Watson meets Einstein — Elementary, my Dear Holmes

Thomas Wieberneit
4 min readMar 8, 2017

This week Salesforce and IBM announced a global strategic partnership to deliver joint, AI based solutions based upon Salesforce Einstein and IBM Watson, their respective AI platforms. The upcoming solutions will be designed to “deliver everage artificial intelligence and enable companies to make smarter decisions, faster than ever before. With the partnership, IBM Watson, the leading AI platform for business, and Salesforce Einstein, AI that powers the world’s #1 CRM, will seamlessly connect to enable an entirely new level of intelligent customer engagement across sales, service, marketing, commerce and more.”

IBM Watson will be connected to the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform in a way that augments the customer specific insights that are delivered by Einstein with its structured and unstructured data that comes from a variety of sources, in order to be able to use specific as well as more generic, yet industry relevant, information. “Together, Watson and Einstein will ingest, reason over and derive recommendations to accelerate decision making and drive greater customer success.”

Initially planned solutions are

  • “IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein Integration: Integrating IBM Watson APIs into Salesforce will bring predictive insights from unstructured data, inside or outside an enterprise, together with predictive insights from customer data delivered by Salesforce Einstein to enable smarter, faster decisions across sales, service, marketing, commerce and more. For example, by combining local shopping patterns, weather and retail industry data from Watson with customer-specific shopping data and preferences from Salesforce Einstein, a retailer will be able to automatically send highly personalized and localized email campaigns to shoppers.”
  • “IBM Weather Insights for Salesforce: The Weather Company, an IBM business, will power a new Lightning component on the Salesforce AppExchange to provide weather insights that inform customer interactions and business performance. For example, an insurance company will be able to pull local forecast data from IBM Weather into Salesforce, and automatically send safety and policy information to customers who are at risk of being impacted by severe weather events.”
  • “IBM Application Integration Suite for Salesforce: Customers will be able to able to bring together on-premise enterprise and cloud data with specialized integration products for Salesforce, surfacing that data directly within the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform. For example, a wealth advisor will be able to unify client data, such as individual investments and risk profiles, with financial trends and public macroeconomic information from Application Integration Suite right within Salesforce to make smarter decisions for her customers.”

IBM builds up practice in their Bluewolf consulting services unit to help clients with the deployment of the upcoming combined solutions.

Additionally, IBM will internally deploy the Salesforce Service Cloud in order to improve (“transform”) their global support services and to get a better 360 degree view on their customers.

First joint solutions are expected to be delivered in the second half of 2017.

My Take

This partnership is an interesting and important move for both companies.

For IBM, adding to the deep partnership with SAP, this step is prone to embed Watson deeper into the fabric of businesses by developing strong ties to business applications. This is a clear win for IBM; in the Clash of the Titans they are more and more becoming the helper of several parties with their ability to add general knowledge to business internal knowledge.

Salesforce’s young Einstein predominantly works on data that is gathered within the Salesforce system. This poses a lot of limitations when it comes to derive smart and accurate recommendations and/or decisions. There are simply too many unknowns. Overcoming these limitations in my eyes has been the reason for the bid to acquire LinkedIn and the rumored acquisition plans for Twitter; both of which didn’t mature, as we know. Either platform would have delivered very interesting data to augment Salesforce data, albeit in both cases the urgency to improve on Einstein would have been higher than it is now, with Watson being one of the more mature engines around — and Google, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, … likely have different plans. Not to mention Microsoft .

This partnership surely brings them closer to finding Optimus Prime (thanks to Paul Greenberg for this article and title!).

The partnership also increases the stickiness of both companies in joint accounts. Either vendor also might become more attractive for customers of the respective other one, where I’d see a higher benefit for IBM.

A Word on the Competition

This partnership is squarely aimed at Microsoft and secondly at SAP. Oracle seems to play a different game altogether at the moment. The romance between Microsoft and Salesforce seems to be replaced by a kind of ice age.

With Cortana, Microsoft is the only business software vendor that has a strong AI platform that can cover business internal as well as business external knowledge, thanks also to the LinkedIn acquisition and to Bing. A working integration between Einstein and Watson should be more than capable of being on par with this powerful infrastructure.

As for SAP, they seem to focus more on deriving intelligence out of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Although their strategy towards and implementation of customer facing applications got much stronger in the past years, with Clea and Leonardo their own focus is more on process data. But then they have a partnership with IBM, too, although they did not tout too many joint solutions here — and there are some interesting possibilities in e.g. leveraging Watson in Hybris Marketing.

For both of them the competition heats up a notch again.

And the Customers

For joint Salesforce — IBM customers this partnership is more good than bad news. Surely their investments into both vendors are better protected now; on the other hand negotiation power might go down.

For new customers in the retail, finance, and insurance industries the playing field just got richer. I would further industries to be involved in the mix at later stages. There is more on offer now that needs to get carefully vetted.

The exciting times continue



Thomas Wieberneit

Helping businesses to improve in Digital Transformation, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, CRM, Innovation