Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Sonali Paul
The practical application of generative artificial intelligence has gone from an abstract, future concept to a concrete reality in a matter of mere months. Businesses and organizations large and small are scrambling to figure out if and how AI can help their people be more productive and efficient. For organizations using Microsoft software, the application of AI in a business environment is being led by the Microsoft Copilot platform.
Businesses at the enterprise level are also looking for ways AI can leverage the massive amounts of data generated daily by their organizations in increasingly productive ways. Many believe that such a massive undertaking can only be accomplished by a competent AI platform. Microsoft Copilot, with its integration into Microsoft 365, Azure, Windows and enterprise-wide data streams, is purported to be the AI that unlocks the creative and productive potential of an organization’s people and data.
Microsoft Copilot is a new AI product that combines the power of large language models with in-house enterprise data generated by the Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 applications. Using the power of AI and natural language conversations, users can find better answers to their questions and potentially create content from those answers. Copilot was developed on the ChatGPT platform and announced as an in-development platform at the July 2023 Microsoft Inspire conference.
There are two versions of Copilot: Microsoft 365 Copilot and a more general Microsoft Copilot. It is important to note that Microsoft 365 Copilot is different from the consumer and small business-oriented Copilot platform found in Bing Chat or non-enterprise versions of Microsoft 365. These Copilot LLMs are trained on more generalized aggregate data gathered across the internet and therefore tend to have more generalized results. Microsoft 365 Copilot will be dependent on the data generated by a specific, and only a specific, enterprise.
Microsoft 365 Copilot will be dependent on in-house, enterprise-generated data, while the more general Microsoft Copilot will use aggregate data pulled from the internet.
Both Copilot versions will be embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams. This complete Microsoft 365 integration will allow an organization’s workers to be more creative and unlock productivity gains and potentially Excellerate their skills. In addition, Microsoft 365 Copilot will add AI-enabled Business Chat to the productivity suite, which will work across enterprise-specific data like calendars, emails, chats, documents, meetings and contacts to help employees communicate easier and better.
Assuming Microsoft Copilot works as advertised, an employee could jump-start a project (e.g., email, presentation, report, data visualization) with an AI-generated first draft. With that foundation, the employee can quickly move on to refining and iterating a second draft and then a final draft, cutting at least one step from the process. This should make the employee more efficient and productive, and it could allow for the development of new skills.
For Microsoft 365 Copilot, the key to these productivity gains will be the application of enterprise-specific data to the new project from the start. Using data internally generated by the enterprise from emails, documents, calendars, contacts and so on, presumably the project will be jump-started with limited, and more importantly, pertinent assets.
SEE: Hiring kit: Prompt engineer (TechRepublic Premium)
For example, if an enterprise employee at Ford is creating a presentation that needs to show movement, the AI – if properly trained – should use a Ford-related product rather than a similar product from one of its competitors. An AI trained by data culled from the internet may come to a different conclusion and defeat the purpose of deploying enterprise-specific generative AI.
Copilot will be integrated into the fabric of all Microsoft 365 applications. When an employee starts a Word document, reads an email in Outlook, opens an Excel report or updates a PowerPoint presentation, Copilot and its generative AI abilities will be there to assist when called upon.
The specifics of how each Microsoft 365 application will use Copilot are still in development, and many use cases will likely only be discovered when users can actually use the platform. However, Microsoft has outlined some of its basic ideas for Copilot in a business environment.
Below are examples of commands a user might provide Microsoft Copilot.
All AI platforms are only as good as their training; if Microsoft Copilot is modeled after data that is incomplete, biased, wrong or otherwise corrupt, the suggestions it generates, regardless of who is asking, will be incomplete, biased, wrong or otherwise corrupt. The old adage of garbage in equals garbage out still applies.
For Microsoft 365 Copilot, training will be particularly important because all the data used for that Copilot AI platform will be internally generated and gathered. Enterprises looking to properly apply AI will have to carefully monitor the data Copilot can access. For example, a business may not want brainstorming documents and meeting notes to be part of the data stream; rejected ideas may taint the data stream and propagate throughout the organization.
For general versions of Microsoft Copilot, organizations and users will have to be aware that inherent biases, fads, misguided trends and other transitory events will likely color some of the AI-generated output. Not every passing fancy on the internet should make its way into official organizational documents.
In addition to this potential problem, especially for Microsoft 365 Copilot implementations, is the tendency of some departments to silo their data behind firewalls. New products and services developing under non-disclosure agreements, for example, will often be cut off from the normal organizational data stream. Businesses will have to decide whether hiding data from the AI in such cases is more beneficial than allowing AI access.
The most important caveat for Microsoft Copilot is the platform is still in development. The use cases outlined by Microsoft at the 2023 Inspire conference are the company’s visions of how the platform will work. Once Copilot is released to the public, what the AI platform is capable of, good or bad, will be revealed. Until then, we will be dealing with potential and perhaps some wishful marketing.
Generative AI is arguably the hottest trend in technology innovation for 2023, so it stands to reason there are many new and in-development AI platforms ready to compete with Microsoft Copilot.
Even though Copilot is based on ChatGPT, the AI chatbot is available as a standalone platform and therefore should be considered a competitor. AI is already incorporated into Microsoft Edge in the form of Bing Chat, and an AI has recently been released for the Google search engine and Chrome. Technology experts have reported that Apple is developing its own AI platform. It seems that AI will be integrated into just about every digital application we use on a computing device.
Major tech companies including Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe are all working on AI platforms. There are also dozens of smaller independent developers working on their own versions of an AI platform. Plus, there are a multitude of AI competitors working on specialized platforms that will bind LLMs and generative AI principles to specific applications. Businesses will likely spend a lot of time wading through AI platform possibilities.
As revealed during the 2023 Inspire conference, Microsoft 365 Copilot will cost $30/user/month. At first glance, this price point seems expensive, but it is vital to remember this version of the platform is designed for large business enterprises. For a large enterprise with thousands of employees, and assuming the platform delivers what Microsoft promises, that $30 could end up being a bargain. That is a big assumption to make at this early point in development.
The consumer and SMB versions of Microsoft Copilot will likely be priced lower than the enterprise counterpart. Bing Chat, which is also based on ChatGPT, is available now and for free as an integral part of Microsoft Edge. It is also likely that some features restricted or otherwise modified version of Copilot will be available for SMBs too small to have meaningful in-house generated data available to train the AI platform.
The pricing for all the versions of Microsoft Copilot is likely to change as development of the platform continues. With the large number of competitors in the AI platform space, it seems almost certain the cost of these services will change significantly.
At $30/user/month, only certain large enterprises will be able to afford large numbers of employees subscribing to the Microsoft 365 Copilot platform. In addition to the subscription fee, such employers will also have to account for the extra expenses associated with generating, collecting and collating accurate and useful data for the AI and LLMs to train on. This is a major undertaking, and the decision to implement the Copilot platform will take a significant commitment.
Large enterprises will have to decide whether the productivity benefits of using the Microsoft 365 Copilot platform outweigh the initial costs of developing and maintaining the platform – and then paying for it indefinitely.
For individuals and small businesses with little to no LLM-ready data, the consumer level versions of Microsoft Copilot is available for free. Bing Chat is already available in Microsoft Edge for everyone. Some form of low-cost or no-cost version of Copilot will likely be available for certain versions of Microsoft 365.
Only time will tell if the generative AI capabilities of Copilot are worth the time necessary to use them.
As of August 2023, Microsoft Copilot is in the testing phase of development. A limited number of organizations and Microsoft Insiders are testing the AI and providing feedback on what works and what does not work.
There is currently no officially announced release date for any version of Microsoft Copilot.
In the ever-evolving landscape of business technology, adapting to change is no longer a choice — it’s a necessity. And when it comes to managing those changes seamlessly, Salesforce stands tall as a powerhouse. However, navigating the intricate realm of Salesforce Change Management can often leave even the most seasoned professionals scratching their heads.
We unveil six invaluable tips that promise to unravel the complexities, making the process not just manageable, but downright straightforward. Whether you’re a salesforce novice or a seasoned pro, these insights will empower you to wield change as a tool for growth, without breaking a sweat.
Before embarking on any salesforce changes, it’s essential to meticulously define the scope and objectives of the proposed modifications. This involves a detailed analysis of the current system, identifying pain points, and recognizing opportunities for enhancement. Once potential changes are identified, a rigorous prioritization process should be employed.
This prioritization should be based on factors such as the anticipated business impact, alignment with strategic goals, and feasibility of implementation. The impacts of any change should be thoroughly evaluated, considering both short-term and long-term consequences. This includes assessing potential disruptions to existing processes, workflows, and user experiences, as well as estimating the financial, resource, and time investments required for successful implementation.
ALSO READ: HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR SALESFORCE INVESTMENT
Successful salesforce change management thrives on collaborative efforts across diverse departments. Forming a dedicated change management team comprising representatives from different functional areas fosters a holistic approach. Involving stakeholders early in the process ensures that all perspectives are considered, mitigating resistance and enhancing buy-in.
Open communication channels must be established to facilitate idea sharing, status updates, and issue resolution. This collaborative synergy not only promotes comprehensive change planning but also empowers a sense of ownership among stakeholders. By uniting expertise and insights from various disciplines, organizations can navigate change with collective strength and drive more successful implementations.
Thorough documentation is the backbone of effective salesforce change management. Detailed records of change requests, requirements, and implementation plans ensure a clear roadmap for all involved. A well-maintained repository of version-controlled documentation facilitates transparency, aiding in tracing the evolution of changes and reducing confusion. This meticulous documentation also supports knowledge transfer, enabling seamless onboarding and continuity.
By meticulously capturing every step and decision, organizations establish a reliable foundation for change, ensuring that stakeholders remain informed and aligned throughout the process. Robust documentation safeguards against uncertainties and serves as a valuable resource for future enhancements.
Rigorous testing and quality assurance are cornerstones of successful Salesforce change management. Crafting comprehensive test plans and scenarios allows for the meticulous examination of new configurations and functionalities. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) involving end-users validates the changes from a practical standpoint, ensuring they meet user needs and expectations.
Addressing any detected bugs, performance issues, or discrepancies during testing guarantees a smoother transition. A robust testing phase minimizes post-implementation disruptions and fosters user confidence. By prioritizing quality assurance, organizations fortify their change management process, delivering dependable solutions that align seamlessly with business objectives.
Empowering users through effective training and ongoing support is pivotal in salesforce change management. Developing comprehensive training materials, including guides and tutorials, equips users with the knowledge to navigate new features and processes. Conducting engaging training sessions and workshops enhances user proficiency and fosters a positive transition experience.
Providing accessible avenues for user support, such as help desks or forums, ensures timely issue resolution and knowledge sharing. Prioritizing user training and support cultivates user confidence, reduces frustration, and promotes efficient utilization of the salesforce platform, ultimately contributing to the success of change initiatives.
A well-executed change rollout and vigilant monitoring are pivotal to salesforce change management success. Careful planning of controlled rollouts or pilot launches ensures gradual adoption and minimizes disruption. Monitoring user adoption, feedback, and system performance provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of implemented changes. Iterative improvements based on real-time data help fine-tune configurations and address evolving needs.
This proactive approach guarantees that the change’s impact aligns with expectations, promoting sustained user satisfaction. By maintaining a watchful eye on the ongoing change process, organizations can swiftly adapt, optimize, and enhance the Salesforce environment, driving long-term success and continuous improvement.
Simplifying Salesforce change management is a multi-faceted endeavor that demands strategic planning, collaboration, documentation, testing, training, and vigilant monitoring. By adhering to these key principles, organizations can navigate transitions with clarity, engage stakeholders effectively, and ensure seamless system enhancements. Embracing change as an iterative process allows for agility and continuous improvement, leading to a Salesforce environment that not only meets current needs but also lays a solid foundation for future innovation and success.
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Whether streamlining sales, personalising marketing campaigns, or improving customer service, generative AI is helping small businesses unlock new levels of efficiency and engagement.
This article explores how AI can drive business growth, and offers insights from industry experts on fostering a culture of curiosity and innovation among your team.
Generative AI has already started fundamentally changing the way we do business. And as more businesses jump on board, those slow on the uptake risk being left behind.
After all, AI is “setting up businesses to be more efficient, more productive, more insight-driven, and more personalised for their customers,” says Rowena Westphalen, SVP of Solution and Customer advisory at Salesforce APAC. So, one way or another, “all businesses will have to invest in AI to remain competitive.”
These technologies can help businesses boost revenue growth by fine-tuning core business functions, including marketing, sales and customer service. But perhaps the most game-changing aspect of AI is that it’s “freeing up employees to spend more time on the higher-value things, like their customers and their relationships with them,” Westphalen says.
Watch our webinar-on-demand, AI & your business | How SMEs can get ready — hosted by SmartCompany in partnership with Salesforce exploring what AI means for small-businesses.
This opportunity to capitalise on human skills by offloading routine tasks will be key to business change and growth, says Louise Gibson, Founder and Director of the transformational coaching and consulting service With Verve.
By liberating employees to focus on work that requires their unique creativity and expertise, she explains, AI adoption can lead to greater innovation, engagement and workplace satisfaction.
“The opportunity for competitive advantage here comes from how leaders leverage the technology,” Gibson says. “So, how can you make roles more fulfilling by stripping out repetitive tasks—things that AI could do more efficiently And in doing so, how can you save time and make way to realise the full potential of your people and get them to focus on the value-adding work that their expertise and experience offers?”
Integrating AI into your business requires a well-thought-out change-management strategy, Gibson says, and there are two aspects to this:
“The key message here is that if you ignore the inevitable human aspect of implementing any sort of technology or change, you lose the full value and potentially create costly disengagement,” Gibson says.
She strongly advises business leaders to establish and commit to guiding principles for using AI. These must align with your business’ core values and goals, and will provide a critical framework for balancing AI exploration and risk.
“Knowing your values will clarify your non-negotiables, and these should guide your decision-making and the actions you take around AI and how it’s used,” Gibson explains.
Change management extends beyond introducing a new technology into your business. It’s also about nurturing a culture of continuous learning, experimentation, and adaptability to ensure successful implementation of that technology.
According to our experts, inspiring teams to embrace change as an opportunity rather than a challenge requires business leaders to:
Westphalen suggests emphasising the benefits of AI to help foster curiosity, innovation and buy-in. For example, according to research by Salesforce, “employees think they’re going to save about five hours a week by using generative AI,” she says. “That’s a month each year for full-time workers.”
However, she adds that nearly 60% of employees admit they don’t know how to tell if they’re using a trusted data source or how to ensure that sensitive data is secure. So, education has an important role to play long-term safety and security.
“If you use something like Trailhead to learn about getting started with AI, that can help people’s competence and trust that they’re doing the right thing,” Westphalen says.
Ultimately, while generative AI has huge potential to drive business growth, a well-considered and deliberate change-management strategy will really unlock your business’ competitive edge.
As Gibson puts it: “Any technological transformation is only as valuable as the people you need to engage with it.”
Read now: Striking the right balance: How to integrate generative AI into your business like a boss
Customization, add-ons and integrations
Ease of use
Salesforce is arguably the best-known CRM provider on the market. It has an established community and a well-earned reputation for being a leader in the customer relationship management field. While it was created to meet the needs of enterprises and large businesses, Salesforce has expanded its scope and now actively targets businesses of all sizes.
Unlike more rigid competitors, Salesforce CRM provides countless personalization and customization options, giving businesses a high level of control over how the system looks and acts. We were particularly impressed by how Salesforce handles workflow automation and by its pioneering integration of AI in CRM customization.
Notably, Salesforce was one of the first CRM platforms to open itself up to third-party developers, giving it more apps and customization options than any other provider. If Salesforce doesn’t have a built-in function you need, there’s almost certainly an app to compensate. If not, a developer can create and deploy a specific solution.
Salesforce CRM’s initial setup requires time and IT skills. Its learning curve is far steeper than those of many other CRM providers we reviewed. However, you’ll enjoy flexible CRM software guaranteed to accommodate all custom processes and meet the changing needs of your business. For all these reasons and more, Salesforce is our top CRM choice for customization.
Salesforce CRM’s pipeline management feature gives an overview of your sales opportunities. Source: Salesforce
Salesforce may not be the best choice for businesses with less complex operational needs. If your SMB’s CRM needs are straightforward, check out our review of monday.com CRM to learn about a well-executed system designed for SMBs.
Despite its complexities, Salesforce is surprisingly easy to implement and use. Here are some notable ease-of-use factors we discovered.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards help your team pinpoint problems and work on solutions. Source: Salesforce
Salesforce’s upper-tier plans provide business owners access to live support, coaching sessions and adoption guidance for an additional fee. This may be useful if you’re considering switching CRM systems to Salesforce.
The Salesforce product boasts an impressive array of CRM features that make it one of the best on the market. Here are some of the most notable features that provide excellent CRM software benefits.
We like that Salesforce’s business products seamlessly integrate. Businesses can grow with the Salesforce CRM and gradually adopt new features as needed. Additional Salesforce product categories include:
You can use Salesforce’s impressive range of third-party apps to run many aspects of your company, from marketing to fulfillment. HR, data analytics, workforce collaboration and finance apps plug directly into Salesforce CRM. You can even add ERP apps to Salesforce to build a system close in function to the ERP platform described in our review of Oracle NetSuite CRM.
We also like how Salesforce’s AppExchange breaks down apps by industry. There are 12 sector-specific areas on AppExchange, including communications, financial services, manufacturing and professional services.
Salesforce is a capable solution for companies that want to Excellerate customer service performance. Read our review of Salesforce Service Cloud to discover how it helps supervisors and teams manage ongoing customer relationships.
We were impressed by Salesforce CRM’s vast customization capabilities – an area where it truly stands out among the competition. While many CRMs we reviewed offer options for customizing deal and contact fields, email templates, and dashboards, Salesforce lets you do much more.
Here are some of our favorite customization options:
Sales managers can customize their dashboards with specific objects. Source: Salesforce
We like that CRM users can build customizable systems and integrate their favorite business apps via the Salesforce AppExchange store. Other CRM software companies we reviewed have similar online stores for add-ons, but Salesforce’s is far more comprehensive, with thousands of available integrations.
The company makes it easy to search for add-ons based on the product name and view industry-specific product bundles. Because Salesforce is such a huge company, its industry-specific add-ons are expansive. There’s even a separate section for small business-specific add-ons, many of which are free.
On the AppExchange, you’ll find five different solution categories:
Salesforce is embracing the “low code” and “no code” trends with its Lightning App Builder and Salesforce Flow drag-and-drop tools. Read our HubSpot review to learn about another CRM with drag-and-drop functionality.
New apps are added to the AppExchange daily, further enhancing its appeal. Source: Salesforce
We were pleased to see Salesforce’s intuitive productivity-boosting tools, particularly its built-in project management features. (Freshworks has similar tools; read our Freshworks CRM review to learn more.) Once implemented, sales and marketing departments – as well as managers – will find it easy to manage and build workflows, assign and follow tasks, and check off permissions.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards allow sales reps to check KPIs and track their progress toward quotas, facilitating productivity and accountability. We like that you can add meetings straight from the calendar tab and see an instant overview of your schedule.
Additional add-on productivity tools are available through the AppExchange.
Salesforce’s artificial intelligence (AI) strides impressed us with capabilities beyond those of the competitors we reviewed. Salesforce was a CRM-AI pioneer, launching its high-profile AI tool, Einstein, in 2016. Today, the company has picked up the pace amid breakthroughs in the generative large language model AIs (like ChatGPT and Bard) that power tools like Einstein. Einstein is available on Salesforce’s upper-tier plans or as a paid add-on.
Einstein can do the following after gathering data from system use and user input:
Einstein, in its current form, is amazing, and we look forward to seeing its next iterations. We expect AI (and the solutions other CRM providers develop) to be integral to corporate life and CRM adoption in the coming years. We’re not awarding best use of AI in this round of CRM reviews; however, if we were, Salesforce would win.
Einstein can flag emails in which leads express critical concerns that could prevent a deal from moving forward, allowing a sales rep to prioritize those messages and act fast to grow and sustain customer relationships.
Salesforce’s Einstein tool can help with sentiment analysis so you understand how your brand is perceived. Source: Salesforce
Nearly every CRM vendor we reviewed has some form of an online community. However, Salesforce’s Trailblazer community is particularly impressive, replete with documentation invaluable for admins. You can find step-by-step guides on everything from creating custom CRM reports to turning on user notifications.
There’s also an extensive user-only forum for direct communication with other admins and CRM users and a comprehensive Trailhead learning platform with various product-related courses, upskilling opportunities and official certifications.
You can purchase Salesforce’s Sales Cloud CRM via one of four subscription tiers:
Unlike Salesforce competitors monday and HubSpot, there’s no free plan.
Only Essentials is available on a month-to-month basis; all other plans require an annual contract. Bear in mind that annual contracts often require you to pay for the whole year upfront, which may not be ideal for some businesses.
All costs below are applied when billed annually. All plans allow you to send 5,000 email marketing messages daily from the platform, which is much more generous than many other providers we reviewed.
Price: $25 per user per month; available for up to 10 users
Features: Account, contact, lead, task and opportunity management; lead auto-assignment; prevention of duplicates; automatic capture of a lead’s available web information; mass email; marketing campaigns; customizable reports and dashboards; email integration with Gmail and Outlook; and Salesforce mobile app
Price: $75 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Essentials plan, plus pipeline management, lead registration, rules-based lead scoring, collaborative forecasting, a forecasting mobile app, quote and order management, roles and permissions, and a developer sandbox
Price: $150 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Professional plan, plus workflow and approval automation, sales teams and territories, opportunity scoring, and advanced reporting
Price: $300 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Enterprise plan, plus a sales engagement hub, AI-powered sales insights with Einstein, sales cadences and 24/7 support
Salesforce is pricey compared to other CRM solutions we reviewed. It’s a massive product with many add-ons and customizations; the subscription costs listed here should be considered jumping-off points.
You can spend considerably more on Salesforce. For example, CPQ & Billing, which allows you to quickly configure, price and quote complex solutions, costs $75 per user per month. Other add-ons include Pardot, Quip, Einstein AI and Sales Dialer – all sold separately. There are additional costs if you opt for training or help with implementation.
Many other SaaS products offer free versions and low-cost, entry-level subscriptions that can be used indefinitely. While $25 per user per month isn’t exorbitant, it’s not a realistic long-term option for most small businesses because only 10 users are supported at that level. The next plan jumps to $75 per user per month – significantly more expensive than the competition.
We recommend taking advantage of Salesforce’s 14-day free trial to ensure this CRM is worth the investment.
Implementing CRM software always takes care and patience. But due to its breadth of customization options, Salesforce CRM’s implementation process can vary drastically, taking anywhere from a few days to several weeks. While that may seem alarming, users will quickly see that this CRM is worth the effort once it is set up.
Salesforce and third-party agencies can manage your initial implementation and launch for you. Still, this help comes at a cost, depending on your company size, number of employees, data volume and complexity, third-party integrations, and customization level.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to create a complex solution immediately. You can use the software out of the box and modify it as your business needs evolve. Thanks to the Salesforce CRM’s intuitive design and overall sophistication, the learning curve isn’t steep for non-admin users after implementation.
In addition to a vast library of training materials, Salesforce offers adoption guidance and coaching services for an extra cost. That may be worth it for business owners concerned about setting up the CRM and onboarding users.
Use the Data Import Wizard from the Setup menu to import up to 50,000 standard objects – like contact, lead and account information – from a CSV file.
While Salesforce is a market leader in CRM technology, integrations and capabilities, we found that it falls short in the customer service department. When we reached out for information about the company’s services, the response was delayed.
When we did communicate with customer support reps, they were very helpful and used real-life situations to explain the product’s features and answer questions about the program. They were very clear and offered several solutions to help further our understanding. However, compared to other providers we called, their answers could have been more detailed.
Unfortunately, Salesforce has a C-minus rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and isn’t an accredited BBB business. It earned 1 out of 5 stars and closed 55 complaints within the last three years. That’s disappointing and surprising for a company that’s so well regarded in the industry.
On the plus side, Salesforce provides an extensive selection of self-guided resources, access to the Trailblazer community and basic technical support. Additionally, its Unlimited package comes with 24/7 assistance.
For an additional fee of 30 percent of your total monthly service fees, users can access 24/7 phone support, expert coaching and a dedicated account manager.
Salesforce CRM is an excellent solution; however, we did identify some limitations:
When evaluating the best CRM software, we conducted extensive comparative research of dozens of software solutions in the category. Our product review process was designed to help you find the right CRM for your business. It included customer support team communication, trials to evaluate product functionality, and an evaluation of each provider’s tutorials, webinars and support materials. We also took pricing into consideration. When looking for the best CRM for customizability specifically, we examined customization options, available integrations, reporting and analytics, and sales automation.
Though the Salesforce system has an extensive collection of CRM features and add-ons, its intuitive design and standard CRM lingo make it easy to learn. The vendor also provides various training materials and courses on Trailhead, the company’s free online learning platform, to get you started.
Salesforce doesn’t have a free plan; its pricing starts at $25 per user per month. However, the company offers a 14-day free trial so you can assess whether it’s a good fit for your business.
The policy update from Salesforce is the latest effort from the provider to address the risk concerns of would-be enterprise technology adopters.
In June, the company rolled out Einstein GPT Trust Layer, a service designed to let customers access enterprise-ready data security and compliance safeguards while leveraging generative AI tools.
"The GPT Trust Layer gives connected LLMs secure, real-time access to data without the need to move all of your data into the LLM itself," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce chairman and co-CEO, speaking in May during the company's Q1 2024 earnings call. "While they're using the LLMs, the data itself is not moving and being stored in the LLM. That is what our customers want."
As enterprise adoption of generative AI advances, more than half of IT leaders say inaccuracies and cybersecurity are associated risks of the emerging technology, according to a report from QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey.
Salesforce, with its guidelines clearly stating usage limitations, is showing leadership among the provider ecosystem in terms of responsible AI, according to Juliette Powell and Art Kleiner, professors at New York University.
"On the surface, the new policy may look unenforceable, but it's an addition to Salesforce's Acceptable Use and External Facing Services Policy, which clearly states that violators could lose their Salesforce licenses," the professors said via email. "It will be really interesting to see which companies are targeted first."
The new policy from Salesforce comes as another major provider updated its own terms of service in response to criticisms over data use.
Zoom updated its terms and conditions to clarify the provider would be able to access customer content for safety and legal purposes, but not use any customer data to train third-party or its own AI models.
In an exciting announcement, Salesforce has introduced Einstein Studio, empowering users to create and deploy their bespoke AI models. This innovation opens doors for businesses to harness AI’s potential in a personalized and tailored manner, driving enhanced insights and efficiency.
Einstein Studio is designed to offer a user-friendly environment for building AI models that suit specific business requirements. This cutting-edge platform empowers users to take charge of their AI journey, even without extensive technical backgrounds. By combining intuitive tools and robust capabilities, Einstein Studio ensures that the power of AI is accessible to a broader spectrum of professionals.
With Einstein Studio, companies can tailor AI models to match their unique data and challenges. This level of customization allows for a deeper understanding of customer behaviors, more accurate predictions, and optimized decision-making processes. The ability to deploy these custom models directly within the Salesforce ecosystem enhances user experiences and drives intelligent automation across various touchpoints.
Furthermore, Einstein Studio’s integration within the Salesforce platform simplifies the deployment process. This seamless integration eliminates the need for complex integrations, ensuring that businesses can swiftly implement their custom AI models into their existing workflows. In this case, Salesforce integration services are becoming very significant.
This announcement underscores Salesforce’s commitment to democratizing AI and making it a practical tool for businesses of all sizes. By putting the power of AI model creation and deployment in the hands of users, Einstein Studio empowers organizations to unlock new dimensions of growth and innovation.
In the rapidly evolving landscape of AI, Einstein Studio stands as a testament to Salesforce’s dedication to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. This tool not only amplifies the capabilities of businesses but also reinforces Salesforce’s position as a leader in providing solutions that bridge the gap between technology and business needs.
In conclusion, the unveiling of Einstein Studio marks a significant stride in the AI arena. Businesses now have the means to develop and implement AI models that resonate with their unique objectives, fostering better insights and smarter decision-making. As this cutting-edge platform becomes an integral part of the Salesforce ecosystem, it ushers in a new era of customized AI solutions that drive success across industries.
At the start of the government’s digital transformation journey more than a decade ago, would-be suppliers needed translators. These people articulated what companies like Salesforce were achieving in the commercial sector, then showed public sector buyers how similar tech could enhance service delivery.
As the accurate Salesforce World Tour London demonstrated, such translators are now just as likely to be found inside government as among the supplier community. Salesforce calls them “Trailblazers”: people who have understood what cloud-based data storage can achieve in driving efficiency and quality and are keen to share their story with others.
This was the tenor of much of the public-sector-specific content at the Salesforce World Tour London. The overarching event theme was Artificial Intelligence, with keynotes on courses such as the AI “trust gap” and the ethics of the technology. But the public sector audience focused on a more foundational issue: the benefit of leveraging cloud-based data in the provision of public services.
This theme was picked up by James Lee-Smith, head of UKI public sector strategy and business development for Salesforce. He acknowledged the pressures that government face with rising customer expectations of digital experiences, financial constraint due to accurate shocks to our economy (Brexit, Covid, rising energy costs and interest rates) and the constraints of high technical debt due to the sheer vastness of its legacy infrastructure. But he was quick to point out the benefits of embracing low-code cloud-based citizen engagement software in enhancing public services.
“Our customers report that Salesforce delivers on average operational cost savings of 27 per cent and yield ROI after nine months,” he said. “Our technology also drives an uptick in customer satisfaction on average by 32 per cent.”
Reduced costs, improved transformational pace and elevated customer satisfaction. This sounds like the holy grail to most public service leaders, and Lee-Smith asserted that adopting generative AI will make these outcomes better than ever. If that is to happen, government will need the support of trusted platforms like Salesforce that have started to democratise the efficiency potential of generative AI for its customers in a responsible and well-governed way. It needs the appropriate controls to ensure that service agents are augmented in their work, not replaced, and retain responsibility for the content produced.
Alongside that activity, Lee-Smith said the company would continue to work with government departments to demonstrate the power of cloud-based technology more generally. To that end, Salesforce has entered into an MoU with Crown Commercial Service that includes government-wide commercial terms and skills training. It also includes “proof of concept” engagements to help show how common patterns for customer engagement can be leveraged in public service transformation. In doing so, this help educate the transformation business case, best practice approach to successful delivery and helps guide effective public procurement.
The case is strengthened by stories of service transformation from across the public sector: stories told eloquently by Salesforce’s team and public sector “Trailblazers” at the World Tour London.
Take the insights from NHS Professionals as an example. This organisation operates the largest staff bank in the NHS, with more than 100,000 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) workers on its books. By adopting a cloud-based CRM solution from Salesforce, CEO Nicola McQueen explained that it has transformed its processes. As a result, temporary staff can accept shifts more quickly and easily, with less time spent on administering the system and more time given to delivering care on the front line.
The transformation has been significant for NHS Professionals, and McQueen said the organisation adopted a “go slow to go fast” mentality that is now paying dividends. “We committed to transforming the organisation and everyone has collaborated on that,” she said. “We now have a single view of all our data, [making our processes] faster, simpler and much smarter.”
A similar picture emerged from other presentations, including by one official who said Salesforce’s standardised platform with in-built “security by design” was a crucial factor in choosing it. His agency has a high-security threshold and felt Salesforce’s cloud-first solutions gave his tech team the right basis on which to customise for their own purposes.
The utility of configuration rather than building from scratch was a key theme in many of the case studies. Its benefit was signposted by Karl Hoods, chief digital and information officer in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. As CDIO in BEIS prior to the machinery of government changes, he and his team were charged with delivering elements of the Energy Support Schemes at pace between December 2022 and February 2023. Using Salesforce’s platform as a base, they were able to design and build a solution within mere weeks – a contrast to the usual lengthy timescales to which services are launched.
Moreover, Hoods said his team developed speedy adaptations to the schemes even after launch, in one case in response to an undertaking made by a minister in the media. As well as accelerating the pace of change, use of the Salesforce platform ensured security and scalability, made it easier to identify fraud, and delivered value for money.
Cost is a major factor for any organisation delivering public services, especially if they operate on a commercial footing. It was a key driver for Northern Trains, whose customer and commercial director Mark Powles spoke about the value of Salesforce in helping the UK’s second-largest rail franchise recover post-Covid.
Salesforce’s low code CRM platform has provided a cost-effective way of enhancing the impact of Northern Trains’ customer relationships, Powles reported. He said it has yielded a 30 per cent return on investment on marketing spend, by facilitating targeted communications. The technology has also increased agent productivity by 25 per cent and reduced onboarding time by 50 per cent.
The same can be said of several organisations featured at the World Tour, including regional police forces (Humberside, Merseyside, Thames Valley and Hampshire) and Protas, the clinical trials non-profit. In both examples, the enriched experience of the end user is a crucial factor in adopting Salesforce’s technology.
For the police forces, the platform enables victims of crime to receive better and more timely information about their cases. At a national scale, one in five calls to police call centres is from victims seeking updates on their cases. That equates to 20m calls per year and £250m of spend. By giving victims up-to-date information through an easily accessed portal, this commitment of time and money is being reduced.
For Protas, Salesforce delivers a better experience for trials participants. This reduces the barriers to entry, helping reverse the 44 per cent drop in participant numbers since Covid, and ensures more effective interactions throughout the trial.
For the police and Protas alike, secure data storage also makes life easier for staff, giving them ready access to information that can be shared securely, and is richer in quality, so yields better insights for business planning.
It is little wonder Crown Commercial Service has embraced digitisation with enthusiasm, as commercial director and chief procurement officer for technology Dr Philip Orumwense made plain. Last year, it directed 27 per cent of £20.3bn spent on technology in the public sector (£9.3bn in central government), delivering a commercial benefit of £1.7bn.
The National Data Strategy sets out the priorities for the years ahead, and AI will clearly play an ever-more important role in its execution. That lies behind the MoU with Salesforce, which reflects both the significance of this emerging technology to public service transformation and the success of the programme so far.
The argument for digitisation has been won, with advocates across government keen to share their experiences. Now, the whole public sector can blaze the trail to an even brighter future of efficient, high-quality and cost-effective services.
Read our event review to find out more about AI in the public sector.
Also, learn from the NHS Professionals case study and the Police case study.
NEW YORK, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Salesforce Inc (CRM.N) was heavily criticized by several activist investors in early 2023 but by the end of June, after results came in better than expected and a new director was added, filings show some cut their stakes or exited completely.
Starboard Value, among the first to publicly push the U.S. software company in October to do better calling for a greater focus on profitability, cut its stake by 20% to own roughly 2 million shares on June 30, according to a regulatory filing.
Third Point LLC, which had owned 800,000 shares earlier this year, no longer owned any shares on June 30, its filing shows.
The changes in ownership came after significant overhauls at Salesforce helped push its share price higher.
Inclusive Capital Management, one of four activists closely involved with Salesforce in early 2023 along with Starboard, Elliott Investment Management and ValueAct Capital, exited even earlier, according to filings.
After Inclusive owned 1.6 million shares at the end of 2022, Salesforce was no longer listed on filings detailing ownership for the first or second quarters.
Pressure built on Salesforce and its CEO Marc Benioff during the first months of 2023. But cost cuts, news that it was boosting its share buybacks and dismantling its mergers and acquisition committee, plus stronger-than-expected fourth quarter growth went a long way to quiet the activists, sources familiar with the matter said.
The company also added Mason Morfit, the co-chief executive officer of investment firm ValueAct, to its board during the first quarter. ValueAct's ownership stake remained unchanged at 3.5 million at the end of the second quarter, its filing shows.
However, a handful of other investors, including ones that might not have been pushing for change, cut their holdings between April and the end of June.
Sachem Head Capital Management cut its stake by 20% after Salesforce made up nearly 5% of its portfolio. Farallon Capital Management sold 44% of its stake in Salesforce during the second quarter, while Polen Capital cut its holding by 24% and Light Street Capital reduced its ownership stake by 15%.
Salesforce's stock price has surged 57% since January and the bulk of the move occurred during the first quarter when the activists were pushing for changes and the company delivered.
During the second quarter the stock price moved to $211 a share from $199 a share. It closed at $212.06 on Monday.
Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Sonali Paul
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