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How AI, Machine Learning and Big Data are Impacting Companies
By Iacopo Ghisio, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Gruppo MOL
From big corporates down to small companies, we are struggling to improve, innovate, and attract the right talents that will boost reputation, growth, and open up new business streams. This is why I will try to give a quick overview of what could happen and suggest how to deal with it.
Whether you work in Financial Services, Logistics, Payments, Banking, Industry, for sure you’re facing a need to innovate. It could mean moving to a public cloud, reduce time-consuming activities through RPA, create predictive microservices or simply optimize supply chain using lean principles, you will need to deal with people to “change manage” this stream. You can rely on your perfectly skilled HR department, on your trusted head hunting company or on yourself but you will fail if you’re not considering the impact of this wind of change in your current organisation that is made of people.
Let’s pretend here that your need is to kick off a new department, an innovation one, like Big Data or Data Science. You’ll face many gray areas that I hope to help shed lights on.
Would you start hiring the manager of this new department or rather a deeply technical expert?
From a practical point of view, to hit the ground running, you could decide to hire the tech pivot meanwhile you keep looking for a more managerial role internally or, from a strategic point of view, you should decide to hire an experienced manager and delegate her/him role to form the team; following solution one, will allow you to be quicker in addressing the issues you want this department to face but it will take really a long time before you have the dept. running as a unit, since the person will be overwhelmed by operational stuff; the second option will delay a bit the operational start and any practical results you may be looking for but will pave the way for a later sprint.
Work with people, to help them embrace the change, to empower them into a more liquid organization that should become project driven and not area driven
The chosen solution will be up to the size of the company, the capability to plan in advance, the budget for the whole team (does a manager is needed for a 3 people team?) and the business needs.
Both the branches created above will merge, sooner or later, in a common one, hitting the organisation; that, as said before, is made of people and processes. Ok, let’s move on and paste this new department into an existing organisation: will you include this Big Data / AI / Advanced Analytics into the CTO area? or better to attach it into a more business related area? Let’s branch again and see what could happen.
CTO area is the one normally more tied to the legacy, regardless of the innovation minds you can find down there; a new innovative team will need to be carefully inserted since it will (probably) need some new infrastructure or new software or dedicated bandwidth or hardware like GPU / TPU. So the point here is whether your IT department is ready to support this or rather will build (fire)walls around any different-from-status-quo solution? Following this case, probably a tech-minded individual would be a better fit as a leader of the new team, having the same background, experience, and empathy of the IT team.
On the other branch, business area will be happier to host such a great brand-new area and to have the control of strategic technologies; yet there is a threat here, that is the time-to-market expectations pushed down to the new team; not all new things can be done as quick as biz thinks and here you will need a strong business partner able to communicate clearly, manage expectations and continuously bringing results once the team is created and settled. Here, to explicitly state, a management role will be a better fit since they will speak the same language.
Merging again, to stay all in the same decision tree as my friend Data Scientist will say, we’ll face a common problem: a new team, data-driven, in an existing organization will for sure hit other areas; you as a CEO will need to help in keeping this hit as much as possible contained, avoiding sudden breaks that will ruin your freshly new created *Data* team. The suggestion here is to work with people, to help them embrace the change, to empower them into a more liquid organization that should become project driven and not (anymore) area driven; cooperation is the key to success and to help people following this path, you need to make them grow personally and, later on, professionally to accept that change, to adapt, to improve agility: this will simply lead to success for everyone.
Having said this, the next challenge will be to make the team profitable, to cover most of the businesses in your company, and the make it demanded by the rest of other departments; I would suggest measuring this team’s results not only in terms of money but also in terms of innovative, out of the box, data-driven mentality that brings into the company; yet you need tangible results so we’ll soon talk about “low hanging fruits” and how to exploit them.