Data Science and AI in Digital Transformation: Digital Can Lead to Blindness


Digital Transformation has been with us for decades, but COVID-19 pandemic accelerated it beyond anyone’s imagination. With Digital Channels the data flux increases by one or more orders of magnitude. While this may create great opportunities for Data Science and AI, it turns out much of the work in digital transformations focuses primarily on automating workflows. Many organizations overlook the collection of data as a high priority. Not only does this result in missing out on great opportunities to inject analytics, Data Science, and AI applications but ironically overlooking the data creates new challenges for organization as they lose the ability to understand what is working and not working in their new digital channels. We show how thinking about the right data collection and management is already an urgent imperative. We use some case studies to demonstrate how to avoid or recover from the self-imposed blindness. We conclude by discussing what is missing in preparing data scientists for facing relevant problems effectively and discuss some of the approaches we are taking at the Institute for Experiential AI to address some of these issues – especially in preparing the right talent and skills.


Usama Fayyad is the Inaugural Executive Director of the Institute for Experiential AI at Northeastern University where he is also professor of computer science. He is Chairman at Open Insights focusing on AI/ML/BigData, Data strategy, and new business models for Data. He was Global Chief Data Officer at Barclays Bank in London (2013-2016) after which he served as Co-founder and CTO at OODA Health in San Francisco focused on AI in the healthcare space. He was Chairman/CEO/CTO at several Seattle/Silicon Valley tech startups and the first person to hold the title: Chief Data Officer when Yahoo! acquired his 2nd startup in 2004. He held leadership roles at Microsoft (1996-2000) and founded the Machine Learning Systems group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1989-1996) where he was awarded Caltech’s top Excellence in Research award & a U.S. Government medal from NASA. Usama published over 100 technical articles, holds over 30 patents, is a Fellow of both Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the Association of Computing Machinery. He is a recipient of both the ACM SIGKDD Awards for Innovation and for Service. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and holds two BSE’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering, MSE Computer Engineering and M.Sc. in Mathematics.

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