Salesforce preps guidance feature for its Einstein AI technology

One of the main takeaways from Salesforce's second quarter earnings conference call is that CEO Marc Benioff is using its Einstein AI technology to get a reality check on what his management team is doing.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Salesforce is testing a version of its Einstein artificial intelligence service internally to help project sales and give guidance. CEO Marc Benioff said an internal spin of this Einstein Guidance feature has made the artificial intelligence technology another member of the management team.

It's not clear when this Einstein Guidance feature will roll out broadly, but it was one of the big takeaways on Salesforce's first quarter earnings conference call. Here's a look at the three takeaways:

Artificial intelligence

Benioff said artificial intelligence is being adopted in the enterprise as part of digital transformation. Benioff also portrayed its Einstein AI platform as a person. We'll just give you the passage from the earnings conference call in full:

We then have a piece of Einstein now that we've not yet rolled out to our customers called Einstein [Guidance]. So this is a capability that I use with my staff meeting, when I do my forecast and when I do my analysis of the quarter, which happens every Monday at my staff meeting like a lot of CEOs do, it's a very typical process, of course, we have our top 20 or 30 executives around the table. We talk about different regions, different products, different opportunities.

And then I ask one other executive their opinion and that executive is Einstein. And I will literally turn to Einstein in the meeting and say, "Okay, Einstein, you've heard all of this. Now what do you think?" And Einstein will give me the over and under on the quarter and show me where we're strong and where we're weak and sometimes will even point out a specific executive, which it's done in the last 3 quarters and said that this executive is somebody who needs specific attention during the quarter. And I can tell you that I do believe that Salesforce's enhanced performance has been greatly attributable to our ability to have Einstein on board and as part of our team. Because that ability to consult with Einstein has made me a better CEO. I have the ability to talk to Einstein and ask Einstein everything from product areas that I should be focusing on, geographies that I should be focusing on, the linearity of bookings during the quarter.

Every question that I possibly could have, I'm able to ask Einstein. And I think for a CEO, typically the way it works is, of course, you have various people, mostly politicians and bureaucrats, in your staff meeting who are telling you what they want to tell you to kind of get you to believe what they want you to believe. Einstein comes without bias. So because it's just based on the data, and it's a very exciting next-generation tool. And to have Einstein guidance has transformed me as a CEO.

Now that take is a bit new age, but I don't have any doubt that AI will be in more boardrooms. Also: Salesforce's Einstein: One smart way to upsell AI


Salesforce and AWS will be marketing together more. Benioff also noted that the AWS partnership is about giving customers what they want, but also hitting Oracle in the chops. Benioff said:

"At Salesforce, we really strongly believe that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and I think that makes Amazon Web Services our best friend."

As you probably know, AWS and Oracle are in a dogfight for database workloads and infrastructure as a service.

Following the earnings report, Benioff said on CNBC that Salesforce was crushing Oracle on CRM. Guess the bromance is over with Oracle CTO Larry Ellison and Benioff.

Digital transformation and retail

Benioff said that Salesforce is increasingly in high-level discussions about digital transformation. Salesforce also mentioned that retail was a key area for the company since brick-and-mortar players are looking for more 1:1 engagement.

Salesforce has eight of the top 10 US retailers in the fold. It's an interesting vertical, but it's also worth noting that retail is also struggling.

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