The optimism and demand for innovation has never been higher. We are on the verge of a massive change in the day-to-day experiences of employees and customers as applications become more cognitive, but there is significant work to be done.\n\n\nToday, our most advanced applications are intelligent. Look no further than IBM Watson or Salesforce Einstein A.I. Bluewolf's recent The State of Salesforce Report showed that over half of companies surveyed described their most essential applications as at least somewhat intelligent already, able to anticipate and either take or suggest the next action.\n\n\nIncreasing investments in intelligent applications is one key element to driving business results, but that alone is not enough. Companies must also invest in their employee and customer experience, and focus on translating their overwhelming collections of data into intuitive, automated employee experiences that, in turn, can power incredible customer moments.\n\nIntelligent applications are key to driving business outcomes\n\nIncreasing investments in making analytics actionable and accessible is the best way to move applications from smart to intelligent, which is characterized by the ability to understand unstructured data -- like language and imagery -- just as humans do, as well as sharpening expertise with each interaction. When cognitive becomes the standard, our core business systems will be self-learning and will have the ability to mine data, and recognize patterns and natural language, in a way that mimics the human brain.\n\n\n80% of companies' data is dark and untouched, but Bluewolf's report shows that companies that have increased their investments in analytics in the past 12 months are three times more likely to see their data as a competitive advantage compared to companies that have not. To keep pace with the best companies, some ways to prepare for intelligent applications now include:\n\n\n\n\nSupplementing back-office BI tools with modern front-office capabilities, such as Salesforce Analytics Cloud, that support rapid analysis of data and empower employees to perform their own analyses, discover insights and gather intelligence to improve business outcomes.\n\n\n\n\nInvesting in analytics capable of properly gathering and synthesizing unstructured data -- companies will have a much larger pool of customer data to run through intelligent applications in order to make smarter business decisions.\n\n\n\n\nApplying tools with intelligent functions that can augment and automate discovery, make proactive recommendations about the next best action, and continue to learn which actions are working -- and which are not.\n\n\n\nThe customer experience starts with the employee experience\n\nNo one is making all of their decisions while sitting at a desk anymore, but it's not as simple as just investing in mobile. Companies need to think holistically about their users' routines and their experience with the provided tools and technologies in order to ensure they can do their jobs from anywhere, anytime, on any device.\n\n\nIn Bluewolf's report, we found that 67% of salespeople believe that they could spend more time selling if opportunity management were optimized for a multidevice, multichannel user. Commit to continuously improving your technology's ease of use, and providing employees with universal access to information, in order to achieve a superior employee and customer experience.\n\nPerfect data is a farce -- don't let it stall innovation\n\nData is always noted as the most frequent challenge faced by organizations, but the more companies expose quality issues and use their data, the more valuable it becomes to the business. Start examining the context of the most important and frequent decisions, as well as looking at new, potentially unstructured data streams, to power more intelligent insights -- then reduce the effort it takes to make them on any device. To innovate, companies don't need to be 100% sure in their data quality; "good enough" is sometimes the answer.\n\n\nCompanies are realizing the benefits of continuous innovation by taking action with the data they have now, regardless of its quality, and infusing accessible analytics directly into their employees' daily routines. By focusing on specific customer and employee moments that benefit from integration and analytics, companies can better ensure all improvements align to their business outcomes.