IBM Watson, Salesforce Einstein Team Up in AI App Partnership

IBM and Salesforce are teaming up their respective artificial intelligence geniuses—Watson and Einstein—to solve analytics-related problems for salespeople all over the globe by helping them close deals.

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In a move that promises to infuse Artificial Intelligence more broadly throughout the enterprise, IBM and Salesforce announced a global partnership that is essentially an endorsement of their respective technologies—Watson and Einstein.

Specifically, IBM said the deal, announced March 6, is designed to bring the two companies AI technologies together resulting in joint solution that promise to deliver a new level of intelligent customer engagement across sales, service, marketing, and commerce.

The companies said they will integrate IBM Watson APIs into Salesforce to bring predictive insights from unstructured data, inside or outside an enterprise together with predictive insights from customer data delivered by Salesforce Einstein.

For example, by combining local shopping patterns, weather and retail industry data from Watson with customer-specific shopping data and preferences from Salesforce Einstein, a retailer will be able to automatically send highly personalized and localized email campaigns to shoppers.

The partnership will help the two companies expand their portfolio when selling to customers, said Rebecca Wetteman, vice president of research at Nucleus Research. “It’s going to help them sell. Salesforce is great for CRM data, Watson is great for any unstructured data so anything that brings that all together in a meaningful way is aspirational," Wetteman, told eWEEK. But she also cautions the market to keep this partnership in perspective.

“No one is getting married here. IBM has announced support for [Salesforce competitor] Microsoft Dynamics and IBM has a big partnership with SugarCRM,” she said.

As part of the announcement IBM said its Global Business Services group will build a new practice designed to help clients rapidly deploy the combined IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein capabilities.

The tech giant also listed several ways it plans to integrate Salesforce and Einstein technology into IBM AI applications, such as IBM Weather Insights for Salesforce. This new Salesforce Lightning component from IBM unit The Weather Company, will offer weather insights that inform customer interactions and business performance.

For example, an insurance company will be able to pull local forecast data from IBM Weather into Salesforce, and automatically send safety and policy information to customers who are at risk of being impacted by severe weather events.

IBM also said it will offer Integration Suite for Salesforce, which is designed to bring together on-premises enterprise and cloud data with specialized integration products for Salesforce and deliver that data directly within the Salesforce CRM platform.

For example, a financial advisor will be able to unify client data, such as individual investments and risk profiles, with financial trends and public macroeconomic information from the Application Integration Suite within Salesforce.

IBM has made a huge investment in Watson, the cognitive technology computing system that analyzes and interprets a wide range of data including unstructured text, images, audio and video. More broadly, the company believes AI is on track to have a huge impact on business.

"Within a few years, every major decision—personal or business—will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies," Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, said in a released statement.

"This year we expect Watson will touch one billion people—through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars. Now, with today's announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers."

Gartner analyst Dennis Gaughan said that having the two large companies make significant investments in AI has the potential to help the market in general by exposing these technologies to companies that otherwise might not be on the leading edge of innovation.

"I would caution that at this point it’s still potential," Gaughan told eWEEK in an email. "They have declared their intent in a number of areas, but they need to start delivering on what they are announcing pretty quickly because this market is changing, evolving rapidly.”

The companies said that they expect the IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein integration will be available in the second half of 2017. Pricing will be announced at the time of general availability.

Editor's Note: Chris Preimesberger, eWEEK Features & Analysis editor, contributed to this article.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...