How Solution Providers Can Transform Their Customers' Businesses With AI

Solution providers that are willing to inject artificial intelligence technologies into their customer's business processes could benefit from gaining more information, garnering better business outcomes.

Digital Nebula, a solution provider that specializes in AI and data management, is doing just that, according to channel veteran John Shaw, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based company. Shaw outlined real-world AI use cases to demonstrate its benefits to a room full of solution providers at The Channel Company’s XChange 2017 conference in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday.

Companies will spend about $2.5 billion worldwide on AI this year, Shaw said. About 15 percent of enterprises are proactively working with service providers on AI solutions, but the vast majority of companies don't know where to start with AI, and that signals an opportunity for partners, said Shaw (pictured).

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AI is made up of three main elements: Natural language processing, machine learning, and image recognition. Partners who can harness these technologies, capture data, and port it to an existing system that their customer is already using will win in AI, Shaw said.

"You definitely will have to break down real-life examples for clients because it's hard to conceptualize AI," said John Hampton, manager of cloud services for Datotel, a St. Louis-based MSP, who was in attendance for Shaw's presentation. "Otherwise it just becomes Big Brother, and [customers] don't want that."

Remote monitoring and customer service applications are two areas where AI would bolster these offerings, Shaw told solution providers. For example, remote monitoring tools injected with AI could pinpoint and notify users of any anomalies, such as intruders or system failures.

Datotel owns its own data centers, and even sees a fit for AI within its own business. "We obviously track things like cooling information with our own data centers, so I wonder what more something like AI could tell us and predict for us so we could be more proactive," Hampton said.

Partners can offer their e-commerce clients "bot" technology for their websites, allowing users to ask questions in a chat box, Shaw explained. Machine learning technology could eventually pick up on keywords and provide the user with answers to questions, without help from a customer service rep.

While AI is still in its early days for most business customers and channel partners, Shaw believes that AI will follow a similar adoption curve as cloud computing. "I think that in seven years [solution providers] will be at conferences, talking about how their AI solutions have transformed businesses," he said.