IBM+Salesforce: behind the Watson-Einstein headlines

On March 6th 2017, IBM and Salesforce announced a new strategic partnership. The new partnership reveals a lot about the situations that both companies are currently in, as well as highlighting the current ‘hotness’ of AI.

The headline element of the new IBM-Salesforce Watson Einstein partnership is the integration of IBM’s Watson technologies with Salesforce’s Einstein platform. In case you’re not familiar with Einstein, it’s a highly-packaged add-on option for Salesforce customers that integrates pre-configured predictive analytics models and machine learning services into key activities and transactions across Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Apps Cloud, Analytics Cloud and Community Cloud.

It’s not yet clear which bits of the Watson services platform will be the primary focus of the integration, but I would expect they’ll first revolve around Watson’s collection of language-related services.

Other parts of the arrangement include commitments for:

  • IBM to implement Salesforce Service Cloud across its global support business.
  • IBM’s Bluewolf (Salesforce implementation specialist) services business to offer implementation services specifically related to Einstein + Watson technologies in combination.
  • IBM to offer a Salesforce-packaged version of its Application Integration Suite that connects on-premise data and third-party cloud-based data sources to Salesforce installations (it’s not yet clear whether Salesforce will sell or promote this offering over and above many competitive offerings that exist already, or whether this will be simply another integration offering in AppExchange).

When you look at all these items, it becomes clear that a multi-faceted partnership has the potential to improve the positions of both companies in multiple ways.

Bluewolf has long been the premier Salesforce implementation and consulting provider, with a great reputation and deep expertise. Now IBM owns it, Salesforce needs to ensure that Bluewolf remains a key player in its ecosystem and doesn’t get distracted.

IBM’s garnered huge amounts of press and an increasing amount of public awareness around Watson, but it rapidly needs to move beyond this and provide proof of Watson technologies’ real business value at scale.

IBM’s playing catchup in a crowded cloud/hybrid integration/iPaaS marketplace, even though it has a hugely impressive heritage as an integration technology company. Nimbler specialist players are making the running right now. If it can increase market visibility and gain some preferential placement in the Salesforce universe that’s a win.

Salesforce gets a major deployment of Service Cloud at one of the world’s largest companies. To be clear – Service Cloud growth is hardly struggling: but a massive deployment at IBM is going to further bolster Salesforce’s credentials here.

You might ask why Service Cloud and not Sales Cloud: I strongly suspect that this was part of the opening gambit, but IBM’s extensive investment in SugarCRM (as a customer/implementer, and also as a provider of cloud platform for Sugar CRM) meant it was a no-go area (for now at least).

I’d love to know what you think about this – comment below!