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Dreamforce 2017: Benioff hails fourth industrial revolution

Salesforce CEO bangs drum for AI-infused cloud CRM as plank in so-called “fourth industrial revolution”, with increased customisation of its software to the fore

Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) supplier Salesforce, has allied his company with the so-called fourth industrial revolution.

Benioff will use his opening keynote at this week’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco to stage a bold annexation of the concept of a fourth industrial revolution – conventionally associated with the digitisation of mechanical industrial processes, known in Germany as Industrie 4.0.

Salesforce has announced a raft of product enhancements that turn on the addition of “my” to its software-as-a-service (SaaS) suite. This intensified customisation of its technology is underpinned by a ramping up of its artificial intelligence (AI) efforts, branded, since last year under the name “Einstein”.

At this year’s conference, the company has announced the release of myEinstein, which enables users to create customised AI models. Salesforce Einstein AI bots can also employ artificial intelligence to assist with customer service workflows. And, as Jessie Scardina puts it on Computer Weekly’s TechTarget specialist sister site SearchSalesforce.com: “Einstein Prediction Builder enables admins to craft AI models that predict business outcomes.”

Salesforce is putting increased stress on what it would style as the creative role of what it terms “Trailblazers” – broadly speaking, experienced implementers and users of the software delivered via its clouds, such as Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud. It makes much of these users often being mid-working life people finding new careers using its software in customer organisations. Salesforce also applies the term to customer companies, such as Adidas and 21st-Century Fox.

Among its new announcements is myTrailhead, described as a “gamified online learning platform to enable every company to customise the learning environment with their own content, branding, look and feel – all with a simple, drag-and-drop user interface”.

In his keynote last year, Benioff referred to the “Ohana” of Dreamforce – a Hawaiian word meaning “extended family”, and re-emphasised the continued application of the company’s “1-1-1 model”, whereby it contributed 1% of product, 1% of equity and 1% of employee hours to the wider community.

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In a statement for this year’s conference, the company said: “Now every Trailblazer – the hundreds of millions of individuals and their organisations using Salesforce to drive innovation, grow their careers and transform their businesses – will be able to deliver smarter, more personalised digital experiences that place the customer at the centre of their business.”

In the same statement, Benioff said: “The fourth industrial revolution is reshaping every business, industry and economy, and the customer is at the centre of it all. Salesforce is delivering breakthrough technologies like artificial intelligence to empower Trailblazers to deliver customer success, develop their careers and contribute to society in meaningful ways.”

Salesforce also announced the Quip collaboration platform, which it said “enables teams to collaborate faster and more interactively in one live document”. It added: “The Quip collaboration platform features live apps – applications that can be embedded into Quip that contain real-time data. Now teams can pull together all relevant information they need – docs, spreadsheets, team communications and live real-time application information – onto one centralised canvas.”

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