IBM, Salesforce, AI. Wait, what?

USA Today’s Marco della Cava ran an article earlier this week, “IBM, Salesforce join AI forces with Watson, Einstein.”  The artificial intelligence-based partnership aims to, “boost the range of predictive analytics it can provide clients.”  Salesforce’s AI Platform, Salesforce Einstein, which mines data to help salespeople close leads, is being combined with IBM Watson to provide data-based insights for businesses.  The integrated solution is reported to be operational in the second half of the year.

Della Cava also calls out what many others have been saying for some time, namely that IBM’s attempt to remake the company on the back of Watson has been a troubled effort for years, noting, “Four years of declining revenues have also led to thousands of layoffs.”  Della Cava also points out that, “Salesforce, which was co-founded by former Oracle exec Benioff 18 years ago, recently posted fourth quarter earnings that beat analyst expectations. The company said it plans to reach its stated goal of $10 billion in revenue in the next year.”  The juxtaposition is jarring.  Salesforce continues to enjoy sunny days in many respects, while IBM, which reinvented itself very successfully through it eBusiness initiative and then again, years later, with its “Smarter Cities” initiative, seems to have an extraordinarily difficult time of reinventing itself this time around through IBM Watson.  For years, there’s been plenty of chatter basically citing IBM Watson as a spectacular failure.  For example, try typing, “IBM Watson success” into Google.  The first entries point just to failures of the solution.  Scroll down to the bottom of that first Google results page and look under the heading, “Searches related to ibm watson success.”  You’ll find links named, “problems with ibm watson” and “ibm watson criticism” among others.

Indeed, Salesforce seems to have the better end of this partnership, as IBM has agreed to begin deploying its Salesforce Service Cloud across the company as part of the agreement.  So what’s in it for IBM?  Hard to tell.  Is it just another photo op for a struggling business unit?  Perhaps.  How easy would it be to deploy such a combined offering?  Hard to know.

Attivio, for its part, has been “providing data-based insights to businesses” for years.  National Instruments, for example, has relied on Attivio’s cognitive search capabilities to optimize the search and discovery experience on its website, intranet, and eCommerce platform for years.  With Attivio, engineers and scientists enjoy a genuinely personalized online shopping experience, as they search in their local language to discover the best computer-based products National Instruments has to offer.  “We concluded Attivio was the best choice to provide important new functionality and resolve technical pain points, helping us achieve a new level of business success more quickly,” said Kenn North, Senior Product Manager, Search, National Instruments.

In life, Einstein and Watson were formidable men, each in their own right.  Their eponymous software offers, though, seems to fall far short of the mark.  One thing is clear, though, Attivio has been delivering cognitive search and insight solutions for years, and no one needs a glossy photo opty to vouch for it; just check out the customer case studies page here.


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