THE BLOG
10/11/2016 04:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Data Scientist: Successful Businesses Are Powered By Artificial Intelligence

"All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking." - Albert Einstein

The artificial intelligence revolution has arrived. Companies are racing to deliver AI capabilities that make sense of the massive influx of data created in the last several years as a result of the cloud, mobile, social and IoT trends. But cracking the AI nut is difficult.

The technical requirements, resources and expertise needed to deliver AI are enormous, and until recently it was only feasible for the largest companies. But as intelligence becomes the new currency in business, it is vital that these barriers be knocked down and that the power of AI reaches the hands of employees across organizations, in every industry and of all sizes.

Salesforce Data Scientist Chalenge Masekera and his team are doing just that. I sat down with him to discuss the impact of AI and why it's not just for data scientists anymore.

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Chalenge Masekera, Data Scientist, Salesforce

Over the past several years we've seen several big transitions in business starting with the cloud revolution, then mobile, social and IoT. Now we're entering into the next phase: artificial intelligence. What is spurring this intelligence revolution? Why now?

Let's take a look at these revolutions one by one. The cloud revolution allowed businesses to easily and cheaply set up and deploy apps and systems without having to worry about infrastructure. The mobile and social revolution allowed everyone to be online from anywhere in the world and be constantly connected. This gave way to IoT which added another dimension by allowing almost any device to be online. The result has is an explosion of applications, people and devices that are online, connected and create massive data footprints.

With this incredible amount of data on everything from human behavior, social issues, health informatics and machine performance, we have a huge opportunity to uncover insights on how to build better products and make people smarter. This is where machine learning and AI come in. There is simply too much data being produced and at such a high volume that it's impossible for humans to sift through it and derive intelligence from it. But with artificial intelligence computers are to digest and learn from this data and ultimately become smarter.

Additionally, computer processing power has grown at an incredible rate while the cost of processing this data has decreased significantly, making AI more accessible. In fact, AI is everywhere, in nearly every app and device that we use every day. Apple's Siri leverages natural language processing to recognize voice commands. Facebook's deep learning facial recognition algorithm can instantly identify a person with nearly 98 percent accuracy. And Amazon, Netflix and Spotify all utilize machine learning to understand how each item in their massive catalogs not only relate to one another, but also each customer's preferences.

Artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming a de facto requirement, whether it be a consumer app or enterprise system.

Why does AI matter for business? Can you share some examples of how AI will make people smarter?

Every business needs to be smart about its interactions with customers and be able to provide fast, smart and more personalized engagement at every touchpoint. AI does just that.

With AI embedded into business processes, companies are suddenly armed with deeper insights on their customers and actionable recommendations on a best path forward so users across sales, service, marketing and IT can make smarter decisions.

For example, cable providers can leverage AI to improve customer retention. So if a customer has a service issue, the service agent can look at the type of issue the customer is experiencing and the client's lifetime value to recommend an appropriate action such as a credit for a streaming movie or a free technician visit for a service disruption. Or a retailer can identify new store locations based on historical data such as sales, demographics and distance from competitors and nearby events.

What industries do you see having the most potential for disruption with AI?

The opportunities for businesses across all industries and of any size to become smarter with AI really are endless.

I think the transportation industry has some exciting potential to transform with AI, especially as autonomous cars continue to become more and more of a reality. With AI, car companies can not only reduce costs, but also make the roads safer by eliminating human error and reducing accidents.

I also see financial services being heavily impacted. Market shifts and varying economic conditions across the world can now be leveraged to help make financial advisors smarter about the needs of their clients. For instance, financial advisors can identify which clients were affected by a recent shift in the market or have made a significant deposit and now require extra guidance on their holdings.


As the power of AI is democratized to non-technical business users, how do you see this impacting the way people work and connect with customers?

Think back to the days before GPS. People used to use actual printed maps, and if you got lost then you had to make a guess as to which freeway exit to take and when to turn right on. Now, we can get in our cars and go anywhere in the world with turn by turn instructions. It is easy, and most of all it is empowering. The same is true for the way people with work and collaborate with one another.

AI will supercharge productivity and allow people of all skill levels and roles to be smarter and drive their business forward like never before.

For most companies, AI is out of reach because of the technical complexity and expensive resources required to get these systems up and running at scale. How is your team building products that are complex in nature, but simple for people to use and understand?

A key pillar is understanding the context for AI and how it will be applied. Salesforce Einstein is composed of many talented data science experts from diverse backgrounds who are very much in tune with the context of where AI needs to be applied and how users will use it. There are simply not enough data scientists in the world to help each company leverage AI, but with Einstein our goal is to deliver the power of data science to customers in a way that is seamless and easy to use, just like we experience AI in our personal lives.

The next generation customer experience is powered by AI. Customer experience is also at the heart of digital business transformation. In the age of the customer, where everyone and everything is connected, more informed and decisively agile, every enterprise app must be a smart app, and all businesses must leverage AI to stay competitive and relevant. The barriers of entry for advanced analytics and AI have been lowered, democratizing intelligence in every industry and every business of all sizes. Are you ready for the AI revolution?