In the past month, Salesforce made announcements around some interesting topics. First, beginning of October, the company introduced Einstein’s Guide to AI Use Cases, a web tool that is targeted at helping businesses identify viable use cases and provide some information about what it takes to support it.
It starts with information and videos that explain AI, terms around AI and give some examples how AI can help improve different aspects of a business. According to Sarin Devraj, Associate Product Marketing Manager Salesforce Einstein, for time being the site covers some fifty use cases but will be updated regularly to increase the coverage of relevant and interesting use cases. The website is intended to be top-of-funnel.
The second and more recent announcement was about introducing Lightning Order Management, which shall enable brands to deliver end-to-end commerce experiences from shopping to shipping. Lightning Order Management is currently in beta and will be made available later this year. Right now it focuses on B2C processes. Based upon Lightning and enabled by Salesforce’s vast partner network, Lightning Order Management offers a low code platform that helps companies to easily create order management flows, including some partner applications. Salesforce expects the number of partner applications to increase steadily.
Lastly, in the beginning of November, Salesforce announced its own Salesforce CMS, a hybrid content management system designed to help easily create and deliver content across channels. Salesforce CMS is designed to be simple, fast yet flexible, and closely connected to the Salesforce infrastructure. For time being Salesforce CMS is geared towards the Salesforce B2C e-commerce solution, but shall be extended to support B2B e-commerce.
The Bigger Picture
The world of engagement management (or, as other people say, experience management), is tightly coupled and needs many different types of applications working tightly integrated, including the necessity to create and disseminate knowledge. In other words, it has turned to be a platform world.
These three announcements that cover vastly different topics, but towards the same goal, demonstrate the value that lies in a strong technology platform which supports an ecosystem that creates a win-situation not only for the platform owner, but also for partners, customers, and their customers.
There is a tremendous potential in implementing business applications that are supported by AI, both in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. However, the decision about the application of AI in businesses has a number of challenges, ranging from ethical questions, via compliance, security and strategic right down to operational questions. All of them need to be addressed to successfully implement AI in an organization on more than just a tactical level.
Salesforce cites three:
- Identification of a viable use case and having the right data to support it
- Addressing change within the employee work force and embracing new technology
- Trusting whether the AI is correct and aligns with company values
Out of these they tackled the most technology orientated – and the easiest to implement one, which is also the one Salesforce can help best with. The second one is also about culture and the third one is really hard to do as it also and especially includes the need for an AI to be able to explain itself.
Covering the order management aspect of e-commerce is one of the most important capabilities a vendor of e-commerce software needs to be able to cover. This is by its very nature a capability that gives full suite vendors an edge over front office focused companies like Salesforce. And even for suite vendors some of the necessary capabilities are beyond their scope, like tracking and tracing of a delivery (which is covered by a logistics provider) or payment, which is covered by a payment provider, e.g. to be better able to ensure PCI compliance. Topics like a ticket management that is integrated into the e-commerce solution are table stakes. What really matters is the ability to easily set up and efficiently maintain a process that enables e-commerce customers to achieve their goal with minimum own effort from awareness through support phases of their individual journey.
And a CMS is all about enabling the delivery of the good news in an effective, consistent, and efficient way. That’s why, while a good headless CMS does the job (and a good one to it), an own CMS that is tightly integrated into the platform, can offer even more value. It reduces the time to value for the customer by offering a tight integration into connected pieces of the suite, be them an e-commerce solution,
My Analysis and PoV
Let’s start with Einstein’s Guide to AI Use Cases. It certainly is a nifty site that provides interesting and helpful information. A corporate web site being what it is: a marketing instrument – Einstein’s Guide to AI Use Cases is of course geared around Salesforce products. While there is nothing wrong with this, by excluding partner solutions it restricts its usefulness, even within the Salesforce ecosystem.
The site will be updated with new use cases from a bank of existing ones. This will happen twice a year. It still being a young tool, Salesforce can decide to extend its scope at any time to cover more solutions, including partner solutions. This would be a good idea, especially considering that Salesforce has a thriving partner ecosystem. Salesforce and the partner ecosystem could get promoted by a decision towards this.
Lightning order management reduces a gap that Salesforce has qua mission: The company has its focus on front office processes and supports back office processes, like order management, by virtue of a strong ecosystem and by offering the glue to connect the different pieces of necessary software. This is exemplified here. Salesforce offers to connect a good number of delivery processes to support the e-commerce process. I think that the acquisition of Mulesoft had a major influence in making this possible, including the integration of the service functionality, which, to be frank, is table stakes in the current world. Still, Salesforce connected it into one competitive and seamless whole.
This is also evidenced by Salesforce e-commerce solution being part of a tightly spaced leader group in Gartner’s recent magic quadrant on digital commerce solutions (along with Adobe’s Magento, Oracle and SAP Commerce).
The addition of the CMS is the icing on the cake. To be sure, it is a new solution that still has a few gaps, including good support for responsive design. But given some time, it surely will not only support page fragments but might help in building complete sites with a tight integration into e-commerce, marketing, sales force automation and customer service. Not to mention analytics. Think Hubspot on steroids.
Three separate announcements – one mission – showing the power of a platform. I can only guess that these developments happened in a harmonized way. If not, imagine what could happen if there was a harmonization.