Cognitive data and the thinking enterprise

Senior Managing Consultant, Cognitive Watson Solutions, IBM

The way businesses create, consume and act on data is going to change—and soon.

Consider the multi-modal experience we go through when consuming a piece of content in our homes (for example, a television show). In my home, we watch movies and shows and simultaneously talk about what we see. In analyzing the media we’re consuming, we’re effectively acting out the new paradigm for cognitive solutions.

When content is consumed in the workplace, the experience is very different. Business content usually involves consuming reports of some kind. This serves as our "programming"; that is, these reports are consumed by stakeholders to gain understanding into day-to-day operations. But for most companies, these reports are typically underutilized. They are never opened or run at all (if they even exist). Plus, they’re often reviewed by individuals who only look at them without taking any action. This inaction is mirrored by the fact that 90 percent of stored data remains dark.

See the problem? The data is there, the information is there…and it's of value to the business. But it’s worthless unless someone actually does something with it.

So what happens if we flip the script, and create an enterprise in which a business’s computers aren’t just watching, but thinking and acting on those aforementioned missed opportunities? Imagine a world where you incorporate the best way to “think” about your business and processes within the computer. Instead of just collecting data and not doing much with it, cognitive solutions can read the data, understand it, make decisions, tell others and create a social mini-movement to drive action. 

Cognitive architecture can drive automated decisions and improve business results. The thinking businesses of tomorrow will be empowered by computers reinvented to do more than just watch; they'll also work.

Are cognitive businesses for real?

Is the cognitive enterprise a fanciful notion, stranger than fiction? Or is it absolutely a reality and not just the musings of futurists? Through surveys, the latter appears to be true: over 89 percent of telecom executives believe cognition will have a critical impact on their future business. In insurance? 96 percent of insurers plan on investing in cognition capabilities.

Knowledge graphs, ontologies, deep learning algorithms, dialog systems, data availability, open APIs and the development of cognitive computing systems (like IBM Watson) are fusing to enable the rise of thinking businesses. Such businesses leverage every opportunity to interact with data, to reason, adapt and continuously learn.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Unstructured data can be understood through sensing and interaction.
  • Said data can be interpreted against hypotheses and considering arguments. Recommendations can be made. And every interaction, every training session and every continuous piece of data improves the efficacy of the entire model.

Truly, the emerging phenomenon of the cognitive enterprise is very much the dominant design pattern of the next generation of business systems. Soon, smarter machines will help enterprises get clarity about their business, their decisions and new revenue opportunities. By making sense of the world, capturing expertise and continuously learning, we’re going places we’ve never gone before.