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Here's An Intelligent Road Map For MSPs Looking To Monetize Artificial Intelligence

MSPs need to get smart about delivering AI to customers as a managed service, say two channel thought leaders.

Artificial intelligence is still a niche market for the channel, but opportunities are emerging for managed service providers prepared to solve real-world business problems for small customers, two channel veterans said Tuesday during a session at the NexGen conference in Anaheim, Calif.

MSPs looking to dive into delivering the rapidly advancing technology should squarely focus on business outcomes—identifying specific use cases and mastering their delivery as managed services, John Shaw, founder of ELE.AI; and Jason Wright, managing director for All Covered, a division of Konica Minolta; told attendees of the event hosted by The Channel Company.

There are several ways the channel can go about introducing AI services and pricing them, but all those practices should be launched in accordance with a simple and strategic plan, said Shaw, who sold his previous company, Nimbo, to Equinix.

[Related: HCL's DRYiCE Division Is Building AI Solutions To Usher In Digital Transformation]

The first step is investing in educating staff on the technology—a process that can take advantage of free AI training resources offered by most large cloud providers.

MSPs taking the plunge should then focus on creating packaged offerings that meet the needs of the types of customers and markets they serve, Shaw said.

Next comes educating customers about how AI can help their businesses by either saving money or generating new revenue streams.

When ready—well before they think about scaling that practice—MSPs should focus on delivering a single end-to-end AI solution in production. Once that's been achieved, they can manage that solution on a recurring basis for their customers, Shaw said.

Wright emphasized the importance of solution providers adopting an AI road map.

They can work toward implementing an AI practice on their own, or partner with another channel firm that can jointly go to market with those services, Wright said.

Vasil Vykhopen, president and CEO of Exelegent, an MSP based in Freehold, N.J., said the channel is the best vehicle to introduce AI to the SMB market.

"We are technologists at the bottom," Vykhopen said. What that means is "we are down to earth, we get technology delivered to the customer when it’s mature, working and brings them value."

The key is to remain true to being technologists—not just advanced users, he said.

"For us to say AI isn't going to be here is plainly stupid," Vykhopen told CRN. "We are at the forefront of delivering technology to the masses. We can identify the business use cases and bring AI to those use cases."

That means following the advice of the presenters and exploring real market opportunities, and not being shy about talking about AI technology with small customers.

"It's maybe not accepted everywhere," Vykhopen said, "but we'll find a doctor or business owner who says, 'I want to use it, I want to differentiate my business.'"

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