@melimulhol , https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-mulholland/

While seeing how partners build out and customize any technology for their customers always intrigues me, I’m particularly fascinated by how AI will transform businesses. Many of the solutions being built with the Microsoft AI platform have not only led to business growth, but also make our lives safer, healthier, and more enjoyable.

Partners can build a roadmap that helps customers layer in sophisticated AI capabilities with minimal training. With so many entry points for developers to add value, IDC predicts 75 percent of developer teams will include cognitive and AI functionality in one or more applications in 2018.

Introducing our new AI Playbook

To assist in building an AI-focused practice, we’ve 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.

AI is a transformative technology that spans all verticals and company sizes. Our goal is to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology by infusing AI into everything we do, driving AI innovation that extends individuals’ and organizations’ capabilities and makes them more productive. And as you deepen the engagement and AI becomes more and more integrated into your customers’ operations, your intelligent solutions can create enormous barriers to entry for your competitors.

Achieving such differentiation can be easier and faster than you might think. Here’s an example of a partner that leveraged one of our Cognitive Services APIs to quickly build and implement its AI solution.

Filling a gap for Hollywood

InterKnowlogy, a leader in custom app development, took its expertise in computer vison and sentiment analysis in a new direction when it partnered with 1457 Investment Group to devise a better way for studios to conduct advance movie screenings. These screenings are an invaluable way to get public feedback in time to make changes before a picture is released, but the current process has two drawbacks: It’s limited to people who are local (not necessarily a good indicator of national sentiment); and it requires interviewers to ask follow-up questions of each subject.

InterKnowlogy’s solution allows studios to conduct screenings on turnkey Surface devices that can be sent anywhere. Then the magic happens: As the content plays, the application uses the Azure-based Cognitive Services Face API to determine how engaged the viewer is and what percentage of time they spend viewing the film. It also captures facial expressions such as happiness, sadness, neutral, surprise, contempt, anger, disgust, and fear. The solution makes sure the viewer is authorized to see the film, and automatically stops playing if they are not. Universal Windows Platform API’s are used to track the viewer’s face, and pause playback if more than one face is detected.

All data is cached locally and then persisted to structured storage in Azure SQL Server to be visualized, analyzed, and reported on using Power BI. The Cognitive Services Video Indexer service can quickly slice and dice films so that insights on speech sentiment, keywords, and even actor identification can be visualized and played back in “video scrubber” format.

“Solutions like this would have been impossible for us to build just a couple of years ago. With AI, new problems can be tackled and solutions can be built in weeks versus months and have fewer zeroes in the final cost.  These are exciting times for Microsoft partners like us.”

— Rodney Guzman, Co-Founder and CEO, InterKnowlogy

Expand Your Practice with AI

As I wrote recently, many of these new applications have human elements that enhance our lives. But partners also use AI technologies pragmatically to differentiate their current services, so they 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.

The playbook goes into the AI Maturity Model and shows how to launch your AI practice with pre-built APIs and transform core business processes with custom modeling and algorithms, eventually building packaged vertical solutions. It offers real partner examples of industry AI solutions in healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail, government, and education. And it goes into the cloud AI business models and provides guidance on designing your solutions.

AI represents a huge partner opportunity to grow existing practices and launch new services. I hope the playbook helps you envision your own use cases and sets you up for the future of intelligent solutions.

Share your thoughts with the Microsoft Partner Community.

AI Practice Development Playbook State of the Channel Opportunities for partners in 2018