AI is set to be one of the most profitable opportunities for the channel, as it sits directly at the forefront of the company’s innovation agenda. However, delivering AI is difficult, and CIOs are turning to their partners to provide leadership. It is the ultimate test of a partner’s ability to engage with customers on strategy and vision, rather than technical provision.
According to IDC, AI – including software, hardware, and services for AI-centric systems – will exceed $US300 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 26.5 percent. This makes it one of the fastest growing areas expected across all of IT. With 89 percent of CIOs surveyed in the Foundry 2022 State of CIO report stating that their role is more digital and focused on innovation today, it’s clear that AI is being considered as a path to achieving those results.
However, 70-80 percent of AI projects fail. The reasons for this are very diverse, from a misunderstanding of the expected performance of AI, to poor change management, and, most commonly, data. Lack of data, or poor data quality, can lead to poorly “trained” and ineffective AI. Just as digital transformation experiences a high failure rate and organizations look to their partners to overcome those challenges, so too will partners be the answer to AI challenges for many organizations.
“Partners need to help customers understand that AI is a long-term investment,” Mei May Soo, Director of Data Science at Dell Technologies AI said in an exclusive interview with Foundry. “One cannot expect that an organization will be able to apply AI in every part of its business immediately. Artificial intelligence is not a tool. It is not software. It is a mindset. It is a deliberate design centered on behavioral science, and it is important for partners to help customers rethink the process and how AI will impact business so that AI can be layered into existing decision-making processes.
How partners can strategically engage with their customers around AI
For partners looking to help customers on their AI journey, there are several key discussion points to engage with them strategically on:
- The ultimate success of AI relies on data
- It is difficult to resource AI strategies in today’s climate of expertise
- Understanding that ethics in AI is a critical subject
AI is built on data, and data quality means everything for successful AI implementation. Many organizations need to find ways to first break down data silos and improve their data and system architecture. This will enable them to ensure the quality and consistency of their data.
The perceived skills shortage in most of IT is also affecting AI. For now, embracing large-scale AI solutions doesn’t seem viable because organizations will lack the data science and IT skills they need. Instead, the most effective approach to AI is to take a long-term view, and start with small, manageable applications. It is important to ensure that the application is successful and demonstrates a strong ROI, so that the organization’s appetite for AI continues to grow, not diminish.
From issues around privacy and data to protecting against bias and ensuring that decisions made by AI are honest, fair and just, ethics is a major discussion point in AI. For partners, that means making sure customers understand the direction of these discussions. It should also take steps in AI with the assumption that there will be strict regulations in the future. For that reason, paying close attention to best ethical practices around AI is now critical.
While these are genuine challenges and roadblocks that will make AI difficult for some organizations, according to May Soo, the ROI alone justifies the effort. “When selling AI at any time, keep an emphasis on return on investment both in the short and long term,” he said. “The adoption of AI can lead to significant cost reductions, as well as new opportunities to generate revenue.
“For our partners to successfully sell AI in today’s economic climate, we recommend that instead of giving an overwhelming picture of AI in general and what it can do for humanity and business start with a problem that is relevant to the customer, then gain credibility. of that success.”
Organizations that cannot scale to embrace AI will find themselves at risk of disruption moving forward, as AI begins to automate many workloads. CIOs are aware of this, but often struggle to understand the most effective path forward. For partners, this is the biggest opportunity to deeply engage with customers since the digital transformation itself and will be a key focal point for many IT budgets across all sectors in the coming years.
For more information on Dell Technologies’ work on AI, and how channel organizations can be part of the journey, click here.