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Unlocking AI’s potential: A guide to delivering, sustaining optimal value through AI deployments

Johannesburg, 06 Jun 2024
Rudi Dreyer, Chief Business Environment Officer, 4Sight.
Rudi Dreyer, Chief Business Environment Officer, 4Sight.

In the realm of technological advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer, revolutionising various industries in an unprecedented manner. Over the past couple of years, we have seen a significant leap in AI adoption, with its integration in at least one business area in approximately 50% of organisations – and this figure is growing exponentially. This surge is not merely a quantitative one, but also qualitative, with AI finding its footing in a diverse array of applications, ranging from customer service and employee empowerment to creative ideation, data analysis, code creation and cyber security.

The advent of generative AI has expanded this scope, equipping AI agents to undertake tasks across many communication modes, including text, voice, video, audio and code. This exponential growth in AI adoption and its wide-ranging applications highlight the transformative potential of AI in sculpting our future.

It is important to note, while the potential of AI is undeniable, its practical implementation is not without challenges. Many organisations have set AI objectives and are exploring numerous AI use cases that could potentially add value to their business through safer, greener, faster and cheaper business execution. While identifying these use cases and developing a proof of concept using a predefined static data set is relatively straightforward, the real test lies in deploying these use cases at scale in a dynamic, ever-changing production environment. It is here that many AI solutions falter and fail.

In their haste to make meaningful breakthroughs, teams often focus on individual use cases, which sinks any hope for scale. Effort is needed to go into building sustainable scalable data and AI platform that can serve many use cases. This can increase the chances of successful integration with the business threefold.

In this press release, we will delve into these challenges and explore how we can unlock AI’s potential to deliver and sustain optimal value through successful AI deployments.

Navigating the data complexity explosion: Managing structured and unstructured data growth in AI deployments

In the past decade, numerous companies have embarked on a transformative journey from hindsight to insight, leveraging structured data to drive business decisions. However, as these data-driven reports proliferated, it became increasingly clear that extracting data directly from source systems was a recipe for maintenance and data governance nightmares. This led to the advent of data warehouses and data lakes. But without strict adherence to master data modelling methodologies and data governance, these data lakes became data swamps, filled with duplicate data extracted from source systems to deliver reports to various departments.

Recognising the need for sustainable, scalable and source system-independent data solutions, companies like 4Sight have differentiated themselves by delivering a sustainable enterprise data layer to their customers. These implementations, focused on structured data and data replication, have demonstrated significant business value by enabling more real-time decision making through enhanced visibility.

The heart of this approach is the Enterprise 5.0 framework, which centres on creating a sustainable and scalable “one version of the truth” enterprise data layer. This ensures that all reports and dashboards use a subset of one consistent data layer, eliminating data duplication and centralising the management and maintenance of business rules or calculations on raw data.

However, as AI use cases roll out from development to production environments, the need for data accuracy, security, quality and governance has significantly increased. Deploying AI use cases on production environments as standalone point solutions may deliver business value quickly, but it is not sustainable or maintainable in the long run.

Moreover, the advent of AI’s ability to interact with unstructured data and the rapid adoption of generative AI that can handle tasks across a range of communication modes, including text, voice, video and audio, has necessitated the inclusion of both structured and unstructured data in our enterprise data platforms. This has exponentially increased the complexity of managing all our data sources and building a sustainable, scalable data layer. The need for a “one version of the truth” data layer, where data quality and accuracy are guaranteed, has never been greater. As we delve deeper into this topic, we will explore how to navigate this complex landscape and unlock the full potential of AI deployments.

Ensuring a complete digital transformation: The key to harnessing AI’s full potential

The journey towards a successful AI strategy begins with the crucial step of digitising your data. Companies are increasingly recognising this, with platforms like 4Sight’s 4flow business process management platform, which integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Power Platform and Power Automate, leading the charge in helping businesses digitise their paper and manual business processes.

This digitisation, facilitated through user-friendly, platform-independent mobile applications, automates manual data capturing and the digitisation of manual paper-driven processes and is essential for several reasons:

  1. Data accessibility: Digitised data, easily accessible and searchable, equips AI systems to efficiently retrieve and analyse information, thereby facilitating informed decision-making.
  2. Data availability: Whether manually captured or made available through digitised manual or paper-driven processes, digitised data offers a more comprehensive view of information, thereby enhancing the performance and accuracy of AI models.
  3. Data quality: Digitisation aids in improving data quality by reducing errors, duplication and inconsistencies, thereby ensuring that AI algorithms receive reliable inputs for optimal results.
  4. Data analysis: Digitised data paves the way for advanced analytics, pattern recognition and insights generation, thereby empowering AI systems to derive valuable information for strategic decision-making.
  5. Scalability: Digital data, being scalable, can accommodate growing volumes of information, thereby supporting the expansion of AI initiatives and accommodating dynamic business needs.
  6. Efficiency: Digitised data streamlines data processing workflows, accelerates data-driven tasks and enhances operational efficiency, thereby enabling AI solutions to deliver results more effectively.
  7. Innovation: Digitising data fosters innovation by unlocking new opportunities for AI applications and personalised experiences that drive competitive advantage and business growth.

The next step is automating data capture through commercial IOT platforms like 4Sight’s 4IOT offering if it is justified by the return on investment of the business case.

By incorporating data digitisation as a key component of your AI strategy, you lay a robust foundation for harnessing the full potential of artificial intelligence technologies, thereby driving insights, innovation and success in your organisation.

Contrasting AI’s playground and battlefield: Data in proof-of-concept vs large-scale production environments

In today’s technologically advanced world, a plethora of AI services, platforms and frameworks are readily available from major vendors like Microsoft, Nvidia and others, making it relatively straightforward to develop a successful AI proof of concept (POC) once a business use case has been defined. The advantage of a POC is that it is built using a defined static data set where the data is accurate and unchanging. This data, whether structured, unstructured or semi-structured, can be used to develop an AI solution without the need for an enterprise data layer.

However, the real challenge arises when companies attempt to deploy a successful POC in a dynamic production environment. Several factors can contribute to the failure of AI deployments in such environments:

  1. Poor data quality: Inaccurate, incomplete or biased data can lead to subpar AI performance and unreliable outcomes, undermining the success of deployments.
  2. Data quality monitoring and maintenance: The absence of data quality monitoring and maintenance in various data sources can compromise data integrity.
  3. Automated processes: A lack of automated processes to manage, index and tag all new unstructured data sources can hinder data management.
  4. Data and metadata modelling standards: The absence of data and metadata modelling standards can lead to inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
  5. Data management layer: The absence of a data management layer that can cater for both structured and unstructured data and ensures data quality, integrity, security, lineage and governance can compromise data reliability.
  6. Insufficient data infrastructure: Inadequate data infrastructure, including storage and processing power, can hinder the scalability and effectiveness of AI deployments.
  7. Continuous monitoring and maintenance: Without ongoing monitoring, maintenance and updates, AI models may become outdated, leading to performance degradation and, ultimately, deployment failure.
  8. Stakeholder involvement: Limited stakeholder involvement can hinder the traction and support needed for successful AI deployment.
  9. Access to AI solution: The absence of access to the AI solution through a single sign-on portal can limit user accessibility and engagement.

By proactively addressing these challenges and implementing best practices in AI project management, organisations can increase the likelihood of successful AI deployments in production environments, thereby harnessing the full potential of AI.

Balancing act: Managing the complexity of structured and unstructured data in AI production environments

Managing data in a production environment is a complex task that requires a nuanced understanding of different data types. Here’s how structured and unstructured data can be effectively managed:

  1. Structured data management: This involves utilising structured data warehouses that follow a well-defined modelling methodology. Data modelling techniques based on business entities and attributes are implemented to organise structured data in an easily accessible and query able manner. ETL (extract, transform, load) or ELT processes are used to extract, transform and load structured data into the production environment. Additionally, data governance practices are implemented to ensure the quality, security and integrity of structured data.
  2. Unstructured data management: This involves utilising NoSQL databases or data lakes to store and manage unstructured data, such as text, images, and videos. Data indexing and search capabilities are implemented to make unstructured data searchable and retrievable. Natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning techniques are used to extract insights from unstructured data. Furthermore, data tagging and classification are implemented to organise unstructured data for analysis and retrieval.
  3. Combining structured and unstructured data: A data platform that utilises a data fabric methodology, like Microsoft Fabric, is used to combine structured and unstructured data as part of a sustainable, scalable enterprise data layer. This is critical for comprehensive analysis and decision-making through reports and dashboards and essential for AI deployments in dynamic production environments. AI algorithms that can handle both structured and unstructured data are utilised to derive valuable insights from diverse data sources.

In 4Sight, both the Data Vault 2.0 methodology for defined structured data and a data fabric methodology that enables both data and metadata modelling and can link to structured, unstructured and semi-structured data are utilised.

Data fabric and data vault methodologies:

By following a well-defined data methodology, organisations can effectively manage both structured and unstructured data in a production environment, thereby leveraging the full potential of their data assets for business insights and decision-making.

Transitioning from static to dynamic: The crucial step of adapting AI solutions to real-time data changes in production environments

Taking a successful AI POC from a static data environment to a full-scale production deployment with dynamic and continuously changing data is a significant leap. This transition involves several critical steps:

  1. Evaluating POC results: It’s essential to assess the outcomes of the POC to ensure alignment with business objectives and value delivery.
  2. Scalability assessment: Determining whether the POC can effectively scale to meet production demands is a crucial factor.
  3. Infrastructure readiness: Ensuring the necessary infrastructure, resources and data are in place for production deployment is a prerequisite.
  4. Security and compliance: Addressing security and compliance requirements for deploying AI solutions in a production environment is non-negotiable.
  5. Enterprise data management layer: Implementing a sustainable, scalable data management layer that can cater for both structured and unstructured data is key. This layer should manage all the data required for the production AI solution and be capable of real-time data ingestion, processing and storage.
  6. Data quality checks: Implementing data quality checks to ensure the incoming data is of good quality is vital. This should involve checks for missing or frozen values, outliers, data spikes or incorrect data types.
  7. Model retraining: Models should be retrained periodically with new data to ensure they stay up to date. The frequency of retraining will depend on how quickly the data changes.
  8. Scalability: Ensuring your infrastructure can handle the volume of data might involve using distributed systems, cloud-based solutions or other technologies that allow for scalability.
  9. Monitoring: Implementing monitoring to track the performance of your AI model over time is crucial. If the model’s performance drops, it may be necessary to retrain it with new data.
  10. Version control: Using version control for both your code and your models allows you to roll back to a previous version if something goes wrong.
  11. Testing: Before deploying the model, it should be thoroughly tested in an environment that closely mirrors the production environment.
  12. Deployment: Using automated deployment processes reduces the risk of human error and ensures consistent deployments.
  13. Feedback loop: Establishing a feedback loop where the predictions of the model are compared with the actual outcomes can be used to further improve the model.
  14. Monitoring and maintenance: Implementing monitoring tools and processes to track performance and address any issues that may arise post-deployment is essential.
  15. User training and support: Providing training and support to users who will interact with the AI solution in the production environment is crucial.

By following these steps, organisations can effectively transition a successful POC for an AI use case to full deployment in a production environment. Remember, this transition is a significant step and requires careful planning and execution. It’s important to have a multidisciplinary team that includes data scientists, data engineers, enterprise architects and AI specialists to ensure a smooth transition. This transition is not just a technical exercise, but a strategic move that can unlock significant business value and set the stage for AI-driven innovation.

From static to dynamic: The imperative of adapting AI solutions to handle real-time data changes

Managing the growth and evolution of data in AI deployments is a complex task that requires a strategic approach. Here’s how organisations can navigate this challenge:

  1. Expertise: Access to both technical expertise in AI and machine learning, as well as domain expertise for understanding the data and problem at hand, is crucial.
  2. Data management: Ensuring sound model management, traceability and data integrity is important. This involves techniques for data cleaning, preprocessing and transformation. This can only be achieved with a well-designed enterprise data layer.
  3. Data pipeline management: Effective management of the data pipeline is key. This includes processes for data ingestion, data processing and data storage, and mechanisms for handling real-time or streaming data.
  4. Infrastructure: Building an optimised AI platform (cloud, on-premises or hybrid) and managing its performance is another important aspect. This involves selecting the right hardware and software, tuning the performance of the AI models and scaling the infrastructure as the data grows.
  5. Bridging the gap between business and technical leaders: Despite progress in recent years, there are still gaps in understanding between business leaders and technical leaders when it comes to deploying AI. It’s crucial that all stakeholders in your organisation understand what AI can do and what its limitations are.
  6. Selecting the right problem and evaluating ROI: The AI process must always start with the careful selection of potential AI use cases. These use cases must be carefully analysed in terms of the business value they can potentially create and the effort and cost it will take to deploy them in a production environment.

Remember, managing growing and evolving data in AI deployments is a complex task that requires a multidisciplinary approach. But with the right strategies and tools and partnering with the right company like 4Sight, it’s achievable.

Securing the future of AI: Addressing data challenges for long-term success in production environments

The rapid acceleration of AI adoption in organisations is set to follow a trajectory similar to, but much more accelerated than, the creation of near real-time reports and dashboards that provide executives and management with visibility into their business operations. However, if we indiscriminately develop and deploy AI solutions, each ingesting its own sets of data, the maintenance thereof could become unmanageable. Moreover, since AI only delivers value if it uses correct and accurate data, the value derived from AI could diminish.

Companies like 4Sight have carved a niche for themselves by delivering a scalable and sustainable enterprise data management layer that ensures data accuracy and quality. If this enterprise data management layer is deployed for the production environment deployments of various AI solutions, we create a sustainable “one version of the truth” layer that is easy to maintain and grow. Because our modelling methodology is truly scalable, we can deliver one use case at a time, gradually creating our enterprise data layer. This approach not only allows us to deliver immediate value through productising AI use cases one at a time, but also builds a data environment where we can implement enterprise AI solutions that can assist management and executives with business decision-making as it understands the data from every area of the business.

Invest now in making your data and AI solutions sustainable by designing and implementing these solutions correctly and reap the business benefits for years to come. This is the key to future-proofing AI and ensuring its long-term success in production environments. The future of AI is not just about technology, but about strategically integrating it into the fabric of organisational operations for sustained success.