12 September 2017

East Africa: How to Build a Cognition By Using Digital Strategy

Business executives around the world have embraced the concepts of artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing. Many are already applying these and other intelligent technologies to improve their business operations, while redefining the ways they engage with customers, partners and others.

According to an IDC spending guide, global spending on cognitive platforms will rise to more than $31 billion by 2019.

Executive respondents included C-suite members: CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs and CHROs, as well as other executives, including the heads of customer service, information security, procurement, product development and sales functions.

The study suggests that by using cognitive computing, organizations can redefine traditional business offerings, products, services and processes, whether it is in back-office systems, middle-office capabilities or front-office functions.

While traditional analytics can provide data-based insights, cognitive computing turns these insights into recommendations. Cognitive computing can understand unstructured information, such as the imagery, natural language and sounds found in books, emails, tweets, blogs, images, and audio and video files. Cognitive systems can also reason through data to unlock meaning, learn interatively to provide more informed actions and interact in ways that dissolve barriers between humans and machines.

IBV research has found that:

73 percent of global CEOs say cognitive computing will play an important role in the future of their organizations.

50 percent of global CEOs surveyed said they plan to adopt cognitive computing by 2019.

Executives say they anticipate a 15 percent return on investment from their cognitive initiatives.

The IBV recommends that organizations adopt a three-phase approach to building a cognitive-enabled digital strategy. Those steps are:

1) Envision the future: Business leaders should take advantage of cognitive capabilities to apply a strategy that includes both business and technology aspects for their organizations. They may want to consider adopting an 18-to-24-month digital strategy with a limited set of initiatives. These could be smaller, more exploratory investments with finite objectives and time frames. Such initiatives could draw upon resources from cross-functional teams, skill sets and partner ecosystems.

2) Assess the market and users: After getting a cognitive strategy in place, with initiatives and an investment profile defined, organizations should focus on thorough and periodic assessments of the market and target users. Such a user-centric approach can be done in tandem with the use of Centers of Excellence.

By using a Center of Excellence, organizations can experiment to find new cognitive capabilities, such as the use of natural language processing or machine learning for large data consumption and analysis. This approach creates common use cases and applications. Basic standards and architectural considerations can be tailored for an individual organization.

3) Expand rapidly: During an organization's shift from planning and design to execution, businesses should rapidly explore and prototype new initiatives, which allows an organization to align cognitive projects to measurable business objectives. Such work pilots, however, should be designed with a limited risk to existing customers and operations.

As cognitive capabilities mature, businesses should reuse successful programs in other parts of their organizations. They should develop new cognitive departments, resources and skills. By providing ongoing feedback about market success, businesses should use that input to make decisions about either ending or scaling cognitive initiatives. Organizations may be pleased to learn that cognitive computing also can enable entirely new forms of innovation that expand revenue opportunities.

the Hybrid Cloud Sales Leader, IBM East Africa)

East Africa

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