How to build a best practise AI function

Many of the world’s leading tech companies have become “AI first” and others are trying to follow them by setting up dedicated AI functions. But what does a best practice AI function look like?

The figure below seeks to illustrate such a function. The layers indicate different tasks performed by employees with different skillsets. The percentages indicated which tasks the employees in each layer spend their time on. To the left is an indication of the relative number of employees within each layer. Each layer interacts with the level above/below them. In addition, the top layer has some interaction with the bottom layer as they ideate on new products together.

  1. Deep Learning Scientists focus on research in machine learning and in particular deep learning, which is the technique that drives progress in AI today. They also teach the layer below them and provide 1 hours weekly sparring on up to five concrete AI projects to infuse them with the latest knowledge. This is important since the development in AI is very rapid and trans­lation from research to commercial value, i.e. revenue, is very short – often just 1-2 years. It results in smarter solutions and months/years of saved work across the more manpower intensive layers towards the bottom of the figure.
  2. Machine Learning Engineers focus on applied machine learning and deep learning. They build AI prototypes and provide project management and sparring to the lower layers. They also spend some time staying up to date on AI developments to remain qualified for the interaction with the top layer.
  3. Data Engineers work on backend, data management etc. including collecting, storing, cleaning and calling data for AI solutions.
  4. Software Developers work on frontend user interfaces, web, apps, design etc. for AI solutions.
  5. Business Developers help understand the customers need and ideate on new solutions, partly in interaction with the Deep Learning Scientists at the top.

To create a thriving research group at the top you need approx. 12-15 Deep Learning Scientists, including 3-4 at senior level. As indicated in the figure, each Deep Learning Scientist can activate up to approx. 125 persons in the lower layers. Hence, an AI function with 15 persons in the top layer would involve almost 2000 persons in total.

We believe, the companies that are able to set up such best practice AI functions will be in a good position to become the digital frontrunners of the future. But we think only a few Danish or European companies will be able and/or willing to do so on their own in the near future. How others could help them set up such AI functions and thus accelerate the uptake of AI will be addressed in a separate how to briefing.

Dig Deeper Disclaimer

This how to briefing is still being validated. It is inspired by discussions with and material from employees at DTU – the Technical University of Denmark. The initial ideas were provided by Alexander Rosenberg Johansen, drawing on practical experiences from international tech companies.

How to briefings…

..are intended for boards and CEOs. They share the thinking of Digital Hub Denmark, one idea at the time. The content is curated from leading international business thinkers and doers.