Can AI keep my secrets?

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Enterprise software companies all promise a better future. The absolute core of their business is Marketing.  They all want to offer you a game changing software solution that , although very expensive, is worth every penny to the customer. (Whether this change is successful or not is up to us. We are the ones to make sure that the software is implemented well, and delivers one ( or more) of the six possible optimizations that delivers meaningful results for the organization. )

These companies must continuously innovate to try to stay ahead of each other. They are reading the trends, and trying to stay ahead of what you may ask for, or what they fear that competitors might tout at a Gartner conference. Good marketing is a vital input into product planning, always trying to anticipate what buyers will want next.

There is a bit of “creative imitation” in this, but most of the time, this works to the buyer’s benefit. Consider native cloud hosting of applications—not that long ago, this concept was pretty foreign to most organizations. Now, I don’t think there are more than a handful of companies left that would host their own email or E-commerce servers.

For Enterprise Software companies, AI is the new Cloud (Or the new NoSQL, or Consumerization, or SaaS, or etc, etc.), still high on the hype cycle promising lower long-term costs and better results. In their marketing efforts, they are trying to convince CIOs and other executives to sell the case to the leadership of why and how a new technology, whether it’s a big upgrade, a platform change, or a new application is going to solve important, existential challenges. As one Tech leader says, his goal is to use Marketing to position his product as “the reflex response for a CIO who is replacing legacy technology for the functional area of the asset.”

Something happened that completely surprised me, however—Salesforce reported a big slowdown in new deals, even with all of the AI hype. In fact, all Enterprise software companies seem to be struggling a bit right now.

In thinking about this, I think that AI has the same Marketing problem that the Cloud had 10 years ago—Security and Privacy.

With AI, the unspoken concerns are worse—because whether we can articulate it or not, we are not just worried about sensitive data, breaches, and so forth, but we are worried about the security and privacy of our insights.

We take the software company’s word ( and legal documents) that they won’t share our customer or product data.  That is step one in a basic agreement, and the infrastructure in a multi tenant architecture has proven safe enough to be trusted.

However, we can see clearly that our data, and more importantly, our questions, prompts and refinements are being used to make the AI smarter and more useful, not just for us, but for competitors, snooping governments, and potential bad actors.

Software companies need to address these concerns head on (again, even if we are not saying this out loud yet).  Organizations need to understand what ideas and insights are being shared between instances of these systems, as well as what is being exposed externally.   The concern that I have is that the Software companies themselves may not know the answers to these questions.

Helping CIOs and their colleagues gain confidence that the intelligent “soul” they are inviting to the organization can keep secrets is the marketing leap needed.  Keep your eyes open for whose Marketing department figures this out first.