Running a Successful Data Science POC

A proof of concept (POC) should prove the larger value of a system, ensuring it’s aligned with forwarding the company’s longer-term strategic objectives. But what does this mean specifically for data science?

A proof of concept (POC) is a popular way for businesses to evaluate the viability of a system, product, or service to ensure it meets specific needs or sets of predefined requirements. POCs should prove the larger value of a system, ensuring it’s aligned with forwarding the company’s longer-term strategic objectives.

When it comes to the evaluation of data science solutions, POCs should prove not just that a solution solves one particular, specific problem, but that a system will provide widespread value to the company: that it’s capable of bringing a data-driven perspective to a range of the business’s strategic objectives.

The 7 Key Steps to a Valuable Data POC

Here are the seven essential elements to keep the project on track for an efficient, effective, and most of all a successful POC.

 

1. Choose a real, concrete use case. The first, and possibly most important, step to running a successful POC is choosing a use case. Without this, a POC simply can’t exist. Start with a list of critical business issues from which to choose, possibly soliciting feedback and ideas from teams across the company for a variety of use cases. Evaluate the current processes, whether the use of data science and machine learning techniques could specifically help improve them, and if so, how?

2. Restrict to a reasonable time frame. In general, a maximum of 60 days is sufficient for a POC because it allows for proper evaluation without taking too much time away from staff who are balancing other ongoing work and projects.

3. Clearly define deliverables. Of course, one of the most important factors in restricting a POC to a reasonable timeframe is the presence of clear deliverables. Because without them, the process can drag on, as no one is really sure what to consider done or what to consider a success (or when).

4. Involve the right people. To run a successful, efficient POC, all relevant stakeholders will need to be involved from all parts of the organization: the data scientists and/or analysts, of course, will necessarily be connected the most to the project; but also the IT team, any business teams involved with or impacted by the results, as well as end users of the solution, should all be involved.

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5. Consider Production. Data science and data projects shouldn’t happen in a vacuum, so neither should a POC. The goal of a POC isn’t just to complete one simple project. Rather, it’s so that the platform can continue to deliver business value even after the POC is over. And in order to deliver that value, projects (including the use case for the POC) need to actually go into production and not get stuck in a prototyping or sandbox phase.

6. Ensure autonomy. Often, a POC affords companies the opportunity to work with experts in the field with lots of experience in getting data projects off the ground and into production. No matter how simple a product seems, working with experts (likely the product’s sales and/or technical teams) comes with the added advantage of learning from other companies on what works and what doesn’t.

7. Be agile but focused. In the POC process, the best results come from teams that are both agile – eager to pivot in new directions they didn’t foresee – but also focused and not straying too far away from the original problem when interesting insights inevitably come up.

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What to Expect During a POC with Dataiku

With Dataiku, the work on your POC will not be throw-away; we take pride in working with customers to make sure a POC brings real value. That is part of why we strongly suggest that teams choose a test case that is tied to strategic goals and has real and measurable results. After the POC, you will be left with new learnings and insights, a new model and/or a new data product (or three!) that you can continue to use even after the POC is done.

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An important part of bringing value means ensuring that team members use Dataiku and aren’t afraid of losing work that they put into a project if the POC doesn’t ultimately end in a purchase. Therefore, at the end of a POC:

  • Dataiku reverts to the free edition, so projects are still accessible and work is not lost (note, however, that the free edition means no production capabilities and some limited reduction in functions).
  • All of the code used can be extracted by the admin.
  • The GUI models can be seen and still used by the admin.
  • The non-prep recipes can still run on several connections.

Ultimately, adhering to the seven essential components of a successful POC using a centralized platform such as Dataiku will mean a faster decision and an easier transition from POC to implementation.

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