From Artificial Intelligence to a Cognitive Business Environment
What does it take to become a cognitive business? The question is no longer academic. As increasingly complex data environments emerge and the very foundation of economic activity transitions from selling goods to selling services, companies need to leverage every tool at their disposal to remain competitive.
Right now, most organizations are focused on automating intelligence throughout their data footprint to better support the digital business processes now dominating global commerce. But as IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty pointed out to Fortune last fall, the real change will come when digital business activity entwines with digital intelligence so that the enterprise itself — not just the people running it — can understand, reason and learn.
Already, organizations are starting to employ cognitive intelligence in a number of ways, such as driving deeper customer engagement and squeezing margins out of supply chains, but this is only the beginning of what Rometty describes as the next technological era.
The key to creating a cognitive business is to unleash intelligent technology on the vast amounts of unstructured data that exists within every enterprise, says Elly Keinan, general manager of IBM North America. A normal computing environment is adept at churning through structured data as found in databases and other business applications, but the reams of emails, phone calls and even video communication are essentially data without context, making it difficult to process without some means of discerning its true meaning.
A cognitive environment will be able to absorb human language and parse its connotations to provide highly accurate interpretations, allowing businesses of all industries to make more informed decisions about their customers.
Where It’s Most Helpful
Clearly, this cannot be done without a far-reaching strategic vision and some highly sophisticated technology. But by identifying the processes, products and operations that stand to gain the most from cognition, and then laying a solid foundation of data collection and analytics, the enterprise should be on solid ground for fine-tuning their IT systems for cognitive workloads and applying the technology to critical applications like security.
But exactly what will the business do that’s different from today’s automated environment? For one thing, it allows the enterprise to become your most trusted advisor, says Forbes’ Teresa Meek. With the ability to “think outside the box,” data systems are no longer just passive tools to be manipulated by humans; they become personal assistants, business advisors — another fount of information to help knowledge workers navigate an increasingly complex and fast-paced digital environment.
And with advances in speech recognition and speaking software, people will no longer have to click and type their digital interactions; rather, they’ll be able to speak them as casually as conversation between neighbors.
Cognitive Business, Greater Value
To enhance the value of your data, it’s important to view a cognitive business as a major step toward the democratization of this data, according to IBM’s Jacques Pavlenyi in CMSWire. At the moment, data has value only to those who know how to access, retrieve and manipulate it, but a cognitive environment takes care of all the complicated computer stuff on its own. This means humans will have easy access to vastly greater volumes of data than they do today, allowing them to engage in the higher-order tasks of creating valuable assets for the enterprise.
But this will require a concerted effort on the part of the entire organization, not only to implement cognitive technologies but to build a culture around collaboration and ongoing development.
The idea of living and working in an environment that is continuously inhabited by a digital presence may seem unnerving to some, but this same reaction greeted countless other technological innovations — including such everyday facets of modern life as air travel and ATMs. The simple fact is that the data universe is already too complicated for even the most tech-savvy individual to interpret on his or her own. A cognitive environment is like the perfect butler who expertly manages all our digital affairs: It knows everything, is always at the ready and only speaks when spoken to.