Crystal ball-gazing – three technologies I see driving business growth in 2017


Another year over, a new one about to begin. Andrew Lawson, SVP, North Europe, Middle East & Africa and Managing Director, UK & Ireland at Salesforce, gets out his crystal ball to place some bets on 2017 tech.

Andrew Lawson
Andrew Lawson

It’s that time of year when people love to compile top ten lists of the past year’s biggest milestones.

 I’m looking ahead now to 2017 and predicting the big tech trends that I think will most impact enterprises.

There were some great innovations in 2016 – so what’s ahead for 2017? Here are my top three big bets.

Artificial Intelligence and predictive intelligence

There’s been plenty of noise about AI for a few years now, but I think that 2017 will be the year that predictive intelligence in particular comes to the forefront.  We’ve moved past the breathless stories about IBM’s Watson beating Jeopardy champions and into the enterprise, where users will be able to use predictive intelligence on an everyday basis.

Here’s why – traditionally, AI has been complex to use and often needed specialists to understand and work the technology. So although AI used to be the domain of data scientists and back office IT teams, there are now enterprise-ready solutions that every business user at every level can use to make better decisions.

For example, we recently announced that our AI technology, Salesforce Einstein, is fully embedded across all of our technologies. So whether you’re a marketer, a salesperson, a developer, or pretty much anyone in an organisation, you can now benefit from having your own ‘data scientist’ in your pocket – right on your phone. Using the insights that this technology brings, you can more easily identify the best activities to tackle based on real-time business and customer insights. These benefits are delivered seamlessly and within context – so you don’t need to be a tech geek to use AI as your secret weapon to success. This is a big step-change.

The other big factor behind the mainstreaming of AI is that it is now available in cloud-based offerings, which makes it affordable for businesses of all sizes. I’m especially excited about the small start-ups leveraging AI to punch above their weight like never before, and I think it will play a big part in the Ubers of tomorrow that will disrupt entire sectors.   

For me the most compelling reason for AI hitting the big time next year is that it addresses a very real business need. According to our Connected Customer report, 45% of consumers and 57% of business buyers say that by 2020 they will switch brands if a company doesn’t actively anticipate their needs. To compete, companies need to stay a step ahead, and AI and predictive intelligence will be absolutely critical in achieving success. 

Workplace mobility

This is another topic that has been in-play for a few years – there is no debate that we live in a mobile-first world, and to compete, businesses already need to be completely mobile-first in their approach. But I think mobility is ready to make a break for the score-line as businesses move from mobile-first to native mobile.

Let’s be realistic about response times and what that means for a customer connection – companies who truly empower their workers with anytime, anywhere work capabilities to serve their customers “just in time” will pull ahead of the competition. It’s not just about allowing your staff mobiles and tablets. It’s about giving them specific workplace apps designed to help them while they are on the go – for example, ensuring sales people can glance at their mobiles and get just the right insight they need to close a deal, or allowing a field service team member to quickly access a customer’s profile so that when you fix current issues, you can actively preempt future ones as well. According to our 2016 State of IT report, mobile app development was the number-one area IT leaders expected increased investment through 2018.    

The cloud

This may sound a little strange, as I work for a company that effectively started the cloud business 17 years ago, but cloud CRM remains a top opportunity for businesses to grab in 2017.

For companies not using cloud, it’s important to remember that customer expectations are growing exponentially.  As shown in our Connected Customer report: more than 75% of UK business buyers and consumers expect the companies they engage with to provide seamless, personalised experiences across all channels, digital and physical.

And let’s get real – companies relying on historical, on-premise IT simply cannot compete in this Age of the Customer and provide these kinds of experiences as they are inevitably straddled with information silos, which leave them inflexible and slow. 

But many companies – across all sectors – have yet to embrace the cloud, and some still have to complete their cloud transformation. Research from IDC this year show that spending on the cloud will skyrocket from $82 billion to $162 billion in 2020. So I think it’s pretty safe to say that in 2017, cloud technology will become even more critical to business success.

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