May 2020
The Impact of Extreme Events on Your SaaS AI Features

Welcome to The Cirrostratus Group May newsletter.

In my February newsletter I highlighted some of the differences between an AI SaaS business and a non-AI SaaS business. One of the differences is the challenge associated with ongoing model maintenance. As circumstances, data and behavior evolve, the model will likely need to be tuned. How this is done is an important aspect of customer success.

But what happens when a major change happens almost instantly such as with COVID 19? This article from MIT Technology Review talks about what companies did to their machine learning algorithms to deal with the rapid changes in consumer behavior as COVID 19 became a major factor. Even though machine learning algorithms are often designed to respond to changes they aren't usually designed to deal with the abrupt and substantial changes that occurred with COVID 19. The article is focused on B to C eCommerce and B to C marketing platforms, including recommendation engines, supply chain management, logistics, marketing messaging and other related areas. However, the issues and challenges are applicable to any AI application or feature where there is an abrupt and substantial change whether it be by a pandemic, a natural disaster or other major external or internal event.

The question for SaaS providers that have AI features is how do you support your customers with model changes to support rapidly changing events? Do you train them to have the ability to make changes as needed? Do you provide services to make the needed changes? Some combination of both? All of these approaches have challenges. This is something that should be thought about with your customer lifetime success model and your customer on-boarding process. Think about not only how do you help customers evolve the machine learning model but how do you do this in a rapidly changing environment such as we've seen over the past couple months. Your approach has implications for your staffing, customer training and machine learning model maintenance tools.

Hopefully, we won't see a repeat of the current situation for a long time but there will always be major external events affecting your customers and their customers that will require rapid changes.

Stay safe and healthy.

Paul Ressler
The Cirrostratus Group  

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