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The Importance of Enterprise AI – A Distance Measure to the C-Suite

One method to weigh the importance of AI, machine learning and deep learning to the typical enterprise is to simply measure the distance of the data science/engineering team to the C-suite. Yes, that’s right, a floor map is often a good guide to how upper management values this technology.

I’ve seen this effect first-hand at the start-up companies I’ve encountered during my stints on various advisory boards. Even in the most “open” of open office space plans, where freedom for collaboration reigns king, it’s often the analytics team sitting closest to the company founders and C-level folks. Great visibility for us data scientists!

I look at this phenomenon as an unsupervised learning problem of sorts. Clustering uses a distance measure to identify clusters or groups. In this case, using physical distance as the distance measure, frequently identifies the group of workers nearest to the execs as technologists involved with analytics and data science.

Take Google for example. At the company’s Silicon Valley HQ, CEO Sundar Pichai (since August 2015) now shares a floor with Google Brain, a deep learning AI research team. Facebook’s AI lab temporarily had researchers sit next to a conference room where Mark Zuckerberg holds his meetings. Overstock.com’s research operation OLabs sits directly outside the office of CEO Patrick Byrne.

The growing trend is to position research labs and big data engineering teams closer to the boss. And here’s the point: the work these teams are doing is viewed as critical to the company’s bottom line, and may even represent the future of the company. Competitive forces are moving more quickly than ever before, and the innovation that AI technologies bring to the table are driving business success. Indeed, many believe that the tech should be the heart of every initiative.

This priority wasn’t always the case. Just one year ago, the Google Brain team sat in a build on the other side of the corporate campus. Over the last several months however, the team’s importance was elevated and they’re now located adjacent to the area where the execs work. Now, luminary AI researchers like Jeffrey Dean (who oversees the Brain lab), and Ian Goodfellow are a short walk to CEO Pichai.

The distance measure effect is in direct relation to how CEOs perceive the importance of where people are sitting, specifically who they can walk around and have casual conversations with. It’s a significant statement when AI teams are moved closer to the C-suite. It’s also a distinct advantage for execs to be able to walk past the research team to catch wind of what the engineers are excited about. As a data scientist, I’m overjoyed to witness this increased status we have with enterprise thought leaders and decision makers.

Contributed by Daniel D. Gutierrez, Managing Editor and Resident Data Scientist of insideBIGDATA. In addition to being a tech journalist, Daniel also is a practicing data scientist, author, educator and sits on a number of advisory boards for various start-up companies. 

 

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