Artificial intelligence may seem like a concept that’s far removed from the channel. However, Salesforce on Nov. 3 unfurled an instance of its partner relationship management (PRM) software delivered as a service that comes infused with an Einstein AI engine that has the potential to transform how channels are managed.
PRM applications are loaded with data about customer transactions, but sorting through all that data to make the best optimal decision still requires a lot of time and effort. Now, channel partners will be able to employ Einstein to instantly identify what combination of products and services will, for example, yield the most profit for them.
Conversely, channel management teams will be able to, for example, readily identify what partners make the best use of marketing development funds (MDFs) or have had consistently high customer satisfaction ratings with a specific product or technology. More importantly from a partner perspective, the vendor should be able to better identify when a customer is most likely to upgrade an existing product or service.
That may take some getting used to for channel partners that are accustomed to counting on a few good meals and a round of golf to ensure their good standing with a vendor. More channel decisions than ever will be driven by facts rather than intuition.
While vendors are likely to embrace artificial intelligence capabilities with enthusiasm, it will only be a matter of time before AI technologies start to cut both ways in the channel. Instead of a PRM application, there will inevitably be a vendor relationship management (VRM) application infused with AI capabilities. Solution providers would then be able to instantly compare which vendor in a category, such as servers and storage, is providing them with the best deal at a given time.
It may take some time before channel partners see that application, but there’s probably an enterprise distributor or two already thinking through the AI implications. In fact, the future of the channel might very well be defined as a contest between competing algorithms.
Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications, including InfoWorld, CRN and eWEEK. He currently blogs daily for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, Channel Insider and Baseline.