NCI expands AI offerings with second exclusive partnership

NCI is expanding its artificial intelligence offerings with a second exclusive partnership with a commercial AI company.

NCI Inc. is continuing to build out its artificial intelligence offerings and has signed another exclusive partnership agreement with a commercial AI company.

This new partnership with Tanjo Inc. brings aboard proprietary machine learning technologies that the company has been selling in the commercial world.

The agreement follows NCI’s partnership with Olive (formerly called CrossChx), which provides the technology at the heart of NCI’s Shai offering. The Shai acronym stands for “Scaling Humans with Artificial Intelligence.”

Shai's name also reflects NCI’s philosophy when it comes to applying artificial intelligence. They don’t want to replace people but augment what they do.

“This is about scaling humans and allowing them to focus on the results of the machine learning as opposed to crunching data,” NCI CEO Paul Dillahay told me. “It’s focused on operational AI. It’s a tactical approach.”

NCI's partnership with Olive focused on automating highly repetitive tasks that often are being done manually. This includes everything from back-office processes to supply chain and network monitoring. Tanjo brings in more machine learning capabilities to support data analytics and real-time decision making.

Dillahay said NCI and Tanjo have been working together for about a year. “We wanted to understand their product and how it could fit in the federal market,” he said. 

The company also took the product to its customers to gauge their interest. “We’ve gotten very good feedback, so we think it’ll be a strong launch,” he said.

NCI isn’t done with forming these partnerships with commercial AI companies. Dillahay said he expects to announce a third partnership in the coming months.

A common thread between all three is that they are U.S.-based companies and all their software is written in the U.S. The latter is a frequent requirement of federal customers, especially those in defense and intelligence.

“We set out two years ago to bring commercial best practices around artificial intelligence to the federal government,” Dillahay told me.

NCI offers Shai on an as-a-service basis and has gone through an “authority-to-operate” process to be able to sell it to government customers. NCI will need to go through the same process to add Tanjo’s product to the portfolio.

Dillahay said NCI is pursuing opportunities that on the surface are AI projects, but the company also is embedding Shai as part of proposals for more traditional work.

The company also is pursuing a strategy of getting in front of customers who have large data sets and want to make better of use of that data.

“These direct sales and marketing efforts are a longer cycle than pursuing a traditional (request for proposals),” Dillahay said. “This is going in and talking to customers and bringing them innovation. You work that relationship to the point hopefully that they release an RFP.”

He believes those efforts are starting to bear fruit.

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