Ad-hoc promotions and "AI for Everyone"
The platforms that plug into everything offer an out for executives charged with building an AI strategy.
Author’s note: Due to the very high volume of conferences over the next few weeks, to keep up with reporting (and not fall over out of exhaustion) I’ll be publishing two paid issues per week through the end of September. In addition, I’ll be taking my first real-ish vacation the first week of October, so there will only be one issue coming out that week.
Back in 2016, before we even had a proper machine learning stack, Salesforce took the stage at Dreamforce to unveil Einstein under the tagline “AI for Everyone.”
Dreamforce is again back in San Francisco this week, but now we have a radically-altered AI landscape that includes powerful language and diffusion models that show the promise of re-making entire workflows and creating new categories of products. And at Dreamforce, Salesforce unveiled another Einstein AI tool: Einstein Copilot.
We can debate how useful these kinds of tools are from a platform perspective (they absolutely can be!). But in both Einstein cases, they serve a key thematic purpose for the attendees and interested buyers of these AI-adjacent mega-conferences lately: for the love of god, give me a thing so I can show my boss we’re using AI.
For as many forward-thinking companies that have already been aggressively exploring AI options and startups with the agility to quickly adjust to the emerging technology, it feels like there’s an equal number of executives and teams that have been abruptly thrust into the role of building an AI strategy.
We could call this a kind of on-the-spot-appointed “AI Chief”: the nearest executive in the room that just happened to be the closest thing to someone who would know how to implement AI. The AI Chief gets the directive from a CEO (or perhaps the board of directors behind that CEO) to build out an AI roadmap with a radically amorphous goal and is basically said, hey, go get it done.
When you look back at products like Salesforce’s Einstein, they were literally branded as an “AI for Everyone” product. The notion today remains roughly the same. We stick these features in there for you so you can, bare minimum, have AI somewhere in your products. (That’s obviously a generous decomposition of the tool that potentially has many merits, but it’s there thematically.)
It also shows the kind of position of power that a company offering a kind of platform-level product that’s already deeply integrated with a company’s inner workings. And that isn’t just limited to Salesforce.