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Measure and maximize the value of Data Science and AI teams

Investing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) can bring a competitive advantage to your organization. If you’re in charge of an AI or Data Science team, you’ll want to measure and maximize the value that you’re providing. Here is some advice from our years of experience in the field. 

A checklist to embark on a project: 

As you embark on projects we’ve found it’s good to have the following areas covered: 

Have a customer. It’s important to have a customer for your work, and that they  agree with what you’re trying to achieve. Be sure to know what value you’re delivering to them. 

Have a business case.  This will rely on estimates and assumptions, and may take no more than a few minute’s work.  You should revise this, but always know what justifies your team’s effort, and what you (and your customer) expect to get in return. 

Know what process you will change or create. You’ll want to put your work in production, so you have to be clear about what business operations are changing or created around your work and who needs to be involved to make it happen

Have a measurement plan. You’ll want to show that ongoing work is impacting some relevant business indicator. Measure and show incremental value. The goal of these measurements is to establish what has changed because of your project that would otherwise not have changed. Be sure to account for other factors like seasonality or other business changes that may affect your measurements.

Use all the above to get your organization’s support for your team and your work. 

What measures to use?

As you start the work, what measures and indicators can you use to show that your team’s work is useful for your organization?

How many decisions you make. A major function of ML is to automate and optimize decisions: which product to recommend, which route to follow, etc. Use logs to track how many decisions your systems are making. 

Changes to revenue or costs. Better and quicker decisions often lead to increased revenue or savings. If possible, measure it directly, otherwise estimate it (for example fuel costs saved from less distance traveled, or increased purchases from personalized offers). 

As an example, the Illinois Department of Employment Security is using Contact Center AI to rapidly deploy virtual agents to help more than 1 million citizens file unemployment claims. To measure success the team tracked the two outcomes:  (1) the number of web inquiries and voice calls they were able to handle, and (2) the overall cost of the call center after the implementation. Post implementation, they were able to observe more than 140,000 phone and web inquiries per day and over 40,000 after-hours calls per night. They  also anticipate an estimated annual cost savings of $100M based on an initial analysis of IDES’s virtual agent data (see more in the link to case study).

Implementation costs. The other side of increased revenue or savings, is to put your achievements in the context of how much they cost. Show the technology costs that your team incurs and, ideally, how you can deliver more value, more efficiently. 

How much time was saved.  If the team built a routing system then it saved travel time, if it built an email classifier then it saved reading time, etc. Quantify how many hours were given back to the organization thanks to the efficiency of your system. 

In the medical field, quicker diagnostics matter. Johns Hopkins University’s Brain Injury Outcomes (BIOS) Division has focused on studying brain hemorrhage aiming to improve medical outcomes. The team identified the time to insights as a key metric in measuring business success. They experimented with a range of cloud computing solutions like Dataflow, Cloud Healthcare API, Compute Engine, and AI Platform for distributed training to accelerate iterations. As a result, in their recent work they were able to accelerate insights from scans from approximately 500 patients from 2,500 hours to 90 minutes.

How many applications your team supports. Some of your organization’s operations don’t use ML (say reconciling financial ledgers) but others do. Know how many parts of your organization benefit from the optimization and automation your team builds.

User experience. You may be able to measure your customer’s experience: fewer complaints, better reviews, reduced latency, more interactions, etc. This is valid both for internal and external stakeholders. At Google we measure usage and regularly ask for feedback on any internal system or process.

One of our customers, The City of Memphis, is using VisionAI and ML to tackle a common but very challenging issue: identifying and addressing potholes.  The implementation team identified the percentage increase of potholes identified as one of the key metrics along with accuracy and cost savings. The solution captures video footage from it’s public vehicles and leverages Google Cloud capabilities like Compute Engine, AI Platform, and BigQuery to automate the review of videos.  The project increased  pothole detection by 75% with over 90% accuracy. By measuring and demonstrating these outcomes, the team proved the viability of a cost-effective, cloud-based machine learning model and is looking into new applications of AI and ML that will further improve city services and help it build a better future for its 652,000 residents. 

Acknowledgements

Filipe and Payam would like to thank our colleague and co-author Mona Mona (AI/ML Customer Engineer, Healthcare and lifesciences) who contributed equally to the writing.

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