AI is only as good as the data that it has…

As organizations grapple with the integration of generative AI, the focus has shifted from its adoption to its responsible and ethical use. Arun Kumar Parameswaran, Senior Vice President & Managing Director at Salesforce, highlights how this platform positions itself at the forefront of this shift, emphasizing training and policy development for secure AI implementation.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of enterprise IT, 2024 is poised to be a year of significant transformation, driven by advancements in AI, automation, and a heightened focus on data privacy and compliance. This in-depth conversation between Nisha Sharma, Principal Correspondent, CIO&Leader, and Arun Kumar Parameswaran, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of Salesforce, sheds light on the key trends shaping the enterprise IT space and how solutions are being tailored to address these evolving needs.

Moreover, the discussion provides a glimpse into how customer success stories inform the company’s strategies, with examples like a luxury retailer’s use of AI to enhance call center operations and a leading manufacturer’s use of field service solutions. These cases demonstrate the practical benefits of the company’s products and underscore its dedication to empowering organizations through digital transformation.

Arun Kumar Parameswaran, Senior Vice President & Managing Director Salesforce

Let’s dive into the insights from Arun Kumar Parameswaran as we explore the cutting-edge strategies and solutions poised to redefine enterprise IT in 2024.

CIO&Leader: What are the key trends shaping the enterprise IT landscape in 2024? How are your solutions positioned to address these trends?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: By 2026, Gartner predicts over 80% of enterprises will use generative AI, up from less than 5% in 2023. The goal is full workflow automation across business sectors. 2024, data privacy and compliance will be crucial, requiring accurate data and strict governance policies. Cyber defense strategies will evolve to meet new threats. ‘Semantic query’ will become a key term, reflecting AI’s role in daily workflows.

At Salesforce, our strategy aligns with these trends, focusing on ethical and secure generative AI implementation. The emphasis is on training and policy development to help businesses use generative AI effectively while maintaining security. Next year, the focus will shift from whether to use generative AI to how to do it responsibly.

CIO&Leader: What are your top priorities for 2024?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: Salesforce is engaging in India’s growth opportunity, supporting businesses and the economy. As a digital partner, we’ve seen growth and customer success and aim to continue this trend in 2024, focusing on industry transformations. Our commitment is highlighted by our expanded Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad and Bangalore offices, marking India as a critical talent and innovation hub for Salesforce.

We are hiring across various roles in technology, product, sales, business support, and customer success in India. We work with major customers like TVS Motor, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Asian Paints, Atomberg, Air India, and Mahindra & Mahindra. The ecosystem of partners and startups in India is a vital part of our operations. With many Salesforce developers and Trailhead users, India is an essential market for us outside the US. We are dedicated to continuing our support for innovation and growth in India.

CIO&Leader: With the growing importance of digital transformation, what strategic initiatives and product offerings can your company provide to help organizations stay competitive in 2024 and beyond?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: Salesforce is actively engaged in the AI revolution, prioritizing trust as our core value due to the challenges of privacy, bias, and toxicity in AI. We emphasize a digital strategy that enhances productivity and efficiency for today’s needs and future visions. Salesforce leads in providing trusted solutions to business leaders.

Our focus has been on developing safe, responsible AI for over a decade. Salesforce Einstein generates over 1 trillion AI-powered predictions weekly, integrated across Customer 360. This empowers both technical and non-technical businesses. AI advancements are reshaping CRM user interactions for improved performance and satisfaction. At Dreamforce, we introduced the Einstein 1 Platform, a safe AI platform for customer companies to build AI-powered apps and enhance CRM experiences. The platform includes conversational AI assistants and tools like Einstein Copilot and Data Cloud, simplifying the creation of AI assistants and integrating AI into various workflows. The Einstein Copilot and Studio operate within the Einstein Trust Layer, ensuring secure AI use. These AI capabilities benefit clients like Heathrow Airport, Gucci, and RBC US Wealth Management.

CIO&Leader: How are your solutions adapting to support automation and AI? What innovations can we expect in this space in 2024?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: Looking ahead to 2024, we anticipate further advancements in applying Generative AI. Our focus remains on making this technology accessible to businesses of all sizes. Additionally, continuing our dedication to responsible AI development, Salesforce has developed comprehensive guidelines for generative AI based on our Trusted AI Principles. These principles serve as an industry-leading framework, guiding companies on the thoughtful integration of generative AI into their operations while upholding ethical standards. As the AI landscape evolves, our commitment to responsible and inclusive AI development ensures that our solutions continue to meet the changing needs of businesses, both large and small.

CIO&Leader: As organizations value their intelligence, what enhancements can we anticipate in your solutions?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: AI is only as good as the data that it has. We can’t unlock the promise of AI without being able to trust what it generates. 2024 will see a strong focus on data privacy and compliance. We can expect a strong continued focus on data privacy and compliance, which includes implementing more robust data governance frameworks, establishing clear policies for data collection, storage, and usage, and continuous monitoring and auditing of training data. Data harmonization will be crucial for business leaders to extract value from their data sources better and effectively leverage AI. Fostering a robust data-driven company requires a focus on driving confidence and trust to drive adoption. The emphasis on democratizing data and analytics will take a new turn. Data and analytics will become more proactive by automatically identifying anomalies in underlying business data, delivering insights in natural language, and allowing users to ask questions and get answers quickly without pulling in a data analyst.

CIO&Leader: The talent gap in IT remains a concern. How are you supporting CIOs/enterprises in addressing the skills shortage, and what initiatives are in place to foster education and training for IT professionals in the coming year?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: Our approach to addressing the IT talent gap includes partnerships with various stakeholders and offering online instructor-led Salesforce technology training. This training, led by experts, provides tailored, accessible content.

With a growing need for AI and automation skills, we emphasize training in data security, ethical AI, and programming. Our free, self-paced learning platform, Trailhead, enables users to gain and showcase skills.

We also support learners through “Ask a Mentor” sessions and SoftSkill training, enhancing their employability. Additionally, we organize career fairs and connection events, linking learners with potential employers.

Trailhead has empowered about 4 million individuals with in-demand skills. Locally, our collaborations with entities like NASSCOM and AICTE have facilitated innovation and introduced thousands to Salesforce.

Beyond technical skills, we advocate for diverse tech career paths, emphasizing the need for continuous investment in digital skills for the global economy’s growth.

CIO&Leader: Can you provide examples of successful customer use cases from the past year demonstrating the value of your products and solutions, and how do these success stories inform your 2024 strategy?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: In the past year, we’ve seen impactful customer use cases that highlight the value of our products, guiding our 2024 strategy toward customer success and digital transformation.

A prominent luxury retailer utilized our AI products to upgrade their call center operations, successfully transforming agents into multifaceted sales and marketing professionals. This approach, emphasizing “human touch powered by technology,” resulted in a 30% increase in case handling efficiency.

Similarly, Atomberg Technologies in India leveraged our Field Service solution to enhance their on-site service capabilities. This move significantly boosted their productivity and customer experience, demonstrating the practical benefits of our offerings in diverse settings.

CIO&Leader: Vendor partnerships are crucial in the enterprise IT ecosystem. What collaborations and alliances are in the pipeline for your company, and how will they benefit CIOs and their organizations in 2024?

Arun Kumar Parameswaran: These partnerships are crucial for CIOs and their organizations as they drive customer success. For example, a notable CRM platform’s partner ecosystem is a dynamic force, with projections indicating it will outgrow the company itself by sixfold by 2026. These vendor partnerships bring extensive expertise, as partners are adept in the platform’s products, allowing for seamless technology integration. Such collaborations enable organizations to harness the ecosystem’s vast capabilities quickly, providing CIOs with essential tools for success in the rapidly evolving enterprise IT landscape. The partners in this ecosystem specialize in technology and expertise that span the entire digital transformation journey, from managing large-scale implementations to creating solutions for improved operational efficiency, catering to the diverse needs of businesses at different transformation stages.

Addressing CIOs’ concerns about the total cost of ownership, this approach in 2024 is centered on enhancing operational efficiency through AI-driven automation, minimizing manual tasks, and increasing productivity. The suite of cloud-based services is designed for scalability, ensuring customers only pay for the services they use. The model offers a subscription basis, prioritizes personalization, maintains high security and compliance standards, and champions training and upskilling through customer success programs. This holistic approach aims to optimize costs while delivering a tangible return on investment, strategically positioning customers for long-term benefits.

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