Himali Bhasin, the Delivery Head of Data Science & Analytics at CircleK, recently shared her insights at MLDS 2024, organized by Analytics India Magazine, on scaling AI in large enterprises to foster data-driven decision-making.
Understanding Enterprise AI
Enterprise AI transcends the realm of experimental projects to embody a suite of AI-driven applications and systems implemented across an organization to improve operational efficiency and drive innovation. The challenge, however, lies in moving beyond the allure of point solutions—individual AI projects developed in isolation—to create a cohesive, scalable AI framework that aligns with business objectives and can be replicated across different functions and geographies.
The CircleK Journey
At CircleK, a global leader in convenience and fuel retail, the journey towards enterprise AI began with recognizing the need for scalable solutions capable of enhancing operational efficiencies and decision-making processes across its vast network of stores. Bhasin shared the transformative experience of building the AI practice from scratch, focusing on creating impactful, scalable solutions that could be rapidly deployed across the organization’s international footprint.
The Why and How of Enterprise AI
The imperative for enterprise AI at CircleK was driven by the necessity for operational excellence and the aspiration for transformative growth. The company faced challenges typical of large-scale AI implementations: manual processes, integration hurdles with existing business workflows, and the need for rapid, scalable model deployment.
To address these challenges, Bhasin outlined a comprehensive approach centered around four pivotal areas:
- Data Foundation: Establishing robust data management practices to ensure data quality and accessibility. At CircleK, this involved creating a unified data catalog and implementing quality monitoring mechanisms to maintain the integrity of data across diverse sources.
- User Interface: Developing user-friendly interfaces for seamless interaction between AI systems and business users. This facilitated the efficient collection of inputs necessary for AI models, thereby enhancing the user experience and encouraging adoption.
- Scalable Infrastructure: Leveraging cloud platforms like Azure and Databricks to build a scalable infrastructure capable of supporting the diverse needs of AI applications, from development through to deployment.
- MLOps: Implementing machine learning operations (MLOps) practices to streamline the lifecycle management of AI models. This includes continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) processes, model monitoring for performance drift, and mechanisms for feedback and iterative improvement.
Impact and Insights
The implementation of these strategies at CircleK resulted in significant improvements: operational tasks were expedited by 60%, data scientists’ time was optimized, and the foundation was laid for broader AI-driven transformation across the enterprise. This journey underscored the importance of viewing AI not just as a tool for isolated problem-solving but as a strategic asset capable of driving comprehensive organizational growth.
The Path Forward
Bhasin emphasized the variable nature of the “how” in enterprise AI—acknowledging that while strategies and technologies may differ from one organization to another, the core principles of scalability, integration, and impact remain constant. She highlighted the crucial roles of talent diversity and continuous innovation in sustaining the momentum of AI initiatives. Talent, in particular, is a linchpin in this equation, as a diverse skill set within teams can significantly amplify the potential for innovative problem-solving and implementation.
As businesses navigate the complexities of integrating AI at an enterprise level, the journey of CircleK serves as a compelling case study. It illustrates the transformative potential of AI when strategically deployed to enhance operational efficiencies and foster innovation. For companies looking to embark on or advance their enterprise AI journey, the insights shared by Himali Bhasin offer valuable guidance on scaling AI solutions to meet the demands of modern business landscapes.