When it comes to business services, outsourcing is your best bet. That’s especially true in the AI sector, where it’s challenging to hire experienced full-time specialists, due to the fact that this sector struggles with the lack of workforce. If your company needs to utilize some of AI applications, but your core activity is not necessarily AI-related, you should opt for cooperation with the AI consulting agency. In this article, we will guide you through this process and help you find a perfect partner that will support you with their knowledge.
Unfortunately, we have to start with some bad news. Today, the AI talent pool is shallow. In 2019, Element AI estimated that there were fewer than 10,000 specialists worldwide who had the necessary skills to create fully-functional machine learning systems. And the “Global AI Talent White Paper” study revealed that there were 300,000 AI researchers and practitioners worldwide in 2017. And millions are needed. Today, the vast majority of AI experts work in the United States. It can be even more challenging to find a proper specialist in many other countries.
The huge demand for AI specialists already exists, and the shortage of talents is slowing down the hiring processes. That’s why companies struggle to find the necessary AI specialists. Indeed, every year, hundreds of graduates enter the worldwide labor market, but still, the AI-skills shortage exists. This is why many companies, instead of looking for full-time employees, opt for outsourcing and start cooperation with external AI consulting agencies. Perhaps, that solution is a chance for your company to execute the AI-related project you’ve had in mind for months?
At Addepto, we are huge fans of outsourcing. We believe that this approach is cost-effective and simply works! That’s why we would like to help you find the perfect AI consulting company that will assist you with your projects.
Gain some knowledge about AI
Before you start talking to various AI consulting companies, we advise you to gain some knowledge about AI in general, and about the aspect, you’re most interested in. Such an approach has many significant benefits:
- You know what you don’t know. Although it sounds amusing, the more knowledge you have, the more accurate questions you can ask and assess the quality of received answers.
- You can verify if the agency’s knowledge and answers overlap with what you already know.
- You can assess if the solution you originally had in mind really should be chosen.
Despite everything else, you will gain valuable knowledge about one of the most dynamically developing fields of modern IT and business. That can come in handy in the least expected moment, and surely will make your conversations more professional and relevant. Don’t let your potential agency think that they’re dealing with a rookie, and it’s easy to have you believe in anything they say.
See main differences between AI and Machine Learning
Who are you looking for? Choose the best AI consulting agency
When it comes to AI, you have to think about your ultimate goal first–what do you want to achieve thanks to artificial intelligence? Without this knowledge, you won’t be able to choose a proper company with needed know-how and expertise.
DO YOU NEED AN AI STRATEGIST OR A BUILDER?
Generally speaking, there are two main types of companies working in AI: strategists and builders. Of course, almost all AI consulting companies do both of these things, but either way, you have to know exactly what you need. This is the very first step to choose the right company. What are the differences between them?
AI strategy consulting
Such a company will help you with the development of the AI strategy that meets your needs and expectations. Here, you work with consultants rather than engineers. In many instances, such a company does not have a team large enough to execute your project end-to-end.
AI building consulting
Here, you talk to engineers rather than consultants. AI building consulting companies focus on identifying areas where they can do their job best, and then they try to implement agreed solutions. Usually, building consulting companies work faster than strategy consulting ones. They can deliver a proof of concept within weeks and a fully-fledged AI algorithm/application within months.
What should you be aware of while choosing AI consulting agency?
There are at least nine principles, let’s call them commandments of choosing the proper AI consulting agency. If you stick to them, you are on a straight course for successful, long-term cooperation. So, the AI consulting agency of your choice should:
MAKE AI STRAIGHTFORWARD
It’s Ernest Rutherford who probably once said that “if a theory were any good, it ought to be possible to explain it to a barmaid.” The same principle applies to AI. If the company you talk to uses lots of mysterious terms and abbreviations–it’s not a good sign. A professional AI agency understands that you, as a client, don’t have to understand and know everything about AI. They should talk about their work in a pleasant and straightforward way that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. The real expert can adjust the way they speak to the listener and clarify everything that can be incomprehensible.
QUICKLY ESTIMATE YOUR IDEA
A company that genuinely works with artificial intelligence every day won’t need weeks or months to assess your idea. They should encourage you to pursue it or talk you out of it even the same day. If your idea is workable, the experienced agency knows that right away. If, instead, you face window dressing, go and look for someone else. Bear in mind, however, that it works just with the initial assessment. Building a proof of concept or an MVP version that will confirm your expectations could take up to three months.
BE ABLE TO SAY “NO”
This applies to almost every service and sector. If your company continuously agrees with everything you say or propose, this means that they simply want to impress you. Such an approach has nothing to do with professionalism. If you want a team of experts rather than a team of clappers, don’t hesitate to choose a company that says “no” from time to time.
And keep in mind that AI is NOT an answer to every question. In fact, in many more straightforward problems and projects, properly chosen SaaS software will be perfectly sufficient. And it’s your agency’s responsibility to guide you to the solution that solves your problem, not just allowing your agency to make some money.
AI projects are typically long-term and expensive. Don’t afraid to ask open questions, like for instance:
- How long will it take?
- How much will it cost?
- Is this the best solution we can implement?
BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT SCOPE OF WORK THEY OFFER AND THEIR EXPERIENCE
Naturally, privacy is a valid part of doing business, and, most likely, your agency has already signed dozens of NDAs. But they should be able to show you some real numbers or case studies. After all, you don’t have to take their word for it! No, you should verify their practical experience. Have they executed a similar project anytime in the past? How did it go? What were the results? These are the questions you should ask before signing a contract.
Also, it’s always worth asking about references or contact details to previous clients.
ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS
Professional agencies do not assume, they ask. Agency of your choice should ask you questions about:
- Your business goals
- Your company’s work
- Data you possess
- Software you use
- Results you expect to see
Only then, they are able to fully understand your company and your idea. That’s the best recipe for the successful AI project.
SHARE THEIR KNOWLEDGE
Let’s be honest here–the vast majority of people don’t understand what AI is all about. Believe us, AI consulting companies realize that too! That’s why professional agencies share their knowledge–to educate the market. They are not afraid of “revealing their secrets”, instead they regularly publish interesting blog posts and willingly answer all of your questions.
KNOW THE DRILL
There should be no guessing, no empty assurances. Your AI consulting agency should be able to talk you through the entire process, from your first meeting up to delivering a ready product. You should know what the entire production and coding process will look like, and what assistance from your side will be indispensable. If they can’t describe what their work is going to look like, you’d be better off with some other company.
ASSIGN YOUR PROJECT MANAGER
Professional agencies always assign a dedicated project manager for each client. You simply have to be in constant contact with a person that’s responsible for your project, someone who knows it inside out and supervises the progress of work. Otherwise, when everyone is responsible for everything, it will all end up as a giant mess.
Although that’s the last point on our list, don’t neglect it. If there’s no spark between you and your agency, cooperation will soon enough turn into a nightmare. For both sides! You should trust your guts–if you don’t feel this cooperation, it probably won’t work the way you expect. Always look for people who seem to have AI at their fingertips and are simply pleasant to talk to.
As you can see, these rules are quite straightforward. Possibly, you were following them many times in the past, when looking for other agencies and subcontractors. In its essence, ordering AI services is not much different from ordering marketing or accounting services. You have to look for someone who will be able to help you, who will understand your vision, and execute it under agreed conditions. It’s really that simple! But because AI is still a novelty, it’s more challenging to find a trustworthy AI consulting agency, than, for instance, a marketing agency.
With these rules in mind, you’re good to go! And if you’re thinking about cooperation with an AI agency–we recommend ourselves! However, there’s no slack for us! We encourage you to verify our work and our knowledge – you have to see for yourself if it’s worth working with us. Find out today!
 Terry Brown. The AI Skills Shortage. Oct 11, 2019. URL: https://itchronicles.com/artificial-intelligence/the-ai-skills-shortage/. Accessed Aug 14, 2020.
 1965, The Questioners: Physicists and the Quantum Theory by Barbara Lovett Cline, Chapter 6: Niels Bohr: Early Quantum Theory of the Atom, Quote Page 105.