Artificial intelligence. Of all the concepts that have captured the world’s imagination, few have made a cultural impact like AI. And rightfully so! The promise of teaching computers to teach themselves, of automation and applied machine learning, fascinates us. As a culture, we’ve been exploring the possibilities, risks, and ethics of this futuristic concept for decades in films, books, and comics.

These days, it seems that no matter where you turn, whether that be online or offline, via mainstream news publications or others, you will come across at least one conversation on Artificial Intelligence (AI). What’s also clearly emerged as you read through those news headlines, that I’ll suggest is a “call to mobilize”, is the potential that exists for Canada to lead in this space, and in turn, create tremendous opportunity for the Canadian ecosystem to be drivers of that innovation, while at the same time generating an almost endless business opportunity.

It’s those headlines and our belief that AI has the power to amplify human ingenuity that has encouraged us to host Microsoft Canada’s Future Now event (follow the conversation at #MSFutureNow) few weeks ago, in Toronto, and for our President, Kevin Peesker to pen this piece “The Future is Now for AI Innovation in Canada” as a platform to spur further dialogue about the future and potential of AI in Canada. For our partners, and those in the broader ecosystem, this is also a chance for you to (re)imagine your business, and how we can build incredible new solutions together!

The AI Opportunity

According to IDC surveys, 67% of organizations globally have already adopted or plan to adopt AI. And many adopters have seen returns that meet or exceed expectations, leading many to increase spending on AI in the next two years.

A 2017 report from market research firm Tractica sets the direct and indirect revenue generated from the application of AI software as starting off at $1.38B in 2016 and predicts this revenue will grow with a 52% compound annual growth rate to $59.75B by 2025.

The opportunity for partners with an AI practice cuts across industry verticals. Irrespective if the industry is healthcare, finance, manufacturing, retail, government, or education, the AI opportunity is omnipresent and significant.


As recently shared in our AI Practice Development Playbook, partners have multiple opportunities to drive revenue with AI-related services. To understand these opportunities, it is helpful to understand the high-level process for delivering AI solutions, since the two are related. The high-level process is as follows:

  1. Envision AI: The first revenue opportunity is to help your clients envision the possibility of AI and what it could bring to their organizations – helping them see a roadmap where AI becomes more and more a part of their daily operations and the benefits this brings.
  2. Implement AI: The second revenue opportunity is in helping your customers implement the AI solution by integrating existing, pre-built AI APIs or developing custom AI solutions.
  3. Deploy AI: The final revenue opportunity comes in helping customers get their AI solution into production. If your services stop at helping them build the solution, what will their internal teams do when something goes wrong? AI solutions can be complicated, and a customer may not have the internal team capable of supporting them. Providing support for AI solutions

As AI becomes more and more integrated into the daily activities of a partner’s customers, partners who offer AI services will be differentiated from those who do not. AI will not only create significant opportunities for partners, but also give them competitive advantages.


Partners who are already leading in AI

While AI is debatably still in its early stages, with the “where” and “how” it is applied, in many cases, yet to be imagined, there is already some amazing innovation and work being done within and across our ecosystem, many of whom joined us at FUTURE NOW past March 22dn in Toronto.

In spirit of learning from each other, and leveraging the experiences others are having, as a catalyst for innovation and conversation, I’ll profile a number of these partners via an “unplugged” Q&A over the coming weeks, but here’s a quick glimpse into a few of them. uses AI to enrich the employee work experience and to increase productivity. operates like a virtual helper, chatting with each employee in-order to off-load mundane tasks, like document generation and information discovery. Full story and Unplugged Q&A here uses AI to give industrial manufacturers unprecedented insights into their current operations. It allows manufacturers to capture and aggregate “stranded data” from infrastructure, processes, and other assets, then crunch that data to help augment their operations. Full story and Unplugged Q&A here


Pythian’s KickAaaS analytics-as-a-service uses an incremental approach to realizing business value. They leverage Azure to deliver a 360-degree view of a customer’s business, which uncovers new revenue streams, improved customer experiences, and more. Full story and Unplugged Q&A here.


Rubikloud uses AI and machine learning to change the way retailers look at mass promotional planning to maximize customer lifetime value. For retailers facing historic challenges, Rubikloud’s ability to predict customer intention and behaviour translates into a potential gamechanger. Full story.


Farmer’s Edge is a global leader in “decision agriculture.” They use AI/ML running on Azure to create a new type of grower—one driven years’ worth of aggregated field-centric data, not best guesses and instincts. Read full story.


T4G delivered a 200% increase in profitability to the wind energy division of a major energy company using Cortana Intelligence Suite. Through predictive modeling, estimate demand, and preventative maintenance measures, their solution also helped dramatically increase the accuracy of forecasting. Read full story.



BDO IT Solutions provided ON211 (a helpline and database of social services in Ontario) with a cost-effective, web-enabled solution leveraging the advanced features of Azure Search and Azure SQL. They helped the agency deliver its essential services affordably and efficiently. Full story and Unplugged Q&A here. applies AI to better understand b2b relationships so business leaders can prevent high value deals in pipeline from slipping. This AI-powered relationship intelligence solution helps businesses access new accounts, measure account health, analyze deal risk, and more. Full story and Unplugged Q&A here.



Lixar IT won a Microsoft IMPACT award for IoT innovation for Delphi Connect—an OBD-II IoT device—and has the distinction of being the first connected car product. Using Azure and Azure Service Fabric, it gives owners crucial, real-time details about their car.


Getting Started

To assist in building an AI-focused practice, we’ve recently launched the AI Practice Development Playbook with guidance and resources around developing your strategy, gaining skills, and marketing and selling your service offerings. Written in conjunction with Microsoft partner Solliance and other AI experts that shared their experiences and best practices, the playbook also pulls in research from a recent MDC survey of 555 partners.

While AI represents an almost endless potential for defining new application opportunities/scenarios, you can also use AI technologies pragmatically differentiate your current services, so that you can re-engage customers with enhanced end-to-end systems that learn from data to deliver new insights and efficiencies.

Imagine how your current services could be enhanced with machine learning, computer vision, natural language communication with chat bots, or speech recognition. Your AI practice can be an extension of your current data and advanced analytics practice. And Microsoft’s AI platform, which includes all the tools needed to create, build, and add intelligent capabilities to your applications, can support your efforts to create AI solutions.

AI represents a such a huge partner opportunity – in Canada and beyond – to grow existing practices and launch new services.


Get in on the AI opportunity!

In 2016, McKinsey & Company predicted that the global economic of AI is expected to be between $7.1 trillion to $13.1 trillion by 2025. Whoa! As a Microsoft partner, you’re in an ideal position to get in on this opportunity. Start by exploring the Microsoft AI Development Playbook, which details how your team can envision, implement, and deploy AI solutions as part of your service offerings.

You’ll find that and other playbooks on the partner playbooks page.