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For IT Purchasers, Defining AI Is the Start of a Journey

AI Journey

IT leaders who want to make a purchase in artificial intelligence need to start by defining AI and what it means to their business.

AI has dominated IT conversations in 2023, and channel partners say they see procurement priorities and budgets shifting to address AI. But AI can mean many things, and different types of channel partners can help in different areas of artificial intelligence. Some resellers and service providers are focusing on AI tools such as Microsoft Copilot. Some consultancies are focused on data structure and governance to fuel AI.

The technology advisor (agent) channel, which sources as-a-service solutions in a referral model, is seeing huge AI opportunities in contact center and customer experience (CX). Many partners in the community tell Channel Futures that contact centers are bolstering their platforms to include large-language models and more advanced forms of machine learning. Technology advisors are working to take big-picture questions clients are asking about AI and focus them on meaningful, consumable technology. Often that means de-hyping vaporware from vendors and challenging customers on their preconceptions.

The Channel Futures Leadership Summit in Miami next will feature the session, "Take the Lead in AI: Supercharge Your Agent AI Technology Practice Areas." Panelists will include MirisGroup managing director Brady Satchwell, Rise Technology Advisors co-founder Eric Ludwig and Flowstone Group founder Dave Ballasteros. Avant vice president of sales for East and Canada Bana Qashu Young will moderate the panel.

Ballasteros answered some questions from Channel Futures about his dealings in contact center and AI.

Channel Futures: What does your AI practice look like?

Dave Ballasteros: AI is becoming a major talking point in many of my conversations around customer experience in general. Companies are clearly wanting to know how it will impact them and their client relationships, so we provide guidance to help determine the right mix of automation and human-driven interactions. Sometimes this is a standalone offering from a very specific AI provider, and sometimes it is layered onto a CCaaS platform. The good news is that the market is competitive and innovation is happening quickly to meet demands.

CF: What’s the most common question you’re hearing from customers about AI? And how are you answering that question?

DB: Many C-Level executives are asking how AI is being leveraged by other companies in the contact center and if it has been deployed successfully. Of course, AI is a very broad term and not definable by one particular capability, so it opens up a dialogue that can lead down several paths. The first thing I do is try to understand what AI means to them and then guide them accordingly. Of course, each business has its own objectives and metrics, so the uses cases vary.

CF: How are you framing AI within your tech portfolio? Does it strictly sit within contact center/CX?

DB: AI is a broad term and solutions can cover a wide array of needs; therefore, the capabilities can have an impact in various areas of a business operation. Some may be provided by a specific niche AI company and others can be obtained through suppliers that offer a more broad offering for the overall contact center/CX market. We do not limit the client to a particular type of vendor, but rather fully understand the overall scope and then make recommendations that can be deployed most efficiently and cost-effectively.

CF: Are there any suppliers that you see tackling AI well? How are you positioning them?

DB: Uniphore and Cresta are two that have become quite interesting due to their focus on AI, but due to the competitive market landscape, the CCaaS vendors are getting better and better at adding new capabilities. Genesys, Nice, Dialpad and others are all making large strides as it relates to AI to supplement their overall offering.

CF: Do you have any advice for channel partners that are looking to source and consult on AI?

DB: The market is changing fast so stay on top of the trends and the suppliers who are investing heavily in development of AI solutions and their service-delivery capabilities. Always look for the ones who have a good reputation for delivering successful implementations and business outcomes.

Channel Futures Leadership Summit, Artificial intelligence