Identifying NLP Applications in a Business: Three Effective Approaches

The Power of Natural Language Processing (NLP) for Business: Making Workflows Faster and More Efficient

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a game-changing technology that can revolutionize the way businesses handle large volumes of text. NLP is a branch of machine learning (ML) that focuses on teaching computers to understand written language, an ability that has always come naturally to humans but has historically been a challenge for machines. Countless businesses rely heavily on natural language workflows, whether it’s reading news articles, organizing legal documents, analyzing call transcripts, or comprehending written reports. In this article, we will explore several ways to identify when NLP can be leveraged to streamline and optimize these workflows.

Scale: Determining NLP Applications Based on Volume

When considering the implementation of NLP within your business, scale plays a critical role. If an individual spends an hour daily categorizing documents, implementing an ML model may seem like an attractive solution to expedite the process. However, the cost of acquiring or developing and maintaining a model specifically for this small-scale task may outweigh the benefits.

ML solutions truly shine when deployed at scale. If there are hundreds of employees spending significant time classifying documents every day, this indicates a large enough scale to warrant considering NLP. NLP is particularly useful in helping analysts identify trends in high-volume, high-velocity data landscapes such as news streams, cybersecurity logs, and social media feeds. These scenarios involve such massive amounts of natural language text that processing them manually would be incredibly time-consuming and costly. NLP models can provide the necessary efficiency and cost-effectiveness in managing such data.

Problem Type: Applying NLP to Solve Discrete Tasks

NLP is most effective when solving discrete problems—tasks with clearly defined inputs, outputs, and correct answers. Often, natural language workflows need to be broken down into several discrete tasks to effectively leverage NLP.

For instance, let’s consider the task of extracting market signals from news feeds. A human working on this task would naturally perform several smaller subtasks, often without consciously considering them as discrete problems. These subtasks might involve finding relevant articles, identifying the companies mentioned in each article, extracting financial metrics, and analyzing trends. While a single NLP model may not be able to automate the entire process, ML can be applied at each step: a text classifier can identify articles related to financial markets, a named entity recognition model can detect companies and numbers, and a linear regression model can uncover patterns in the data over time. By breaking down complex workflows into discrete tasks, NLP can be effectively applied to areas where it can deliver the most value.

Accuracy: Considering the Limits of NLP

Accuracy is a critical factor to evaluate when determining if NLP is suitable for your business. Although advancements in machine learning have produced increasingly impressive NLP models that can sometimes match human performance on specific tasks, even the best solutions in the industry are not infallible and must be used with caution.

ML models provide probabilistic predictions, meaning they offer answers with a certain level of confidence, but there is always a chance of error. Thus, NLP solutions should be employed in situations where imperfect accuracy is acceptable.

For instance, if you are using an NLP model to predict the sentiment of social media posts about your company, thousands of predictions may be made each day. In this case, a few incorrect predictions would have minimal impact on the overall result. Conversely, if the NLP model is used to assess college admissions essays, even a single incorrect prediction could have a significant negative consequence for an individual. Therefore, it is crucial to expect errors when utilizing any machine learning solution and take measures to mitigate their impact.

The Value of NLP: Streamlining Processes and Unlocking Insights

Natural Language Processing is an incredibly powerful tool that can improve the efficiency of various business processes involving text. By leveraging NLP, tasks can be streamlined, productivity can be increased, and costs can be reduced. Moreover, NLP models have the ability to comprehend patterns within vast, high-volume, and high-velocity datasets that would otherwise be extremely challenging to analyze manually. This empowers organizations to make data-driven decisions based on comprehensive insights. When seeking to harness the power of NLP, it is crucial to consider factors such as the scale of the problem, the ability to break it down into discrete subtasks, and the specific requirements for accuracy. By applying NLP to the right problem, businesses can unlock incredible value, gaining efficiency, saving time and money, and discovering new insights.

About the Author

Domenic Puzio is a Senior Machine Learning Engineer on the NLP Team at Kensho Technologies, boasting over seven years of experience in machine learning. He serves as the Tech Lead for Kensho NERD, a tool that recognizes important entities in unstructured text and links them to profiles in various databases. Domenic pursued Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Virginia and holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science with a specialization in Machine Learning from Georgia Tech. Throughout his career, he has focused on building and commercializing machine learning models for fields such as cybersecurity, national security, and finance. Currently, Domenic is exploring the applications of large language models to tackle various NLP problems.

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Editor Notes

As an expert in natural language processing, Tim Ferris believes that implementing NLP can significantly enhance business processes involving text. By leveraging NLP models and algorithms, businesses can revolutionize their efficiency, save valuable time and resources, and unlock new insights from vast amounts of textual data. The scale of the problem, the ability to break it down into discrete tasks, and the acceptable level of accuracy are important factors when considering NLP implementation. Although imperfect, NLP can provide incredible value to businesses willing to harness its power. For more AI and technology news, visit GPT News Room.

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