When choosing an IT system for implementation, companies carry out a big job: they study existing proposals, calculate profitability, analyze the scope and trends, as well as the competence of contractors. We have prepared this material to help project managers and departments in the search and selection of vendors for AI-based IT solutions.
The introduction of systems based on artificial intelligence is a necessary solution for companies with a complex organizational structure and a large amount of data. According to statistics, modern IT systems can automate up to 70% of the working timefor data processing, which increases the efficiency of employees and reduces the costs of the enterprise.
At the same time, the success of the implementation of an AI project depends not only on the choice of the right IT product, but also on the selection of a competent vendor who will put the system into service. You will interact with this company for a long time: communicate a lot, experiment, look for the best options. What to look for when choosing a vendor in the first place? What criteria are fundamental when introducing a new product? In this article, we will look at how the roles are distributed during the implementation of the project, what parameters should be followed when searching for a vendor, and what risks should be remembered. At the end of the material is a checklist for choosing an AI solution provider.
Implementation of an IT solution: the main participants of the process
The customeris a full-fledged participant in the project, who is primarily responsible for the implementation of the software product in the business processes of the enterprise. It is the customer who must initially determine what the system is for – what goals and tasks it will solve, what development it will receive in the future, etc. In addition, management needs to explain to employees why they need to switch to a new solution, and encourage staff to use the IT system. Often these functions can be transferred to a third-party consultant, but interaction with the responsible persons of the company is still indispensable – only the customer knows how all the processes in the company work, and what features need to be taken into account.
Who is responsible for the project:In real practice, it is normally a separate specialist who is most often responsible for the implementation of the project on the part of the customer – the project manager, the head of the department which sees the solution being implemented, the IT director, etc.
Vendoris a developer and supplier of an IT product. The tasks of the vendor include the creation, implementation, support and further development of the system. The new solution should correspond to the business goals of the customer, and if necessary, the functionality should be improved. In addition, it is necessary to synchronize the software with the internal environment of the company, and conduct staff training – this responsibility in some cases also falls on the shoulders of the product supplier.
Who is responsible for the project:As a rule, a project manager / product manager works on behalf of the developer and a customer – he collects the requirements and transfers them to the team. If the customer wants to delve deeper into individual processes, then it is possible to communicate with several specialists at once: a leading business analyst, a head of R&D practice, etc.
An integratoris an IT company that configures the operation of a new system. Integrator services are needed if you purchase a ready-made boxed solution: in this case, technical specialists ensure the connection of various components into a single functioning environment – they integrate it with servers, highly specialized software, corporate applications and systems. Integrators can serve a business of any size, but, as a rule, their services are needed by large companies that control a huge number of internal and external processes.
Why it is important to choose your IT solution provider carefully
The introduction of a new system requires the customer to carefully select a vendor or integrator. In the process of working on a project, you may run into new goals and objectives that the solution provider will also need to consider. In many cases, changing the system integrator that synchronizes the internal environment of the organization can be problematic. If you choose the wrong solution provider, you risk losing money and time – a new developer will have to re-immerse himself in the company’s business processes, and sometimes create a solution from scratch.
In this situation, not only technical problems may arise – the human factor will play a decisive role here. Employees can become accustomed to using a certain product, so they will be hostile to any innovation from a new vendor. Careful selection of an IT solution provider, a detailed discussion of all the goals and objectives of the organization, understanding the environment and business logic of the company’s functioning are factors that must be taken into account when implementing any software products. This will help not only minimize, but also eliminate any risks associated with the replacement of the vendor.
Vendor Selection Criteria
Now let’s pay attention to the main criteria for choosing an AI solution provider. Here are the top 10 factors to consider:
1. Expertise and knowledge of industry specifics
The supplier of the IT product must find out what goals and objectives are supposed to be solved with the help of the software. The vendor needs to understand how the main processes are built in your organization, and what business logic you are guided by in the course of work. Experience and expertise in a particular industry helps the contractor to choose the most optimal solution and ensure its implementation as soon as possible. An experienced vendor necessarily takes into account the market where the enterprise operates and offers a product that best meets the needs of the customer.
2. Reputation in the market
The presence of a large number of customers and the trust of industry leaders is another important indicator that demonstrates the vendor’s expertise in the market. Working with your competitors or partners signals that the IT solution provider knows how business processes work in a particular area, enjoys the trust of customers and effectively solves the tasks set by the customer.
3. Technology stack
If you are implementing a ready-made solution, then pay attention to the technology stack used. Sometimes a solution is so difficult to fit into an existing IT landscape that it’s cheaper to build it from scratch. If you choose custom development, then IT product vendors may offer solutions that most closely match the goals and objectives of the company – such vendor can refine individual software functions to suit your needs. Companies that resell third-party services usually do not provide services to complement the functionality of IT products, so when implementing complex solutions and the need to refine individual software elements, in some cases it makes sense to choose a company that develops a system from scratch.
4. Understanding the customer’s goals
If the vendor is not interested in what processes are supposed to be automated and what problems the software should solve, this is a reason to get wary. Sometimes a solution provider can impose its technology and refuse to change the functionality to meet the needs of the customer. Modeling the processes in your organization will help solve the problem – the POCstage (Proof of concept). Testing will show what performance indicators can be achieved and how the efficiency of the enterprise will increase when implementing an IT product.
Keep in mind that different vendors may charge different amounts for similar work. Try to carefully study the market, be sure to ask what pricing is based on. Do not forget to include hidden costs in the price: the use of computing power, staff training, etc.
6. Cost recovery
As a rule, the development of any software is an expensive process that requires a lot of effort, time and money. The effect of the implementation of an IT system should exceed the costs spent on its production. In most cases, AI solutions are investment projects that bring profit in the future. The calculation of return on investment (ROI) will demonstrate how the investment in product development justified.
7. Pre-project data analysis
When implementing an AI project, the success of the solution directly depends on the completeness and quality of the data – which is why the vendor will definitely request an example of your data before starting work. Preliminary analysis will help to evaluate in advance the result of product implementation and will allow you to choose the most optimal strategy for working with data. If a vendor promises 100% quality of algorithms without first analyzing your company’s data, it makes sense to consider whether it is worth working with this developer.
8. AI Interpretability Management and Algorithm Quality
In some cases, it is important for the customer not only to see the results of AI work, but also to understand why the machine made a particular decision. Here you can ask the vendor to show examples of previously implemented analytical modules that demonstrate the “way of thought” of the system. In addition, it is necessary to immediately decide what quality of AI work will be acceptable to the customer. It is important to choose in advance the metrics that will see the algorithms to be evaluated – the selected criteria should correlate with the tasks facing the business. Without a preliminary selection of metrics, it will be difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the work done, as well as agree with the vendor to refine and improve the intellectual “modules” of the system in case you are not satisfied with the quality of them.
9. Change management
The vendor must also take into account that when introducing a product, it is necessary to demonstrate new functionality, understand the difficulties faced by a line employee, and, if necessary, conduct staff training. In many cases, it is necessary to consult the company’s technical specialists on the implementation and support of the system – to resolve issues of localization and integration. In addition, it is important to check with the vendor in advance about the possibility of self-managing the system, changing settings and retraining algorithms – otherwise the customer will need to pay every time for any changes to the product.
10. Support and development
A good vendor will not only implement an IT product, but also provide its ongoing support and improvement. Thus, the customer will receive a modern working solution that will be synchronized with the company’s internal processes. The problems that arise with the operation of the system will be solved by technical specialists as soon as possible, which will ensure the smooth functioning of the product.
Summarizing, we highlight the main recommendations that should be considered when choosing an AI solution provider:
- Decide on the goals and expected results from the implementation of the project even before finding a solution provider;
- Analyze the cost of solutions in the market;
- Choose suppliers based on the optimal combination of competencies and pricing;
- Calculate profitability and cost recovery;
- Consider if the developer has similar cases, partners;
- Avoid vendors who are not ready to show their previous cases/solutions;
- Define roles within the team, write down tasks and responsibilities.
The implementation of an AI-based project requires careful vendor selection by the customer. Working with data is a time-consuming process. The technology proposed by the vendor can dictate the logic of building various processes within the organization for years to come, so changing the supplier of an IT solution or switching to a new system in some cases will be intricate. Look for a contractor whose products best suit your needs, analyze pricing, be interested in the possibilities of improving and changing AI systems – a competent assessment of these criteria will help you choose a competent vendor whose developments will be used by your company for many years.