Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showcased the new offering — built in conjunction with Salesforce.com and Bozeman, Montana-based Alpine Metrics — at the Dreamforce Expo in San Francisco today. The solution aims to provide customers with a better way to manage sales processes by leveraging the predictive analytics and decision-automation capabilities of Cortana Analytics.
"Traditionally, sales forecasts have relied on the best instincts of account executives, as they are the closest to their customers and in a position to guess who will be ready to sign, for how much, and when," says Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Azure Machine Learning at Microsoft. "Such human estimates are, of course, subject to individual biases or preconditioning, such as the relative optimism or pessimism of an associate. Instead of relying solely on hunches or guesstimates, Alpine Metrics uses Cortana Analytics to analyze more than 40 different factors, producing a balanced, accurate view of sales forecasts."
The service doesn't just forecast the pipeline, Sirosh says. It gives customers the capability to inject predictive analytics directly into their sales workflow. That provides insights into assignments, upside, risks and other metrics. For instance, by applying Cortana's machine learning capabilities to Salesforce data, the product can assign new leads to the person most likely to convert an opportunity into a sale. Sirosh calls that functionality "opportunity routing."
"Being integrated with Cortana, the solution also allows for natural language queries, as well as rich visualizations delivered by Power BI," Sirosh says. "Customers can now simply ask verbal questions of their sales data. The analytics suite dips into Salesforce and combines the data with whatever relevant Web services are needed, returning the answers in the form of visualizations based on rank, probability, geography, history and other factors. Customers can also get deeper insights by using Power BI's out-of-the-box pre-built dashboards and reports for Salesforce data.