Predictive modeling is used to develop models that use past occurrences as reference points for organizations to forecast future business-related events and make clever decisions.
It is heavily involved in the strategy-making processes of companies in industries such as healthcare, law enforcement, pharmaceuticals and many more. The practices that can be used to make predictive data modeling error-free can be of great importance to everybody.
Predictive data modeling involves the creation, testing and validation of data models that will be used for predictive analysis in businesses. The lifecycle management of such models is a part of predictive data modeling. Such models, which use data captured by AI systems, machine learning tools, and other sources, can be used in advanced predictive analysis software systems used by organizations. The predictive data modeling process can be broken down into four steps:
Developing a model
Testing the model
Validating the model
Evaluating the model
There are a significant number of application areas for predictive analysis, such as financial risk management, international trade, clinical trials, cancer detection and many others. As we can see, each application area specified above is sensitive to mistakes or prediction inaccuracies. An inaccurate prediction could lead to incorrect diagnoses, potential patient deaths or financial turmoil in such industries. Therefore, organizations must implement certain practices to optimize the process of predictive data modeling. They must also continuously monitor the performance of the models.
As a process, predictive data modeling uses plenty of resources before organizations can expect it to bear fruit for them. Therefore, the competence of IT infrastructure present in the organization to carry out predictive data modeling is vital for streamlining the process without lag or inefficiencies. Accordingly, businesses must invest time and money to firstly make sure that their IT infrastructure is able to handle the process. This can be made sure with actions such as checking network connectivity, checking internet speeds, cybersecurity-related elements, and other factors before your business can use predictive data modeling. Additionally, your business needs to make sure that all your IT tools are aligned perfectly to make the model development process smoother.
More importantly, the first model created by an organization need not be overly complex or fancy. The first model will not be used for hardcore endpoint applications. A simplistic model provides the metrics and behaviors that can be used as a yardstick to test bigger and more complicated data models in the future. During the initial phases, businesses need to answer a few queries related to carrying out the predictive data modeling process. Some of such questions are related to the number of features needed to test a specific hypotheses, whether features that are useful are practical to make for the future, where they can store a model for maximum data security and threat protection, and finally, whether every significant decision-maker believes that the architecture and tools present currently in the organization are good enough to carry out the process.
Having an advanced hardware and software infrastructure conducive to predictive data modeling is vital for the process to be a success. Maintaining the simplicity of the first data model is valuable to train other, more complex models easily in the future.
Result validation involves organizations running their model and evaluating its results with visualization tools. To carry out the validation process, organizations need to understand how business data is generated, and how it flows through organizational data networks. As we know, today, data analytics is highly integrated into nearly every business aspect. Individuals at every level in an organization use company resources and the web to make calculated business decisions. Information is gathered for predictive model training purposes too. Accordingly, getting the datasets that can be used to train predictive models also requires a lot of effort. The level of effort involved in data collection means that predictive models are quite highly valued, and each model may have the power to influence organizational data compliance (in a good or a bad way), financial bottom lines, as well as the creation of legal risks for the organization. As a result, such high-value assets need to be validated consistently.
Additionally, businesses may be under the impression that model validation is a one-off process and does not need to be carried out in the future. However, as an expert in the field of model training will tell you, that is a misconception. Predictive models need to constantly evolve with time to become more adept at making accurate forecasts, and so, the validation process needs to take place on a consistent basis. Here are some of the tasks that must certainly be carried out in the validation process:
A model is made up of several variables. Some of those variables may have strong predictive abilities. Such variables are labeled 'predictors' due to those capabilities. While predictors are useful for regular business work, they may, in some cases, also cause unwanted risk exposure for their organization when they are used for predictive analysis. For example, the absence of ultra-personal details of users in models may be a conscious effort taken by network administrators to not fall into legal troubles regarding privacy violations of users.
This type of validation is carried out by organizations to get an understanding of the distribution of predictor and target variables. Over time, there may be distribution shifts in such variables and models. If such shifts are detected in variables within data models, such models will have to be retrained with new data as they wouldn’t be able to provide predictive analysis with accuracy.
As we know, analytical algorithms are used to train models. Validation must be done for algorithms that train models, which go on to carry out predictive analysis in businesses. Also, only certain types of models can provide clear, interpretable predictions. For example, there are multiple types of models, such as decision trees and neural networks. Decision trees provide more open and interpretable—albeit less accurate—results whereas neural networks do not—with more accurate results. So, decision trees must be validated more frequently as they participate more in predictive analysis. Data administrators need to choose between interpretability and prediction accuracy when carrying out the validation of such algorithms.
To know the actual competence of a model, it must be compared with other models for accuracy. The most accurate models must be used in predictive analysis systems. This is also a validation task and must be carried out regularly if newer, more accurate models enter the fray with time. After all, the improvements in predictive analysis performance carry on perpetually.
Additionally, tasks such as auditing of models, and keeping track of every validation log entry are included under the umbrella of validation. Finally, the performance of models is monitored before and after deployment. Before deployment, businesses must test them for operational glitches that may impact their decision-making and predictive capabilities. Pre-deployment checking is essential because most models chosen for predictive analytics are used in real-world environments.
After a model is deployed, it needs to be monitored for wear, as, generally, models tend to degrade over time. So, validation helps with phasing such models out from a predictive analytics system and replacing them with new, useful ones. With constant validation, models could become less error-prone and more time-efficient. Constant validation is a potent practice as it improves the predictive data modeling process in several ways.
Imbalanced data is a classification issue where the number of observations per class is not equally distributed. As a result, there may be a higher number of observations for a given class—known as a majority class—and much fewer observations for one or other classes—known as minority classes. Data imbalances cause inaccuracies in predictive analysis.
A data imbalance in a model can cause it to be erratic, and not very useful. For example, let’s talk about a fraud forecasting system proposed for a bank. Now, the bank may have a record of 95%— meaning that 95% of its transactions turn out to be non-fraudulent. In an imbalanced system, a system may state that the bank is 100% safe. Now, while the system may be right, and the bank will face fraud only 5% of the time, the forecast system will be in trouble whenever any fraud takes place because the system had clearly stated that the safety quotient was at a 100%.
Predictive data modeling is a tough task in the current digital world due to certain potential weaknesses that may creep into its functioning. By following the best practices, businesses can be sure of avoiding poor forecasting.
Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.