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How to build an AI services business in the channel

Last updated:July 2019

Editor's note

Here's a statement you wouldn't have read 25 years ago, or even 10: Channel partners are developing AI service businesses, creating and deploying AI applications for their clients.

Indeed, the AI field has seen a few false dawns over the years. But times have changed along with the technology. Today, the ability to analyze vast amounts of data, coupled with enormous increases in processing power, has made AI a viable technology for a range of organizations. And digital disruption, which has seen established enterprises under increasing pressure from tech-driven upstarts, has given those organizations ample incentive to find an edge in AI.

The result: a new market opportunity for IT service providers.

Market watcher IDC predicts global spending on cognitive and AI systems will hit $77.6 billion in 2022, expanding at an annual clip of 37.3%. According to IDC, software will represent the largest and fastest growing category. Conversational AI applications, along with deep learning and machine learning apps, will lead the way in software. Servers and storage, meanwhile, will take second place in AI spending until late in IDC's forecast. At that point, spending on "related IT and business services" will overtake hardware spending.

Channel partners, as AI service providers, may find work in a variety of roles. Consulting services will be much in demand as customers seek advice on how best to deploy AI technologies. Implementation and project management services will kick in once customers decide on a direction.

As for vertical markets, service providers will find opportunities to deliver AI applications in healthcare, financial services, retail, manufacturing and government. Channel partners with specific domain expertise will have an advantage when it comes to customizing AI to meet the needs of specific industries.

The robotic process automation market provides another source of revenue for IT service providers. This rapidly-growing space calls for a combination of technology and business process expertise, which makes the market a good fit for consultative channel companies.

The current wave of AI holds a lot of potential for IT service providers. Read on to get a sense of the market and the possibilities for growing a channel business.

1Understanding the booming AI market

AI was at one time limited to only technology giants that have the means and skills for deploying the technology. AI applications have since spread, gaining traction in a broader swath of the market. Learn about how channel partners can adopt new roles in areas such as machine learning consulting, and help their customers incorporate AI into business processes.

2How to launch, expand AI services businesses

Channel firms can break into the AI market from a number of angles. Some choose to focus on a vertical industry, while others zero in on a particular IT problem. More established partners may develop AI services around the needs of their current customer base. This section of articles explores considerations for growing an AI services practice, whether you are starting a business from scratch or transitioning an existing one.

3Vertical-specific AI applications

Interest in AI is growing across an array of vertical markets. In healthcare, for example, medical organizations see massive potential for enabling better patient care and monitoring, data management, and medical imaging. Financial services firms, meanwhile, have begun tapping into AI for gains in everything from fraud detection to customer service. Explore this section of articles for insight into vertical-specific AI applications.

4Insight into AI deployments

In this section, articles demonstrate how companies are using AI to improve critical processes within their organizations. Examples range from IBM deploying AI to enhance sales lead distribution for its channel partners, to an insurance firm that bolstered call-center capabilities with chatbot software.

5Opportunities in the RPA market

The evolution of software bots and digital workers is underway and making a mark on diverse industries and companies. The robotic process automation market has also shown promise for channel firms. Read about roles that partners can play in this rapidly growing opportunity, where RPA vendors and customers alike are calling on the channel for expertise.

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