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How To: Assessing AI Vendors

Introduction: The Importance of Choosing the Right AI Vendor

The right vendor can help you harness the power of AI to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and drive business growth. However, with vendors popping out of every corner of the internet, and your email inboxes, making an informed decision is challenging. This guide provides a comprehensive checklist to help you assess AI vendors effectively.

1. Define Your Business Needs and Objectives

Before diving into vendor assessments, you must have a clear understanding of your business needs and objectives. What are the specific problems you aim to solve with AI and automation? Are you looking to improve customer service, optimize supply chain management, or enhance data analysis? What exactly within these workflows are the most valuable processes? Having well-defined goals will help you evaluate vendors based on their ability to meet your specific requirements.

2. Evaluate Vendor Stability - Will the Company Survive?

Vendor stability is a critical factor to consider. AI has created a startup boom, and the vast majority of those startups won’t survive. No matter how cool the technology or the product demo, you’ll regret losing a key workflow automation after you’ve adjusted to depend on it. Do your research on the vendor's financial health, market presence, and track record. A stable vendor is more likely to provide ongoing support and updates, to ensure the longevity of your AI solutions. Look for indicators such as funding rounds, partnerships, and customer base to gauge the vendor's stability.

3. Analyze Cost and ROI

Cost is always a significant consideration, but new technology - AI or not - is an investment. So you should think about it just like any other investment. What’s the total cost of ownership (implementation, maintenance, and upgrade costs if it goes well)? What’s the potential return on investment (ROI)? How can you justify the cost of the tools? How much time is saved, and what is that time worth? How many new customers can you acquire, and what is their lifetime value? How much will the quality of your product increase? Can you charge more for it? A monetary value can be assigned to almost every aspect of your business - if the monetary value of the business problem you’re solving is greater than the cost of the new tool, you’ve got a winner!

4. Understand the models they’re using

OpenAI, and Google Gemini ,are the best performing models with enterprise-grade data privacy controls. Open-source models coming from Mistral, Meta (Llama models), and sometimes Anthropic (Claude) can theoretically be hosted on any server - meaning you’ll need to pay more attention to their data security measures.

5. Check for Customization and Scalability

Every business is unique, and the one-size-fits-all approach rarely works as intended. How can the vendor customize the AI solutions to your specific needs? Additionally, consider the scalability of the solutions. As your business grows, the AI tools should be able to scale with your business to accommodate increased usage.

6. Understand the Vendor’s Support and Training Services

Implementing AI solutions is complex, and having access to reliable support and training is crucial. Evaluate the vendor's support services. Even basic AI tasks like prompting will require training - if you’re evaluating vendors, you should assume that you are the most advanced AI user at your company. What support would someone who’s never touched AI before need?

7. Ensure Compliance with Information Security Standards (HIPAA, GDPR)

For businesses handling sensitive data, compliance with information security standards like HIPAA and GDPR is non-negotiable. Ensure that the vendor adheres to these regulations and has robust security measures in place to protect your data. AI Large Language Models (LLMs) rely on user data and prompt data to get smarter. Ensure that your prompt data isn’t retained for model training purposes. Companies that are using open-source or in-house models will be at higher risk for this.

8. Verify Data Ownership and Ethical Considerations

Specifically with image generation AI, you must verify that the vendor follows ethical AI practices, and has proper data usage authorizations. Many image generation models are trained on data that was not properly licensed. This is a problem if you intend to create client-facing or public-facing materials with an AI image generation tool. The safest option today for image generation are Adobe’s Firefly models.

9. Look for Integration Capabilities

How does the vendor’s software communicate with the tools you already use every day? There may be potential for more automation if the new system can automatically trigger workflows in your existing tools.

10. Assess Vendor’s Roadmap and Future Vision

A forward-thinking vendor with a clear roadmap and vision for the future is more likely to stay relevant and innovative. Evaluate the vendor's plans for future developments and how they align with your long-term business goals. AI is changing and growing every day. If vendors are not clear about how they intend to keep up, it’s a sign they’re just trying to capitalize on the wave.

Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision

Choosing the right AI vendor is an important decision and often a large investment that can significantly impact your business's success. Follow this comprehensive checklist, to help make an informed choice that aligns with your business needs, ensures compliance, and maximizes ROI. Remember, the right vendor is not just a service provider but a strategic partner in your AI journey.

Blue Tusk is here to help you every step of the way from pinpointing areas in your business ripe for AI, to evaluating ROI, to onboarding AI vendors. Fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page for more information.


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AI Vendor Checklist
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