Implementing AI pilot projects in large organisation

Earlier this week, MIT Technology Review hosted its annual event on all things artificial intelligence (“AI”). It’s my first time following the event, albeit virtually. You can checkout #emtechdigital on Twitter to know what’s being discussed, presented, debated on AI.

I am particularly drawn at Andrew Ng’s session. When it comes to AI, Andrew Ng’s name is not new to us. An MIT graduate, a professor at Stanford, co-founded Coursera, Google Brain, former VP and Chief Scientist of Baidu (Google of China) and all-time AI activist.

According to Andrew, “if you are thinking about embracing AI: just jump in”.

Here’s a screenshot of his advice on “how to jump in”.


I could relate to this, having done a related pilot project, albeit the beginning or rather foundation of AI. If you are in a large traditional company, not only you need the support and buy in from the CEO, but also across the board. Executing an AI-related project involves a continuous or up-hill battle with various departments such as finance, marketing, sales, IT, legal and compliance and it can be very daunting to argue your way through if your project is not a priority of the organisation, especially if it is just a pilot project. People don’t have the visibility of the success of the project, hence they are afraid to commit in terms of time, cost and resources. But that’s the nature of AI-related projects. It needs to be done multiple times – test and learn spirit, to even spot the quick wins.

Hence, time, cost (i.e. money/budget) and resources are the three essential ingredients to successfully implement AI pilot projects. (1) You need time to allow the test and learn series, from collecting, mining, analysing, training and interpreting data to the legality aspects of it. (2) It is costly as you need to pay for the computing power (software, cloud, data) and most importantly to pay for the right people to deliver the project (data engineers, data scientist are very expensive), hence you need to make the budget available (CFOs need to understand this need). (3) You need a team, dedicated resources and the right mindset. The people you hire to execute, must have the agile mindset and patience as along the way, they need to educate the people they have to deal with from various departments to get what they want.

Sometimes even the high-level executives don’t understand what we do. But that’s fine, we are all learning anyway, these are all new things to us. If you are more advanced than them, create the awareness and educate them. It’s a long haul journey. 

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