Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and IBM CEO Ginni Rommety
IBM and Salesforce released the first results of their partnership this week, which analysts say are positive for both sides PHOTO: Jon Simon/IBM

When Salesforce announced a “landmark” partnership with IBM in March, it struck many as an odd arrangement. 

After all, Armonk, NY-based IBM is a century-old technology company that came to market with products like employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, automatic meat slicers and punch card equipment. San Francisco-based Salesforce, in contrast, was born in the cloud to offer businesses of (almost) any size CRM solutions.

IBM's revenues have declined for the last 21 quarters in spite of all its efforts. Salesforce, on the other hand, consistently grows its revenues while also fighting for human rights, speaking out politically and building a sky-high tower in San Francisco.

Artificial Intelligence, the Great Leveler

Despite the significant differences, the two companies have one big thing in common: a belief that their resident artificial intelligence (AI) geniuses, IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein, can help individuals, businesses and organizations live better and work better.

Integrate Watson with Einstein and the possibilities are tremendous, according to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

“These are the best of both worlds for artificial intelligence. These are the two best players coming together,” said Benioff in March.

Nearly six months later, IBM and Salesforce have unveiled their joint solutions.

Bring IBM Weather Data Into Salesforce

Salesforce users will now have the ability to bring IBM Weather Company data into their Salesforce applications via three new Lightning components. Lightning components are tools built by Salesforce that make it easier to build responsive applications for any device.

The new components include:

  1. Weather Focus: Helps developers bring weather data into applications within the context of the customer contact or account record. For example, if a major weather event is impending and a delivery will be delayed, the business can notify customers.
  2. Weather Recorder: Empowers customers to save time-stamped weather data directly into Salesforce. This information could help insurance assessors evaluate risk, validate claims and minimize fraud.
  3. Scheduling Assistant: Helps users select the best times for appointments according to the weather. So, if you are a meeting planner, for example, you know whether to schedule a company event indoors or out.

These Lightning components are available out of the box, however, developers who want to do more or a quick start can find code on Github.

There’s also a learning path on how to incorporate weather data into applications on Salesforce Trailhead, Salesforce’s self-guided school for developers.

Constellation Research co-founder R. "Ray" Wang told CMSWire this is a significant development because most organizations lack key contextual data in time, location (geospatial) and weather. "Having weather insights powers mass personalization at scale," he said.

Bring Salesforce Data Into IBM Apps

IBM has made it simple to bring Salesforce data into IBM apps, where users can blend and leverage both cloud data and on-premises data. An investment advisor could, for example, marry client data, such as investment portfolios and their associated risks, with macroeconomic and publicly available data using IBM Cloud Integration directly within Salesforce to help customers hedge their bets.

Constellation Research vice president and principal analyst, Holger Mueller, told CMSWire this is “a good move,” though he cautioned that making data easily accessible to Platform as a Service (PaaS) developers was becoming “table stakes” with the rapidly emerging Data as a Service (DaaS) marketplace.

IBM Consulting Services Around Salesforce

IBM Bluewolf, IBM's edgy consulting services company, will be launching Salesforce customer engagement centers throughout the world. These centers will be geared towards helping customers leverage cognitive and design thinking into their projects and drive digital transformation for their companies.

Both Mueller and Wang agree this is a significant announcement from a market perspective. Much of IBM’s revenue comes from consulting services and IBM needs bring newer software products, such as Salesforce, into the mix. “These offerings are first steps towards that,” said Mueller, noting that, "It's interesting to see the DevOps consulting aspect."

IBM-Salesforce Partnership Bears Fruit

It is good to see the Salesforce, IBM partnership bear fruit, according to Mueller and Wang. When the partnership was initially announced, some skeptics thought it was puffery, aimed at upstaging Microsoft which had gained and then lost Benioff’s trust.

In the initial announcement, Benioff had categorized the news as “two of the most important companies in technology coming together for the benefit of our customers.” He heralded their mutual values around “trust, growth, innovation and equality.”

It is certainly hard to say that products are more important than a joint commitment to these values, but remarkable that one can materialize from the other. The world needs more of this.