We live in a time when technology can do amazing things. Computers are now performing tasks that have historically required a trained human expert, and machines can do it all faster, cheaper, and with greater consistency. An ATM can read a checking deposit without the need for a teller; cars can anticipate accidents and apply the brakes early; insurance companies are even settling claims with just chatbots and image processing.
You may have seen use cases like these and wondered how your own business could be boosted with machine learning and advanced analytics. Perhaps you’ve even gotten ambitious enough to try a training course on data science, only to find the materials quickly get into higher-level mathematics and advanced programming exercises. Or maybe you’ve decided to hire some data scientists, but their lack of industry knowledge and reliance on technical jargon make it difficult to get meaningful results.
Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning (“AzureML”) platform can provide the middle ground between unlocking the power of data science and doing it in a way that makes sense to the business. AzureML is the data science offering in Microsoft’s Azure suite of cloud-based products. It uses a graphical user interface to guide users through the machine learning process. Since it’s part of the Azure family, AzureML integrates with Azure’s cloud storage and data processing capabilities. It also offers the ability to publish models as a web service, so you can send data from your existing applications to AzureML to get suggestions or predictions quickly. In this post, I’ll walk through a basic machine learning process and how Azure Machine Learning enables you to get those insights.
By far the most time-consuming phase of any data science project is preparing the data. AzureML has several utilities to facilitate this process. You can filter data, join datasets together, perform arithmetic among the fields in your dataset, and split the data into multiple datasets. AzureML can even automatically identify outliers in the data for removal. If the native AzureML modules don’t do exactly what you need them to do, AzureML supports the use of R, Python, or SQL modules to perform more advanced operations. Each step you take in preparing your data is represented in the user interface with a rectangular module. To make navigating your data pipeline easier, you can add comments to these modules, so you know exactly what each one does.
An AzureML pipeline can consist of several steps to filter, join, and aggregate data to prepare for model development.
The type of model you want to use depends on what you are trying to predict. AzureML has built-in capabilities to run several common machine learning algorithms to design a model that fits your needs. The library of available methods ranges from very simple (e.g., linear regression) to highly complex and customizable (e.g., convolutional neural networks). Each model type has a few parameters for the user to set, and if you’re ever unsure of how these methods operate or what the parameters mean, you can always click the Help button for a description. For more advanced users, AzureML also includes the ability to cross-validate using different parameter settings to fine-tune your model’s performance.
AzureML has several popular learning algorithms pre-loaded for use.
Once your model has been designed, it can be published in a common web service format so your other applications can access your predictions to augment your reporting and decision-making capabilities. Data can be sent across for predictions in real-time, and AzureML will update its predictions for each new piece of information. Since AzureML is part of the Azure family of products, there are additional options for how your data can be sent and processed if it’s stored in the Azure cloud.
When the model is ready to be used, AzureML has a portal that allows you to configure and test your model. It also provides sample code to guide your developers.
This post has given a very high-level overview of the machine learning process, but there are several other considerations that go into building a robust and valuable data science practice. How will predictive use cases be prioritized and delivered? How will models be governed? What is the review and maintenance schedule for your models? It can be tough to know where to start, but CCG can help.
Written by CCG, an organization in Tampa, Florida, that helps companies become more insights-driven, solve complex challenges and accelerate growth through industry-specific data and analytics solutions.
CCG understood our project needs very well, they are very responsive and we could not ask for anything more. The solution they provided fit perfectly with our expectations and business goals.GOP Data TrustChief Data Officer
I cannot overstate the delight we experienced from the outcome of our project. I would not only recommend CCG to any company, but question why they would engage with anyone but CCG.PgiDirector of Customer Success
Working with CCG is like working with extended team members. Consultants become an integral part of the work bringing expertise for cutting edge design and development.Hillsborough County Public SchoolsChief Information and Technology Officer
CCG's team is positive and eager. They are a great big bunch of wonderful people trying to make a difference.Hillsborough County Public SchoolsDepartment Manager
I knew CCG's technical expertise and dedication to quality results would be invaluable to our project success based on our past partnerships. We could not have implemented in the short timeframe like we did without their assistance. CCG is #1 on my speed dial for successful project implementation.InCommDirector, Financial Information Systems
It was evident from the onset of negotiations through the implementation that CCG took their role in the partnership to heart and we believe it has been instrumental in our success.Interval InternationalDirector of Marketing
CCG works very hard to understand and align with our needs. It truly feels as though we are on the same team!Fortune 500 HomebuilderBI Manager
CCG came to our company in a time of much change. Their team partnered with ours, continually delivering with professionalism and efficiency. We would not be where we are today without the expertise CCG brought to the project.PSCU Financial ServicesSenior Program Manager
CCG has a good industry knowledge, we are very happy that we chose to work with CCG. They have been a great help strategically and are helping us make important decisions.Minneapolis Public SchoolsHuman Capital Coordinator
Other Vendors use the word Partnership, but CCG actually means what they say. I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism and willingness to work with us as a true Partner, not just another vendor.PODSCIO
Our CCG Consultants are total rock stars: very thorough with a solid knowledge of the financial services industry. As a bonus, they are very easy to get along with – a great fit for our team.Raymond James Financial ServicesSenior Manager of Enterprise Data
CCG's team are all amazing. Thank you, CCG, for all that you do to make us great and keep our credit unions moving forward!PSCU Financial ServicesVP Enterprise Analytics & BI
Other Vendors use the word Partnership, but CCG actually means what they say. I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism and willingness to work with us as a true Partner, not just another vendor.PODSChief Information Officer
CCG's Team is very professional and responsive. They are making our job very easy.Rollins, Inc.Senior BI Analyst
CCG did an excellent job! Their team was very flexible. They gave us everything we asked for and then some.Rooms To GoSenior BI Architect
I'm amazed at the talent at CCG, not just the skillset - they're really good people. We've already referred them once and will do so again!Ruth's Chris Hospitality GroupCIO
CCG did a great job! We're extremely impressed with what was built in a short time. CCG has delivered ahead of time and with best practices, it's been a pleasure to work with them.VologyVP of Analytics
2502 N. Rocky Point Drive, #650, Tampa, FL 33607
Phone: 813.968.3238 | Fax: 813.200.1357
8000 Avalon Blvd. Suite #100, Alpharetta, GA
Phone: 404.328.7298 | Fax: 813.200.1357