 1% actually attending a Grand Prix in a year, F1 must complement exceptional real-world action with exceptional digital fan experiences.
To create personalized experiences at this scale, Formula 1 turned to Salesforce Professional Services to develop an end-to-end fan experience powered by real-time insights to more effectively engage and reach its global fan base across all channels. Formula 1 also worked with Salesforce Professional Services to implement automated service bots powered by AI to enable their knowledge agents to close cases faster.
Q. What advice do you have for businesses that want to implement generative AI?
Overall, I would offer advice that applies to many new technologies: Think big, start small. More specifically, carefully consider the partners you embark on this journey with. Many providers of AI solutions are single-threaded. With Salesforce, we’ve taken a strategy that offers an open and trusted environment with multiple providers, customers’ own large language models and the models we at Salesforce publish on an ongoing basis. You also want to be certain that you have control over access and use of your data, including how much is being retained in the model.