SAP consulting firm Soltius New Zealand has strengthened its analytics team with the appointment of Habib Baluwala as data scientist.
The appointment will assist Soltius move from its traditional focus in delivering analytics and reporting solutions, to help clients gain more value from their data through predictive analytics.
“The idea of bringing predictive analytics, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning aspects to our customers, through Habib and the people we’ll bring in to follow Habib in the future is really exciting,” said Andrew Roberts, GM – practice, Soltius New Zealand.
In New Zealand, Baluwala previously held roles for IRD New Zealand and the University of Auckland, as well as positions in the UK, where his work included designing a solution for the early detection of lung cancer.
Baluwala, who will be based in Auckland, said his role will be a mix of data engineer, mathematician and storyteller, using technology to communicate insights to executives.
“For example, a customer service organisation might be getting thousands of calls a day, but most of the time the voice of the customer is lost. How do you convert that voice into text and then use the text to do analysis to see what the important topics are for customers?”, Baluwala said.
“Similarly, within the predictive space you have customers who have years of sales data but want to know how sales are going to be in future, whether a customer is going to stay with them and so on. In those cases, we can convert the data into insights and provide the customer with a guide to the path they should follow.”
With his forecasting hat on, Baluwala has made some predictions for the data space in the coming year:
1. Chatbots will initiate a new paradigm in communication to consumers.
Chatbots will begin to dominate the market for customer interaction, supplanting call centres and other mediums by executing the same tasks with greater efficiency, no waiting times, and reduced overhead, according to Baluwala.
2. Making data science or AI transparent.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union requires all organisations making decisions using AI or data science to explain these decisions, and Baluwala said this will impact New Zealand companies too. Organisations dealing with international clients based in the EU must comply with GDPR regulations and provide transparency for algorithms used in making decisions.
3. Recognising bias within AI.
Companies need to understand that AI is only as good as the data that is used to train it, and this means bias can be an issue. “Quality assessment and control of data used in AI systems should be a major focus for enterprises seeking neutrality in their AI systems,” Baluwala says. “Courts in America are currently using AI algorithms to make decisions on how long a criminal should be jailed for. Unfortunately, these algorithms trained on data from previous court decisions might include racial and ethnic biases which can lead to tainted decisions.”
4. Integrating information from multiple sources onto a single platform.
As always, a single source of truth for data is a desirable end state. For its part, Soltius is encouraging customers to adopt the SAP Leonardo digital innovation platform, which provides access to SAP Cloud Platform technologies and enables new business models and capabilities.