Salesforce IoT demo shows it's becoming easier to meld CRM and IoT

While IoT implementations to advance Salesforce CRM are still a work in progress, mining sensor data to drive business goals is more realistic than ever before.

Today, using the internet-of-things channel for building CRM victories seems to be a demonstration of more hype than reality. But there is vast potential, as early adopters reap wins, executives said at a recent Salesforce IoT demo.

"A lot of companies are still figuring out what their strategy is," Chris Weld, Salesforce IoT Cloud go-to-market director, told SearchSalesforce after presenting at the Boston stop of the Salesforce World Tour. While he acknowledged "not a huge amount of companies" have figured out a game plan for monetizing IoT, many Salesforce customers are trying to figure it out. Today's data systems are more agile, making them more conducive for IoT than just a few years ago, he said, and narrowing the scope of implementations that can affect business goals.

"[Enhancing] service is the low-hanging fruit we've seen for IoT," Weld added. "When you look at the operational change that's required for connected device data, that's where we've seen the highest value."

Potential for B2B and B2C

Some of the early adopters showcased in the Salesforce IoT demo included Emerson Climate Technologies, a connected-thermostat maker that added value to its product by conducting diagnostics on newly installed heating and cooling systems. While many new home heating and cooling systems feature potentially excellent efficiency specifications, Weld said in his presentation, improper installation begets poor performance and inefficient energy use. When a thermostat can measure efficiency and report performance metrics back to consumers, it's a reality check and new data point about the job a household's local installer performed.

In the future, Emerson plans to expand those diagnostics beyond new system installs to more general efficiency tests to help consumers conserve energy and lower their bills. In this way, the company hopes to prove to consumers the worth of its "smart thermostat" that typically costs twice as much as ones that aren't IoT-connected.

Also in the Salesforce IoT demo was a hypothetical large-format printer manufacturer using a combination of Salesforce IoT Cloud and Service Cloud features to track wear and tear on printers and help the businesses using the printers troubleshoot and replace parts as they wear out.

Scoping the IoT plan for your company

To figure out if investing in IoT to boost CRM capabilities is worthwhile, Weld said Salesforce customers he's worked with on IoT projects have to innovate rapidly. This means, typically, they have to fail fast and iterate again if the original concept doesn't quite work out in real-life tests.

They also need to add customer context -- examples include service history and service-level agreements (SLAs) in place -- to be able to act upon data the IoT sensors are outputting into the CRM system.

It is early in the game, early in the technology evolution.
Wayne Kurtzmanresearch director, IDC

The most forward-thinking customers, Weld said, take advantage of real-time tech and thinking about IoT service implementations as proactive instead of reactive. "If we were doing this session four years ago, we'd be talking about Hadoop and HBase and [retrospectively analyzing] this incredible amount of data," Weld said. "We want to shift away from that and say, 'It's great to know what happened two days ago, but I really want to know what's happening right now so I can prevent problems before they occur.'"

The potential problem with IoT for CRM: thinking too big. Wayne Kurtzman, research director for social and experiential solutions at IDC, said the trick for companies to turn their CRM IoT pilots into money-making implementations is picking the right spots. Getting too ambitious too quickly can potentially eat up returns on investment before the projects get off the ground.

"That is a challenge," Kurtzman said. "It is early in the game, early in the technology evolution -- there's some risks at the beginning of any adoption curve. But if you play it right, if you play it where you are versatile, you can in fact reap significant benefits."

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