San Francisco Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff goes on the offensive: “Artificial intelligence is the future,” Benioff announced on Wednesday at the annual “Dreamforce” customer conference. In front of around 40,000 participants in San Francisco, the SAP rival announced that it wanted to integrate AI functions into all of the company’s products.
Benioff needs success. There has recently been a lot of unrest at Salesforce, the largest private employer in San Francisco: the company had laid off around ten percent of its workforce, numerous executives such as co-CEO Brad Taylor left the company, and activist investors joined. Now artificial intelligence should help to outpace the competition.
Companies use Salesforce software to manage their customer relationships, from sales to marketing to customer service. The group is considered the global market leader in the area of customer relationship management (CRM). The company recently bought numerous companies. The most expensive acquisition was the acquisition of the communications platform Slack for $28 billion.
Now Salesforce wants to bring all areas together and expand them using artificial intelligence. “The opportunities are enormous,” said Salesforce AI boss Clara Shih to Handelsblatt. “It has never been so easy for an employee to immediately have all the information about a customer available – no matter where their data is stored in the company.”
Slack is expanding with several AI features. “A completely new search will be possible,” said new Slack boss Lidiane Jones. Information can also be found more easily in various conversations with colleagues or customers. At the same time, long dialogues could be summarized.
Einstein from the Salesforce subsidiary Slack
A virtual assistant called Einstein Copilot will take over tasks across all Salesforce applications. This includes, for example, summarizing videos, writing drafts of emails or even pre-formulating answers to customer inquiries.
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In the previous weeks, Microsoft and Google had already presented similar functions. Both tech companies are direct competitors to Slack with their collaboration platforms. Growth at Slack had recently slowed significantly. “Our internal data shows that customers value Slack and we continue to add new customers,” Jones said.
Salesforce combines AI functions under the name Einstein. In March, the company introduced an AI tool called Einstein GPT for the first time. The offer is now being expanded. The functions are based, among other things, on the language models from the company OpenAI. Its founder and CEO, Sam Altman, also appeared at the conference and praised the partnership with Salesforce. Shih also announced that Salesforce is working on several language models it has developed itself.
Benioff admitted that the use of the models is not yet perfect. “The models still make mistakes. It’s still unclear whether that will change,” Benioff said. Nevertheless, it is already foreseeable that AI models will play an even more important role in the future. This means that Salesforce is better positioned than other companies that missed the change brought about by artificial intelligence. Without mentioning SAP by name, he distributed it in the direction of the rival from Germany.
Salesforce wants to outdo SAP with Einstein AI
Over the past few weeks, several SAP board members have been in San Francisco. The German software company also wants to expand its business with artificial intelligence. But not with a product like Einstein.
SAP, on the other hand, wants to impress with its openness to the competition’s systems. SAP technology director Jürgen Müller recently appeared at a conference held by Google’s cloud division. There he emphasized how closely the SAP platform is linked to Google’s AI solutions. “We give our customers the choice of which AI model they want to use. We are compatible with everyone,” said Müller.
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SAP CEO Christian Klein had previously said in an interview with the Handelsblatt: “SAP does not have to solve every problem in the world itself, but we enter into partnerships where it makes sense.” However, Klein had also said that his company was also researching AI. Basic models.
And the German software giant also sees itself at an advantage when it comes to data security. CEO Scott Russell said in an interview with Handelsblatt a few days ago: “We are experts in the secure handling of data.” The SAP platforms can be combined with different AI models, such as Google or Databricks. More than 20,000 SAP customers already use AI functions today.
Salesforce is already further along in development, at least says CEO Benioff. “We have several AI models from Salesforce in preparation.” The company will not copy partners like OpenAI. “We are used to dealing with sensitive customer data. That’s where our strength lies,” Benioff said. The Salesforce models are therefore focused on this area.
Market experts assess Salesforce’s AI ambitions positively. Benioff has only served an appetizer, says analyst Brent Thill, and the real benefits of AI at Salesforce will only become apparent in the next one to two years.
However, the products presented by Salesforce are still “immature” and are probably not immediately usable for customer companies, Thill restricts. Nevertheless, he recommends buying Salesforce shares and sets a price target of $275 per share, which corresponds to an increase in value of around 24 percent.
Other analysts are also optimistic: Benioff managed to push strategic topics such as AI and at the same time achieve an operating margin of more than 30 percent earlier than announced, wrote analyst Keith Weiß from Morgan Stanley in an analysis of the quarterly figures that Salesforce reported two years ago weeks. He estimates the price target for the company at $278 per share, similar to analyst Thill.
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