This year, during our Spring Meeting, we’re holding Expedition: Data. Here is an interview with Jeff Kanel speaking about what we hope to accomplish at the event.
Two years ago, we held our first Data & Analytics (D&A) event to identify and develop machine learning (ML) and data science talent within the company. The event was a resounding success.
Eight three-to-four-person teams participated, yielding actionable ML and data science information for our clients and helping about half a dozen Centric employees became ML certified. Many of those employees now work on billable ML projects for the company.
This year, we officially titled the event Expedition: Data. The teams will present the results of their work at our annual spring meeting, held this year in St. Louis. Working with our tech partner, Microsoft, and national digital marketing company RevLocal, we took an even deeper dive into ML and data science’s potential to solve business problems.
Director and National Data and Analytics Practice Lead Jeff Kanel discussed the ML and data science solutions that came out of the first event, the results he anticipates from Expedition: Data, and how events like these enable the technology’s future at Centric.
What did you learn from your first ML and data science event?
Our goal the first year out was twofold: to identify ML and data science talent within our teams, and to identify real-world business applications for the technology. We succeeded on both fronts. But the great thing was we learned more about where our clients are with their data science strategies and how we can help them get to where they need to be to make the most out of ML.
We kept the guidelines loose, and that resulted in some real creativity. For example, Amos Long, a .NET architect (and now ML engineer) in our St. Louis Business Unit, worked on an initiative to help a skilled-nursing facility with its scheduling challenges. Because skilled nursing is a stressful field with unique needs, scheduling staff can become complex. Amos set out to develop an ML solution that would allow them to work more efficiently while improving employee satisfaction and decreasing burnout.
Amos’s project was not 100 percent successful in terms of what he hoped to accomplish, but that turned out to be a good thing. He was able to identify why it was not successful—not enough data to start with—and communicate that back to the client. Because his project demonstrated that they needed to work harder at data collection to succeed, they have now put systems in place to do that. For me, that’s a bigger win than having the project deliver exactly what it intended to achieve out of the gate.
What technical solutions are you hoping to identify in Expedition: Data?
We have awesome partners this year with Microsoft and RevLocal. Our investment in Microsoft machine learning technologies is very deep. It includes Azure Machine Learning Services, Azure Machine Learning VM, and Azure Databricks. We want to demonstrate our capability with Microsoft’s platform as a service (PaaS) tools.
RevLocal generously shared their data for us to work with, and they identified half a dozen business problems for the teams to work on. Both companies will even provide judges for the event, and we are so grateful for their passion and engagement.
The problems RevLocal identified revolve around a critical issue facing all of us: employee and customer retention. RevLocal strives to be the most trusted digital marketing partner for business owners and believes there are opportunities to improve their relationships with both their customers and employees.
One cool thing– the original idea for creating an ML and data science event had an employee satisfaction and retention angle for us. We wanted to find employees who had the potential to be great at ML and data science, even if they weren’t “tech” people, as a way to help them feel even more excited about working at our company. The issues RevLocal asked us to work on will allow us to develop targeted employee retention solutions for them.
From a customer-retention perspective, we will expand on some prior D&A we did with RevLocal to identify characteristics of customers who may be at risk of leaving the firm. Our goal is to develop ML and data-science-based retention programs for those customers.
How do events like Expedition: Data prepare Centric and its clients for leadership in ML and data science?
Expedition: Data is a powerful demonstration of our employees’ passion for finding creative solutions to clients’ problems using advanced technologies like ML. With the IDC estimating data creation will equal 175 zettabytes by 2025—five times the amount produced in 2018—companies must find smarter ways not only to manage data but also to align it to business needs, so it leads to better business decisions.
Innovation and employee engagement are important parts of our culture, and we look forward to developing more ways to identify hidden talent within our organization. ML and data science represent an exciting new world for all of us. Let’s work together to stay at the forefront of this rapidly developing technology.
RevLocal has been on a mission to revolutionize the local marketing industry since 2010, and they’re thrilled to lead the transition towards local search marketing. Today, they provide personalized digital marketing solutions to many thriving local businesses across the U.S., and they’re just getting started.
Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.