Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) has announced a partnership with Adobe Inc. (ADBE) and privately held startup C3.ai to offer customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions utilizing artificial intelligence (AI).

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft is taking on CRM market leader salesforce.com, inc. (CRM) via a partnership with Adobe and AI startup C3.ai.
  • The joint effort is offering AI-driven CRM software that promises enhanced predictive capabilities.
  • CRM pioneer Tom Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, is the CEO of C3.ai.

"This year has made clear that businesses fortified by digital technology are more resilient and more capable of transforming when faced with sweeping changes like those we are experiencing," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "Together with C3.ai and Adobe, we are bringing to market a new class of industry-specific AI solutions," he added.

The joint effort is designed to leverage the combined resources of the three partners to mount a more effective challenge to the dominance of salesforce.com in the CRM field than any of them could achieve individually. According to research firm Gartner Inc. (IT), salesforce is the top vendor of CRM software, with a 20% share of this $56 billion market in 2019, while Microsoft's Dynamics 365 offering registered a mere 2.6% market share.

Additionally, since the new CRM offering is designed to run on Microsoft's Azure cloud computing infrastructure, this should help boost its own market share.

Key Features of the Partnership

The announcement indicates that the partnership will have two main aspects. These are:

  • Create a jointly marketed integrated suite of industry-specific AI-enabled CRM solutions for applications in marketing, sales, and customer service. This suite will integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365, Adobe Experience Cloud (including Adobe Experience Platform), and industry-specific data models, connectors, and AI models from C3.ai.
  • Use dedicated sales teams to target large enterprise accounts in multiple industries globally. Put initial sales focus on financial services, oil and gas, utilities, manufacturing, telecommunications, public sector, healthcare, defense, intelligence, automotive, and aerospace.

C3's Contribution

Tom Siebel is the CEO of C3.ai, originally called C3 Energy and later C3 IoT (for the Internet of Things, or IoT). He previously founded Siebel Systems in 1993, a pioneering software provider in the growing field of CRM. Oracle Corporation (ORCL) ultimately acquired Siebel Systems in 2006.

According to Microsoft's press release, "C3 AI CRM is the world's first AI-driven, industry-specific CRM built with a modern AI-first architecture. C3 AI CRM integrates and unifies vast amounts of structured and unstructured data ... to drive real-time predictive insights." In particular, the C3 AI CRM is designed to assist users in forecasting revenue, predicting product demand, tracking and reducing customer churn, identifying top sales prospects, and improving market segmentation efforts.

Manufacturing companies must forecast how many units to make. Meanwhile, all companies want to forecast revenue, yet current technology is "highly inaccurate," Siebel indicates. "Virtually every one of these customers that are approaching us are existing salesforce users," he adds.