#DigitalThoughts with Matilde Grecchi – Head of Data Science

Discover the projects and mission of the Innovation Lab in our newest #DigitalThoughts with our dear Matilde Grecchi, Head of Data Science at Zucchetti’s Innovation Lab.

The #DigitalThoughts is a format we launched last year, it’s a collection of interviews with our colleagues and a format, where we share a glimpse behind the curtain and life at Zucchetti. Read the interview below to find out more! 

Change is part of Zucchetti‘s DNA. Our philosophy is that we innovate ourselves and our products to improve your business… and your life!
In line with this mission, some years ago we launched our Innovation Lab.

What is the mission of the Innovation Lab?

The mission of the Innovation Lab today, I would say is to introduce and develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) within Zucchetti products and, more importantly, to bring benefits and innovation within the whole Group through our new technological approach. All this is possible thanks to the centrality and transversality within the Group. The creation of this Lab starts three years ago, directly with the idea and vision of our founder Mino Zucchetti to bring innovation to the Group. I was eager to take up this challenge and so I left McKinsey & Co. Starting from Mino’s idea I created what is currently the Innovation Lab, together with the support of the CIO Paolo Stella.

Who is the team made up of and what are the key skills?

Our Innovation Lab is a balanced mix of skills. To be able to industrialize AI applications, it is important to have certain specific skills within your team, this is what I have learned during my well-established experience in this field, and this is what I’ve tried to do and bring also to the Innovation Lab. One of the most important figures for the Innovation Lab is the Data Scientist, i.e., someone who has the mathematical expertise to implement complex models into different topics and application fields. No less important is the role of the Data Engineer who has the knowledge of the data, its structure, and the way to process and archive it. Another key figure within the team is the Data Architect. If you want to industrialize and commercialize your AI solutions and not just make prototypes; you need to be able to integrate them into existing product and process architectures, the Data Architect is able to do that. Finally, the last key figure within the team is the Data Translator who has a great sensitivity and affinity for the business and who helps the team find the best way to translate the results of an AI model into a valuable and expendable solution at the business level. 

What added value do your solutions bring to the Zucchetti Group?

If I had to summarize it in two simple words, I would say creativity and innovation. We believe a lot in the solutions we implement and in the added value we bring to the Group’s products and processes. If I think of Zucchetti just three years ago, and I think compare it to today...I'm very proud of the work we've done and what we’ve done to support the company’s evolution.

The approach we follow is to propose a solution knowing that the implementation of it will have a significant, positive impact in terms of either product revenue and process-related times. It is estimated that the impact of AI technologies will lead to increased work productivity and more efficient use of time by people. That’s exactly is what we are pursuing with our daily activities.

We have revolutionized the world of assistance. For a company that develops software solutions, customer support plays a key role. A positive service experience can change the customer's opinion of the entire organization.

We brought some recommendation models to our sales force that made it easier for our customers to work with and to get to know us.

We've introduced forecasting models into our software to improve decision-making and to make strategic business planning more efficient. We have entered the world of Big Data and IoT, creating an added value or a benefit for our customers out of this growing amount of data that invades our daily lives.

In our case, the Zucchetti Group has very different business areas. For this reason, we must be very versatile and creative at the same time on very different topics. I like to talk about 360° data science, the application areas are most diverse and the value we can bring is quite remarkable. We believe that the possible difficulties given by the impossibility to find an interlocutor within the Group, can impact at the business level. The application areas are many, from computer vision to  natural  language  processing, from the most traditional forecast to the most sophisticated recommendation models and then enter the large and fascinating  world of Big Data.

In fact, we know that you pay close attention to Big Data, why and how?

Big Data has become as an invaluable source of value over the recent years. However, simply collecting data with new technology does not guarantee having the right and relevant information and above all to extract knowledge. You need technology, yes, but it is not enough. The Zucchetti Group handles and takes care of a huge amount of data. What we try to achieve with our contribution is to give value to this data, to transform it into information that can be used in products and business processes to make more timely and informed decisions. This is where data mining comes into play. Data mining manages to find associations, anomalies, and recurring patterns within the data and, thanks to the use and knowledge of new technologies and specialized resources, manages to do so with an efficiency far greater than that of a human operator who would otherwise analyze everything manually – a seemingly impossible task.

What are the projects closest to the TCPOS galaxy?

If I think of TCPOS and artificial intelligence solutions that we can put in place in this field to bring value to our customers, I would say that we have endless possibilities in this business area, there is a lot of room for creativity and innovation. The hospitality world in general I think is one of the major sectors that can benefit from these AI solutions and product innovations. Of the projects carried out or in the process of being realized, which is probably closest to the world of TCPOS, is certainly dish recognition. It helps speed up payment processes and queues, by sending photos of the food items directly to the checkout, thereby also decreasing manual errors. The Models of Recommendation and Forecast in general are very useful both to recommend and predict sales trends and to optimize and plan/manage work shifts in stores. Certainly, one hot topic for Big Data & Analytics is to create industry benchmarks and performance KPIs with a focus on continuous improvement of the individual POS or chain of POS, identifying possible gaps and areas of improvement, in which the company should invest most.

Tell us about the current projects

I could say so many interesting things! I would outline our focus giving three scenarios that are emerging. The first, I would define as a “new season” for virtual assistants in customer care, that is, the introduction of "intelligent" systems that will further streamline the interaction with the customer by directing them to self-made solutions, while making the whole process/experience more and more qualitative. The second, on the other hand,  is linked  to the new services that Big Data allows us to make available, through the large amounts of data that we store and process every day. A journey that we just have to embark on, given the great potential we have. Finally, the third scenario, is the great paradigm of de-structured data. We can give a structure to this data, meaning a precise and more importantly, a useable meaning. Here we can really indulge, the areas of applicability tend to be infinite. It will be a big challenge for us to understand where we should invest in order to generate the best possible value for our business.


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