AI and Analytics future
The AI and Analytics future is here – but what does it mean for you?
By Katrina Park
Australian analytics experts answer the tough questions as artificial intelligence breaks new frontiers for small and large businesses across Australia.
There is a lot of buzz around the AI and analytics future right now. However, thanks to books and movies, many generations have its own fantasy about a world served by robot maids and driverless cars.
In fact, John McCarthy, an American computer scientist, coined the term “artificial intelligence” back in 1955.
While companies such as Apple, Facebook and Tesla roll out ground-breaking updates and revolutionary changes to how we interact with machine-learning technology, many of us are still unaware of just how AI is being used today.
There are many companies leveraging AI technologies to transform entire industries including Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube and Netflix with their personalised recommendations. eCommerce companies also have a long history of using data to their benefit.
Although the past 100 years have seen the most dramatic technological upheavals in history, the next century is set to pave the way for a multi-generational leap forward.
At a CIO Circle executive roundtable breakfast on analytics and artificial Intelligence, hosted by Resource Solutions Group on June 8 2017, many of the country’s leading experts in the field discussed the advancements and what is still to come.
Who is using artificial intelligence?
These days, both large and small businesses are using AI. That’s why automation and machine learning is impacting every industry. This is presenting huge opportunities to drive change and enable business capabilities.
What’s more, organisations are increasingly investing in AI as a way both to drive down costs and transform customer and employee experiences.
Sveta Freidman, Director of Data Analytics and Science at Carsales.com.au, told the audience that businesses did not need to invest much in the technology to start reaping the AI rewards.
“As opposed to 10 years ago, now you can find cheap solutions that have the same value,” she said.
Jonathan Chang, Director and Founder of Silverpond, added: “CIO’s and CTO’s are in a good position to take advantage of the current changes in technology”.
How can organisations operationalise and commercialise data analytics?
Antony Ugoni, Director of Global Analytics and Artificial Intelligence at Seek, suggested there are 5 key steps that must be followed:
- Employ data scientists.
- Pay competitively and have interesting problems for them to solve so that you attract and retain the best Data Scientists.
- Ensure you have executive support
- Develop a business strategy for the analytics team to hook into.
- Create real value by ensuring the team can talk business language.”
Yuval Marom, Head of Analytics and Data Services at iSelect, agreed that executive support was paramount. He said, awareness of the value of the data and analytics and executive support is crucial for business success.
“You can have smart people with amazing tools and building amazing models, but if you can’t communicate and tie it back to the business, then you can’t see the value,” he said.
What are the pitfalls?
For the analytics team to deliver value, you must work across company silos – from IT to operations – in order to get the data they need, Jonathan Chang said.
“Where we’ve seen pitfalls is communication barriers that don’t allow the analytics professionals to do their job. The analytics project timelines then exceed executive objectives, not because of the analytics professionals not doing the work, but the rest of the organisation can’t understand what they’re trying to do, because of the communication barriers.”
Sveta Freidman added, it’s important to “connect analytics with the business and business strategy.
What about privacy and ethics?
There’s no doubt technology and analytics leaders face many issues around the disclosure and usage of the analytical output.
Yuval Morom, who runs the Melbourne Data Science Meetup group, said privacy was the hottest topic discussed at their annual conference held in conjunction with Monash University earlier this year.
“In artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics, we have ticked all the boxes, except this one. We have a lot of data, good algorithms, the profession is maturing, but the one box left to tick is the one on privacy,” he said.
“We’re told to only collect and store the data we actually need. But, if we don’t know in advance all the things we will need, the temptation is to ask everything, or as much as possible. The challenge is to think ahead of all the things we might need to ask.”
Yuval added: “The more we do useful things for people, on average people will love this stuff rather than be scared and paranoid. That’s the key.”
How do organisations build an analytics function?
Given how important data science has become, it’s important to think about what data scientists can add to an organisation, where they fit in, and how to hire and build effective data science teams.
Jonathan Chang suggested investing in people before the technology and software.
“Get the right people with passion and drive first, because if you have the right people it doesn’t matter what the tools are.” And, the panel speakers all agreed, the best way to get the right people is to offer interesting problems for them to work on, and to pay well.
Yuval Marom said: “Start small: get a data scientist and data engineer; allow them to use open source. You don’t have to spend a million bucks on software which you will forever be trying to prove ROI on. Identify some business problems for them to solve – low hanging fruit. Then, those two people will create magic.”
Antony Ugoni’s advice for attracting and retaining top analytics talent was to “tangibly show them the impact they’re creating.”
Put simply, the key is to hire people that have a balance of technical and business smarts.
Analytics professionals need to be allowed the freedom to do the science, Yuval said. “Analytics and data science is not IT. You can’t specify here’s a project, start here and here are the deliverables. With analytics, you need to be able to experiment”.
Where do you find top analytics professionals?
There’s certainly never been a better time to be an analytics professional – great datasets to work on, organisational support and a huge demand for skilled people. In fact, demand is our biggest challenge. The bad news is that finding talented AI professionals is challenging.
Jonathan Chang said a “$1 million sign on bonus is not uncommon” in some parts of the world!
A good place to find quality analytics professionals is at forums and industry events, Yuval said. He also said that “It’s important to choose the right recruitment partner”.
“Not many understand what the industry is about – so, if you find a good one use them! It’s not easy to go out and find people yourself, so getting help is a good idea.”
Is it worth the investment?
Investment in AI has accelerated and research into AI is arguably at an all-time high.
It wasn’t long ago that AI research was solely the domain of universities, but tech companies have stormed into the space, and there’s no turning back now. The machines are here to stay, and here to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
Just like the industrial revolution, it’s not about human versus machine, it’s about human and machine versus the problem.
What lies ahead?
The technology today is still in its infancy, but there’s no stopping its evolution.
Antony Ugoni said, the future of AI is about our imagination. “It’s not [about] new algorithms and new ways of storing data. It’s somebody clever who says: ‘I think we can create this product or tool’,” he said.
“It’s a whole bunch of really creative people coming up with cool ideas and the technology, the data and the analytics is all there ready to be taken advantage of.”
Put simply, anything is possible!
View the video highlights from the Resource Solutions Group CIO Circle event https://www.resourcesolutionsgroup.com.au/videos/
To find out more about RSG’s work as IT talent specialists and how we can help you build an analytics team call our office on 03 8602 6400 to speak with one of our specialist consultants.