Executives and entrepreneurs debate the challenges of enterprise AI


TOPBOTS Enterprise AI Panel

“Enterprise users don’t know the difference between algorithms and logarithms,“ jokes Marco Casalaina, VP of product management at Salesforce Einstein, during an enterprise AI event Topbots recently hosted for executives and entrepreneurs in San Francisco.

Sadly, he’s right. Despite non-stop media hype about “artificial intelligence” and “deep learning,” very few people even know what those terms mean, much less how the technologies work. Casalaina’s had stints as a product and technology leader at the biggest names in enterprise — Oracle, SAP, now Salesforce — and years of experience designing and selling complex business solutions. His biggest pet peeve? When people don’t clearly convey product benefits and resort to meaningless marketing speak, like “actionable insights” or “predictive analytics.”

“Entrepreneurs talk about ‘democratizing data science,’ but then in a pitch the first words out of their mouth are ‘we have this new auto-feature-engineering tool’,” complains Casalaina. “There are 20,000 people in the world who understand what feature engineering is. Once you say that, you’ve lost your audience.”

Casalaina’s keynote was followed by a panel of enterprise A.I. experts, ranging from entrepreneurs and investors, to designers, marketers, and engineers. I asked them a few tough questions to spark some lively debate.

Where is the highest potential ROI for AI in enterprise?

Brand engagement, says Eva Steele-Saccio, writer and conversational designer at PullString. She shares an incredible statistic: Only 1 percent of people click through in email ad campaigns, but she sees 90 percent click-through rates on PullString’s chatbot messages on Facebook.

Nikhil Balaraman, director of product marketing at Infer, stands by his statement that “lead scoring is maybe the highest ROI, and the ROI is measurable,” directly disagreeing with Casalaina’s view that the space is overcrowded. Ayush Agarwal, head of enterprise products at Facebook, agrees on the potential of ROI in lead scoring, but emphasizes that we need to look “at the whole business process and build a clean system,” rather than just apply AI to a narrow task.

What’s your biggest challenge in selling AI to customers who don’t understand AI?

Steele-Saccio emphasizes that many companies assume chatbots can chat about anything, but creating a truly great experience entails focusing on the right use cases for the brand and their users. “Keeping the focus tight can be a challenge,” she warns.

Nathan Ross, cofounder and…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

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Sasha Harriet

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