Building a Center of Excellence for Data Science
Building a Center of Excellence for Data Science


Companies adopt different organizational models for data science, sometimes organically, but oftentimes not. There are different trade-offs to each of these organizational structures. Completely decentralized, business-led data science teams can more responsively understand and attend to business needs, often lowering time to deployment and increasing the likelihood of operationalized solutions. However, several challenges can arise, including the lack of enterprise-wide adoption of data science, heavily siloed data and capabilities, and little to no cross-functional capabilities. Centralized teams can offer scale and deploy technology and infrastructure investments quickly, but at the risk of slower delivery time and a focus on technology, rather than business-driven, problems. Hybrid models, including a hub-and-spoke model with a center of excellence, attempt to bridge the best of both worlds, but require significant coordination and credibility from the center of excellence. We will explore the pros and cons of each model and the types of companies at which each might succeed. We will use Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL, NM, MT, OK, & TX as a case study on how we've established our center of excellence.


Michael Xiao currently leads the Enterprise Data Science organization at Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL, MT, NM, OK & TX. His area serves as the center of excellence for data science, promotes data science literacy across the company, and creates and delivers data science products leveraging machine learning, including natural language processing and computer vision. The mission of his team is to help Blue Cross’s 16 million members by making healthcare more affordable, improving the quality of care, and enhancing overall member experience through the use of data science and machine learning.

He has previously worked at two large payers in various roles including data science, financial forecasting, pricing, product management, and project management. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Film Modified with Computer Science from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. He’s based out of Chicago, but is obsessed with travel and plans on visiting all seven continents in calendar year 2019.

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