AI Vendor Evaluation: The Ultimate Checklist

Beth Norton
May 15, 2024
8 mins

Whether it’s on your TV screen, in your ears before the start of a podcast, or a sponsored ad on social media, new AI software is cropping up everywhere. It seems like every AI vendor is pushing their latest capabilities and new use cases for widely accessible AI tools are emerging every day. We’re in the midst of an inescapable new wave of technology which admittedly can be a little overwhelming – but also incredibly exciting. Powering productivity, speed, efficiency and fast time-to-value, AI is enabling brands and retailers to operate at an unprecedented scale.

But where do you start when you’re evaluating AI for your own business operations? This is our ultimate checklist of things to consider when you’re evaluating AI vendors, to ensure that you choose the right solution for your business needs and maximize value from the technology as quickly as possible.

Get ready to learn the key considerations and best practices that will help you make informed decisions and drive successful outcomes.

Check for cultural alignment

It may seem like an obvious one, but choosing an AI vendor that aligns with your business culture and values is incredibly important. Rather than seeking a supplier, you should be seeking a vendor that is willing to work with you as a partner, demonstrating commitment to understanding the unique needs of your business and helping you to deliver on your objectives. Check that the vendors you’re evaluating are interested in long-term partnerships and have dedicated customer success teams to support you beyond the initial implementation.

At Amplience, we’re as committed to your success as we are to ours. Here’s a quote from our customer Sweaty Betty to prove it:

“It’s reassuring having Amplience as a partner who is equally evolving with us, as they are constantly innovating.”

Pippa Wingate, eCommerce Content Coordinator

Questions to ask the vendor:

  • What’s the process for submitting a support request to the team post-implementation?

  • Does your team have specialized expertise in my sector?

  • Will you conduct proactive audits to help me understand how I can further maximize value from your product/solution?

  • How do you collect and respond to user feedback?

Understand integration capabilities and deployment

One key consideration is whether the AI vendor aligns with your business’ infrastructure and technology stack. Assess the compatibility of the vendor’s AI platform or capabilities with your existing tools and technology, as seamless integration will power smooth AI adoption and uptake in your organization. And the more seamless the integration, the quicker you can focus on maximizing value from AI.

There are two distinctive integration types: turnkey and bespoke. Turnkey projects provide a hands-off approach and custom-build projects foster collaboration and adaptability. While turnkey integrations are key for smaller and simpler implementations, bespoke, custom-built integrations are often more attractive to enterprise businesses. When you’re evaluating AI vendors, take time to understand how the vendor approaches building and maintaining their product vs. how you manage projects and products internally.

Additionally, understanding the foundational technology that powers a vendor’s generative AI platform or LLM will help you assess the extent of their capabilities and potential limitations – and whether they align with your business needs. For example, open-source models are publicly available, community-led and offer transparency and increased flexibility, though they will require higher maintenance. On the other hand, closed-source LLMs are more expensive and take longer to deploy but will require less maintenance in the long run, as they often come with a structured support system and ready-to-deploy features.

You’ll need to assess and decide on how collaborative you want the development environment to be.

Questions to ask the vendor:

  • Do you use an open-source or closed-model?

  • Is the model multimodal?

  • How do you train your AI model and what are your sources of training data?

  • What resources are required for deployment and what services do you offer to support?

  • How easily can I tailor your solutions to my business needs?

Ask about data management and privacy

Data is the beating heart of AI, and clean and complete data is the key to successful and valuable AI outputs. But any business’ data contains sensitive personal information, so when you’re evaluating AI vendors, make sure to ask about their data privacy and compliance policies. To assess the strength of their security measures, it’s important to ask about their data handling practices, consent management and access controls. And, if your business operates in multiple locales, check that the AI vendor’s solutions comply with international regulations.

Questions to ask the vendor:

  • What security protocols do you have in place to prevent my customer data from informing the broader model?

  • Do you have dedicated roles in your team for regulation, compliance and governance?

  • How do you ensure data privacy and safety?

  • Do you have an acceptable use policy?

Enquire about bias mitigation

AI vendors should address bias during model development and continually monitor to detect any potential bias during deployment. A good AI vendor will have established guidelines to check for and filter out any discriminatory outputs that could be harmful. Transparency is key here, so make sure to ask the vendor about their processes for training and fine-tuning AI models to ensure that they prioritize fairness and diversity in the generated content.

However, human input and expertise will always be needed to achieve optimum, unbiased AI outputs. So, while it’s good to question your vendor on the measures they take internally, also take this into consideration when deploying AI and building new workflows and processes within your organization.

Questions to ask the vendor:

  • What industry standards or benchmarks do you adhere to for bias detection?

  • How do you manage bias when training or fine-tuning your AI model?

  • How do you ensure diversity and fairness in the AI-generated outputs?

Assess scalability and their future roadmap

It’s not too much to ask to want your chosen AI vendor to be able to grow and scale with you. In fact, it’s imperative for your long-term success. AI adoption is not a short-term solution, it should be integrated into your core business strategy, so it’s important to make sure that the AI platform and tools you choose are flexible and can scale to accommodate your business’ changing needs.

Look for AI vendors that have a robust infrastructure and can handle huge volumes of data and content without compromising performance. Whether you want to ensure the vendor can accommodate new technological developments or support you during peak periods, the AI platform you choose should be adaptable and able to maintain consistent high-quality outputs.

Amplience’s AI Content Platform has an integrated CMS and DAM with global multi-vendor CDNs to ensure efficient and reliable storage and delivery of all your AI-generated content and assets, at scale. To find out how we support the creation and delivery of consistent, exceptional shopping experiences, book a demo with a member of our team.

Questions to ask the vendor:

  • How do you handle high-demand periods, such as peak?

  • Where is all the AI-generated content being stored, and how is it being delivered?

  • Does your platform/solution have any limitations around number of users, volume of requests or content topics?

  • Can you share your product roadmap?

Be clear on pricing

There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of your vendor evaluation only to realize there are hidden costs – and lots of them. Make sure you ask AI vendors for their pricing structure and determine if there are any additional costs for customizing the AI models. You’ll need to calculate the total cost of purchasing and implementing the solution, including any licensing fees and training costs needed to undertake successful change management.

Use the ROI calculation to assess the impact on revenue and business benefits.

ROI = (Net Benefit – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment x100

Questions to ask the vendor:

  • How is the pricing structured and are there variable costs or the option to lock-in rates?

  • Are there additional costs for fine-tuning or optimization?

  • Can you quantify the ROI of your AI solutions/platform?

Find the right AI vendor by asking the right questions

When you’re evaluating AI solutions and platforms, make sure you conduct thorough research and consider factors such as cultural alignment with your business, integration capabilities, data security, ethics and bias, scalability and pricing. Be clear about your business requirements and communicate these during the evaluation process. Use our ultimate checklist as a guide.

Want to find out how Amplience can support you with your AI strategy and help you maximize ROI? Get in touch with us today.