AI, as it is being presented, isn’t a solution alone. We learned this with IBM’s Watson when we discovered that the cost of training Watson far exceeded the cost of the hardware. Most AI projects fail largely because the company presenting the “solution” (and I use that word lightly) and the firm buying the “solution” don’t have much of a clue about the requirements of the project, the ideal AI solution for it, and what is needed to have a successful outcome. Technology providers just don’t know the businesses they are serving well enough, and the companies are making decisions more often on hype than factual knowledge.
The problem isn’t the tools, at least not collectively. There are good tools out there, like ChatGPT. The problem is the lack of AI competency in many companies, and this is where Lenovo’s announcement of its AI Innovators Program comes in.
Let’s talk about Lenovo’s AI Innovators Program this week.
Lenovo AI Innovators Program
When it comes to a new technology, it is generally advised that vendors that want to be successful should focus on a few targeted markets initially until the solutions are more mature and more easily and successfully implemented. But how would a company new to AI even navigate the mess of AI solutions to find the best mix of technologies to create the customized AI solution that the customer desires?
Part of the problem is that often the customer can’t fully articulate what they need and thus needs someone that understands both their segment and the technology to put a solution together. This is what Lenovo’s AI Innovators Program does.
It uses the firm’s experience with verticals to help the customer articulate what it is they need; then it crafts a solution including third-party partners best able to execute against the now far better-defined specification. In effect, Lenovo is positioning its services-based approach to AI against the bigger problem: the lack of AI knowledge in many companies and vertical markets.
The vertical markets Lenovo focuses on initially include finance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and smart cities. If the customer resides in one of these five verticals, Lenovo should be able to help them craft a viable plan to deploy a successful AI instance and then act as a general contractor to assure that this plan is carried out successfully and assure the result, as well.
Lenovo currently has 45 partners that help construct the AI solutions the company is contracted to build.
During the briefing, Lenovo shared several examples of how it successfully deployed AI. Kroger deployed a Lenovo solution to reduce shrinkage (shoplifting) in 1,700 stores, resulting in a big reduction in shoplifting incidents. Retail bank customers are using Lenovo’s AI approach to create avatars to provide assistance, and hotels are using Lenovo’s solution to create virtual receptionists and automated concierge services that also use avatars which is helping both vertical markets address the severe employee shortage problem. For entertainment venues and stadiums, Lenovo’s services have been used to do better crowd management, assuring visitors don’t have to wait in long lines to get to their seat, a ride or a show. I know Disney has been looking at technology like this for a while to reduce the number of frustrated guests like me, who spend all day in lines and rarely make it on a ride as a result.
The problem with AI right now is that the related tools and services are all over the map, and buyers haven’t yet developed AI competencies strong enough to put together the right solutions for their complex problems. Lenovo has seen this as an opportunity instead of a problem, and it’s ramping services to help companies make both better and more complete choices.
This approach should lead to more successful AI deployments so that companies can finally see the AI benefits they were promised. At this stage of the AI rollout, experience is king, and Lenovo has turned that experience into a service that anyone new to AI should consider if they don’t want their AI effort to fail.