At its World Tour Essentials event held in Johannesburg yesterday (6 June), Salesforce demonstrated how developments in AI are helping to transform the data analytics and CRM environments.

According to the latest IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Salesforce, The Salesforce Economy: South Africa, Salesforce and its partner ecosystem, fueled by AI- powered cloud solutions, will generate $5,8-billion in net new business between 2022 and 2028. The paper report estimates a net gain of 33 000 jobs are being generated through AI-powered cloud solutions in South Africa by 2028.

The Salesforce ecosystem of partners in the South African region has grown 34% YoY in FY24 but the most significant improvement is in the area of certifications, with an increase of 43% in total. These partners are helping organisations across all sectors to raise employee productivity and transform with real-time insights and new levels of customer experience.

“At Salesforce, we’re excited by the strides our customers and partners in South Africa are taking to succeed in the developing AI era,” says Zuko Mdwaba, area vice-president at Salesforce South Africa.

He adds that Salesforce has been delivering AI for over a decade, with predictive AI helping customers to increase conversions, optimise spend, personalise experiences and grow relationships.

The new era of generative AI (GenAI) is seeing massive growth and will drive the next wave of autonomous AI and agents like Saleforce’s Einstein.

“AI will augment every enterprise to improve productivity, drive higher margins and deliver better customer relationship management (CRM), Mdwaba says. “We believe the biggest benefit of AI is getting back more time.”

Robin Fisher, senior area vice-president at Salesforce emerging markets, adds: “By embracing the power of AI, organisations in the public and private sector can seize opportunities for growth and contribute to the wider project of economic diversification.”

The newly-released Salesforce State of Marketing Report indicates that 85% of marketers in South Africa are already experimenting with or have fully implemented AI into their workflows.

According to the report, the three most popular AI use cases among marketers in South Africa are: content generation, automation of customer interactions, programmatic advertising and media buying. Loyalty programmes are the most common AI tactic to collect data.

Businesses have long struggled to connect disparate data points to create consistent, personalised experiences across customer journeys. Yet, as third-party cookies are depreciated and AI proliferates, that quest is only becoming more critical – and challenging.

The report found that, while 64% of marketers in South Africa have access to real-time data to execute a campaign, 50% need the IT department’s help to do so.

The event’s keynote unpacked Salesforces’ vision as well as the evolution of the platform and how clouds come together to open the path to trusted Enterprise AI with the Einstein 1 Platform.

Data Cloud is a data platform that allows companies to unify disparate data points into a harmonised data model on the Salesforce Einstein 1 Platform, giving every team member the same 360-degree view of every customer. This allows employees to drive automation, analytics, and personalised engagements through the power of trusted AI.

“Conversational AI interactions are delivered through a single Einstein Copilot across all applications on the platform, with creation and tailoring capabilities supported within Einstein 1 Studio”, says Linda Saunders, Salesforce director: solutions engineering Africa.

She adds that enterprises should follow five steps to successfully deploy AI. This starts with building a 360-degree view of the customer, then unifying and harmonizing data, followed by collaborating with AI and delivering AI analytics, and concluding with the deployment of trusted AI and Copilot.

As Salesforce continues to grow its presence in the market, its important that skills among both partners and users are kept up to date.

Ursula Fear, senior talent programme manager at Salesforce South Africa, comments: “These are exciting times for South Africa, with digital skills a R400-billion contributor to the local economy.”

While Salesforce is predicted to drive the creation of 32 000 net new jobs, the country is experiencing its highest-ever unemployment numbers. But studies show that 92% of all jobs need digital skills, and there is a 50% increase in demand for employees with these skills.

“Globally, 1-billion workers will have to reskill,” Fear points out.

To meet the need for these new skills, she believes that all stakeholders need to come together to solve this universal issue.

Salesforce has a number of initiatives to drive awareness in schools and universities, offering free or subsidised training, and making it easier for partners to skill up.

“We want our partners to become experts,” she says. “We can’t import skills, so we need to build local depth and breadth.”

Salesforce has announced the launch of its second cohort with ALX, after just having completed its first cohort of 1 000 students across Africa over a six-month period, creating job-ready professionals. It starts with ALX Foundations, which provides career development skills to help students thrive in the digital workforce. It then teaches students security, customising CRM dashboards, data management, and data analysis.

Collective X, an ambitious private sector-led initiative spearheaded by Salesforce has, since launching a year ago, been successful in building future-fit skills for the local economy.

“Business is a platform for change and only by partnering together and building not only the digital skills needed but also equipping people with the necessary experience, can we address the unemployment crisis in the country,” adds Fear.

Salesforce also recently piloted a new concept with the Dundee digital skills hub, where 14 unemployed graduates were taken through Salesforce certification – with a 100% success rate.

Says Fischer: “Our goal is to democratise software. CRM and AI cannot only be solutions for the enterprise, but for all organisations. South Africa and Africa are among the fastest-growing markets in the world – and the reality is the anyone can use Salesforce.”