One platform, one source of truth, one IBM

Salesforce unites IBM’s client, partner and employee experiences on one platform

by Jasmine Bonds
7-minute read
Colleagues sitting at a desk, putting puzzle pieces together.

IBM is one of the largest technology and consulting companies in the world. But that’s an understatement.

Over 282,000 employees and 50,000 IBM Business Partners work together to support the company’s cloud, SaaS, global markets and IBM Consulting™ business units. These business units provide the expertise, solutions and services utilized by more than 530,000 IBM clients worldwide.

Factor in the hundreds of applications and systems through which clients and IBM employees communicate, and you end up with a robust but increasingly complex web of people, technology and data.

IBM is no stranger to the complexity that comes with running a large enterprise.

The organization has successfully managed multiple business lines that include hardware, software, services, new acquisitions and spinout companies. Additionally, clients typically use solutions from several of IBM’s business lines — solutions traditionally supported by different teams using their own channels of communication.

IBM recognized these disparate channels were only adding more complexity to its legacy systems, without improving information-sharing between teams.

Clients were directed to different support channels based on their product or service inquiry and often had to start from square one with each new interaction. Their phone calls, emails and chat histories were dispersed in various repositories that were inaccessible to agents and sellers from other parts of the business.

Internally, IBM Client Service and IBM Sales professionals lacked insight into the complete client data and activity history, which made a personalized customer service and sales approach challenging. Agents and sellers were also tasked with juggling multiple systems to address client concerns or manage their business. This made it difficult to find relevant answers to client inquiries and added friction to the digital sales experience.

At the industry level, both customers and organizations were eager to shift towards digital ways of working and communicating.

As an innovator of hybrid cloud and AI technologies, leaders from IBM Client Service and IBM Sales sought to pioneer a digitized, streamlined, service-focused platform that could consolidate its infrastructure and reduce complexity.

Businessman using a laptop in front of cityscape.
Today, clients expect the type of experiences they’re getting in their consumer lives, even in a business environment. Things need to be very transparent and fast. To provide that kind of modern client experience, we had to make a radical change.
Geoff Marinski
IBM 360 Strategy and CTO, Finance and Operations, IBM

Beginning 360-degrees of transformation

Barracuda swirl in the ocean

IBM turned to Salesforce, a market-leading cloud-based software company, to assist with its transformation efforts.

Salesforce creates and supports an integrated CRM platform called Customer 360External Link, which unifies all client, client service and seller experiences under a single source of truth. This single source of truth gives IBM’s Client Service and Sales organizations, regardless of business unit, a holistic view into the client journey. Teams all over the world can collaborate and work together in one platform to provide fast, data-driven engagement that meets the client where they are.

Because of its openness and extensibility, Geoff Marinski, IBM 360 Strategy and CTO, Finance and Operations, felt “Salesforce was the obvious choice to support IBM. When you look at the scope of things we wanted to achieve, and account for IBM’s size, Salesforce was one of the few platforms with an open API that provided the scalability we needed with tons of critical out-of-the-box features.”

On the journey to Customer 360, IBM started with its Client Service business. As mentioned above, IBM’s contact centers formerly employed dozens of different tools and channels for client support.

With the help of Salesforce products and cloud experts from within IBM Consulting, IBM was able to consolidate its phone, email and chat support tools onto Salesforce Service Cloud. This single solution gave agents complete transparency into each client’s support activity, including previous inquires. With relevant client data and support tools all in one place, agents were better equipped to deliver personalized, data-driven service at speed.

Despite receiving thousands of calls and inquiries daily, Service Cloud has seen a 26% decrease in time to resolution (TTR). Additionally, IBM case support saw a 25-point increase in its Net Promoter Score in Q4 of 2021. Agents are answering questions faster than ever with the elimination of repetitive tasks and new insights into client activities.

IBM Watson® Assistant also provides routing capabilities that help reduce TTR. It does so by using automation to intelligently direct inquiries to the correct agents. Holly Payton, Change Management Lead for IBM’s Cognitive Support Platform (CSP), says: “When we combined Salesforce with Watson’s cognitive capabilities, we created a CSP that delivers unique experiences only IBM can offer. Our clients get the best of both worlds — the power of Customer 360 and the intelligence of Watson.”

Self-service virtual assistants resolve customer questions in 12% of sessions without needing to create new cases. Case Prioritization, which delivers a personalized and prioritized list of backlogs to IBM Support Professionals, saves each agent up to 45 minutes a day.

“Working with our world-class integration team in IBM Consulting helped us get our CRM platform up and running with the right data. Once Service Cloud was live in our contact centers, we were able to leverage Salesforce’s built-in features to fast-track our transformation into Sales Cloud and the rest of the organization,” says Marinski.

Following the initial success of Salesforce Service Cloud, IBM deployed Sales Cloud using the same formula: fast-paced integration, resource and process optimization, out-of-the-box features and a single source of truth.

Previously, IBM Sales teams were unable to share relevant customer and opportunity information across sources. Sellers found it difficult to know who to contact and which opportunities to prioritize, and many struggled to align criteria for lead conversion and forecast stages with other teams. With the move to Salesforce, transformation leaders like Kendra Siegle, Executive Program Manager for IBM’s internal instance of Sales Cloud, sought to remedy these pain points and bring major improvements to the sales process.

“Sales Cloud uses Salesforce’s architecture, coupled with its leading practices, to drive a successful CRM platform that’s built for all routes to market,” says Siegle. Sales Cloud is home to the world’s largest business application marketplace for sellers, sales managers and partners. There, user-friendly apps for virtual selling, forecasting, community-building and more help to increase productivity and accelerate clients through the sales journey.

IBM’s decision to adopt Sales Cloud was made even easier by Salesforce’s strong industry reputation. Most sellers are familiar with the platform and have likely used it at some point in their career. Currently, tens of thousands of IBM sellers, sales managers and partners use Sales Cloud to build stronger client relationships, manage workflows and accelerate deals.

We were looking for a solution that could handle an enterprise-scale transformation. The right CRM platform for IBM should be able to unify our Client Service and Sales organizations, creating a 360-degree customer experience. That platform was Salesforce.
Geoff Marinski
IBM 360 Strategy and CTO, Finance and Operations, IBM

IBM Watson virtual assistants held a

58%

containment rate for over 9 months

Reduced resolution time by

26%

with question assistant and cognitive case routing

Optimized operational efficiency led to hundreds of

millions

of dollars in savings

Driving towards unity across the enterprise

As the IBM Client Service and Sales teams unify on the Salesforce CRM platform, IBM is bringing Salesforce Customer 360 to life. Customer 360 connects everyone at IBM under one source, giving all employees the power to make smarter, faster decisions using relevant data.

Throughout the integration and onboarding process, IBM used Salesforce’s open API architecture to infuse the cognitive capabilities of IBM Watson into Customer 360. IBM Watson virtual assistants use AI to answer client inquiries and streamline communication between agents from different departments.

IBM Watson’s cognitive case routing functions pair client cases with the appropriate seller or support agents, saving employees time and encouraging more fruitful customer interactions. With robotic process automation, administrative tasks and common resolutions are automated so that agents can focus on skill-building and personalizing client communications. In 2021, Slack became an integral addition to IBM’s Customer 360 transformation. IBM is the world’s largest Slack customer, and the first to demonstrate the value of a Slack and Customer 360 integration.

IBM uses Slack as its ‘DigitalHQ’ to cut through the noise of traditional email-based communications. The goal is to encourage end-to-end collaboration across the entire company. Slack’s speedy messaging system increases transparency between IBM employees, partners and clients and inspires deeper interactions through channel creation. Slack also gives IBM a competitive edge at a time when so many of its peers and competitors are scrambling to adapt to in-office, remote and hybrid work models.

Since 2017, IBM and experts from IBM Consulting have onboarded over 30,000 IBM Client Service and Sales users onto the Salesforce Customer 360 platform. IBM’s Customer 360 implementation with IBM Watson integration has fortified the organization for a digital, data-driven, service-focused future.

IBM logo
About IBM

IBMExternal Link is a leading cloud platform and cognitive solutions company. With more than 282,000 employees serving clients in 170 countries, IBM is the largest technology and consulting employer in the world.

Solution components
IBM logo
About IBM

IBMExternal Link is a leading cloud platform and cognitive solutions company. With more than 282,000 employees serving clients in 170 countries, IBM is the largest technology and consulting employer in the world.

Solution components
Improving client experiences has been our goal throughout this transformation. We wanted everyone on a single source of truth around the client relationship. Optimizing those connections between teams and platforms allows us to better anticipate our clients’ needs and respond more efficiently than ever.
Kendra Siegle
Executive Program Manager, IBM Sales Cloud, IBM