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As the Total Addressable Market for Salesforce product expands, can alliances and channels keep up?

Katy Ring Profile picture for user Katy Ring June 6, 2024
Salesforce's alliances and partners strategy is going to be critical in an AI-expanded marketplace. Here's why.


AI adoption is reshaping the business applications market as AI needs to be incorporated into the application workflow itself, as part of the user’s copilot, as well as embedded into an organization’s workflows. 

Salesforce’s Einstein Copilot helps companies to create custom actions, using their own CRM data, existing workflows, APIs and code. Because Copilot can be used across applications, Salesforce sees a big opportunity to establish itself as the leading Copilot platform for business applications, with the Einstein Trust Layer providing the guardrails to keep both organizational data and customer experience secure. If Salesforce is to grow into this expanding market opportunity, it needs its alliances and channels to be pulling it into a position to do so.

The way to an ISV’s loyalty is through procurement flexibility

ISVs bring specialized AI application capabilities that Salesforce customers need. To further enable this co-creation, Salesforce recently launched its Einstein 1 Platform for ISVs so that they can build AI applications with Prompt Studio and add meta data to include in the Copilot. In this way partners are able to use the Einstein Trust Layer, which creates a new go to market capability for them, while supporting customers looking to extend Copilot. Partners and customers can bring their own models into the Copilot and still take advantage of the Einstein Trust Layer.

To appeal to ISVs, Salesforce has simplified enterprise procurement of ISV applications, as the market shifts towards quicker software procurement via marketplaces. Customers increasingly want to try before they buy but have told Salesforce that they were finding it difficult to understand different trial options. Salesforce now enables ISVs to offer four trial types via the AppExchange:

  • TrialForce, where a partner creates an app and the customer gets a copy for a timed trial
  • Test Drive, which provides more of a window-shopping experience so that prospects can see how an app functions, but cannot interact with it.
  • Sandbox Trials, where the partner installs the customer within their sandbox.
  • In-production Trails, where the customer can install the partner app with a pilot set of users.

Winning system integrator hearts and minds

As diginomica has previously reported, Salesforce is changing its internal alliances and channels organisation to optimize the way it works with system integrator partners. A big motivation for the changes lies with the opportunity that AI affords Salesforce for growth. Customers are experimenting with AI and want to know how to progress their adoption of the technology. To address this Salesforce has set up a new team of solution engineers dedicated solely to working with partners because customers are looking for faster innovation in AI from trusted partners. An example of the way this is working lies with Salesforce’s partnership with Cognizant to build solutions to take to customers such as Cognizant’s Salesforce Data Cloud Navigator.

Jemma Byrne, SVP, Alliances & Channels, Salesforce EMEA, recently explained how Salesforce is working with its ecosystem to become an AI story teller using customer references such as its project with the Hungarian multi-national MOLGroup. Working with partner IBM and MOLGroup, Salesforce transformed the multinational’s loyalty program, developing 15 personas to enhance its marketing campaign.  Using Data Cloud and Databricks, micro-segments were created across strategic customer segments and then IBM’s watsonx platform was used to power GenAI experiences supporting Eastern European languages.

As AI adoption gains traction, one of the challenges for all technology vendors is keeping partners up to speed with products. Salesforce is aiming to close the skills gap by achieving 235,000 certified partner individuals and 700,000 certifications by FY 25. To do this it is building providing training programs and already has 25,000 certified AI associates from its Trailhead qualification.

My take

Because CRM is an area where organizations are keen to implement AI, Salesforce is in a good position to grow with both its ISV and SI partners as they increasingly adopt AI in their products and in their services skills base. However, as Salesforce itself well knows, it is competing for GSI partner investment with all its main competitors, some of whom have tighter relationships with the data and analytics practices of those GSIs. 

At present, Salesforce is focusing its efforts on existing Salesforce practices and is somewhat reliant on those practices, or customers themselves, forging the ability for Salesforce to be taken into other business areas. Byrne believes that the popularity of the Salesforce AI associate credential will pull through cross-training opportunities, as will the Tableau and MuleSoft credentials that Salesforce provides. This approach has merit, but I think Salesforce would benefit from a more structured outreach to its GSI partners that centers on their Salesforce practices but loudly welcomes adjacent practices to come and try the AI technology that Salesforce has available.

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