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Enterprise AI and market consolidation will continue to cast their shadows unabated in 2017.
Companies are making their first forays into enterprise AI and finding ROI. They have found that artificial intelligence (AI) brings efficiency and intelligence to a variety of business processes that are customer-facing, as well as internal.
In sales, for example, enterprise AI can help identify customers that are ready to buy. In customer service, AI-powered chatbots can help with some lower-level customer service needs until an agent takes over, or they can provide agents with knowledge about products.
The ability to call on self-learning applications is enabling humans to spend time on higher-level tasks and leave repetitive tasks to machine learning or AI. Brent Leary, a principal at CRM Essentials, weighed in on some of the technology trends that marked last year and that will continue to build into 2017.
Artificial intelligence. "It's hard to escape," Leary said of artificial intelligence in the enterprise. "2016 was the year AI went to the front of the forethought. When it came to the CRM world, it just blew up. We're just at the tip of the iceberg. 2017 was when we started to see the locomotion moving; 2017, 2018, 2019, those will be the foundational years of putting all this disparate information together and having machine learning tools go through this data and find, in real time, the kind of insights [into] how companies will build relationships going forward," Leary said.
The internet of things. Like AI, internet of things (IoT)-connected devices are still making their way and trying to bring value in various industries. While verticals like manufacturing are more business process-driven and have been able to integrate IoT devices and data into their operations, other industries are still struggling with the volume and velocity of the data and how to bring meaning to it.
"There is a lot of data coming at these companies, from multiple places," Leary observed. "They have to figure out, 'How do we get it all, aggregate it, analyze it -- and what are we looking for?' And you're trying to do that in as near real time as possible. The technology may be there, but the culture may not be; the processes may not be in place. And that is just as critical to the success of IoT as the technology itself."
Consolidation in the technology market. "You're seeing pieces added to the traditional Salesforce automation, marketing and customer service [elements of CRM]," Leary said. "Things like e-commerce, CPQ [configure price quote], DMP [data management platform] -- all this information from all these disparate systems; you need an enterprise system to manage all this stuff."
Leary concluded that the flurry of mergers and acquisition is another trend that will continue in the new year.
"We're going to be seeing this for a while," he said.
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