Is the Future of Digital Transformation Cognitive?

In today’s digital world, the only way for organizations to remain relevant is by having a digital presence that caters to the needs of modern consumers.

No matter where a business is in its digital transformation, the journey is a continuous one. There’s now a bigger shift underway that’s being driven by innovations in cognitive technologies such as learning and language processing to help people and machines interact more naturally and effectively.

Despite the premonitions of Hollywood and science fiction novels, cognitive technologies aren't autonomous and sentient machines. They include systems like AI, neural nets, deep learning, and natural language processing systems, all of which will revolutionize everything from healthcare to marketing to data processing and everything in between.

As technologies continue to evolve and the amount of data humans creates continues to grow, the need for cognitive systems that can help process, analyze, and understand that data will also continue to grow. So what is the impact of cognitive technologies and how do business take advantage of them?

Cognitive Technology: A Step Beyond Digital

Cognitive Technology: A Step Beyond Digital

Cognitive technologies are ones that mimic human brain functions, such as learning, reasoning, recognition, language processing, and other cognitive functions. Technologies that are currently making waves include:

  • Natural language processing - allows computers to actually understand and analyze human language in a way that goes beyond treating language as a series of symbols
  • Artificial intelligence - currently being used to power things like chatbots and facial recognition software
  • Neural networks - computing systems made up of connected nodes that are arranged in a way that’s similar to the human brain
  • Deep learning - a specific way of training neural nets that use algorithms to recognize patterns

While cognitive technologies are still in the early stages, they are developing quickly. Their role in digital transformation is that they can be integrated into technologies and apps, similar to the way that Netflix uses algorithms and machine learning to generate recommendations for viewers. 

By 2019, 40% of all digital transformation initiatives – and 100% of all effective IoT efforts – will be supported by cognitive/AI capabilities - IDC

Help Make Better Decisions

There are many reasons why now is the perfect time for the development of cognitive tech. One of the most important is that the supporting technologies that make cognitive tech possible have only recently become advanced enough to allow for it. For example, the computers of old were well-suited to the tasks of storing and transferring data, but it’s only recently that they’ve become advanced enough to be able to understand it.

And that brings us to the next reason why now is such an ideal time for cognitive tech: data. Just 5 years ago, 90% of the world’s data had been created between 2011 and 2013. However, fast-forward to 2016, and we were at a point where more data had been created between 2014 and 2016 than in the past 5,000 years of human history, and 2017 alone was on track to create even more data than that in a single year.

In other words, humans are creating enormous quantities of data every day, so more than ever there's a need for intelligent machines that can help with sorting, processing, understanding, and analyzing that data so businesses can make better decisions.

Manage the Wealth of Data

Manage the wealth of data

If part of the reason organizations need cognitive technology is to help process the vast quantities of data, then it stands to reason that more data will only mean an even greater need for smarter machines.

By 2020, it’s expected that for each member of the world’s some 7.8 billion people, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second. Here are just a few of the ways that cognitive technology can help to keep all those people and data in line:

  • Supply chain optimization
  • Predicting financial markets
  • Forecasting consumer behavior
  • Managing public safety issues
  • Treating and preventing disease
  • Traffic management
  • Organizational management

Skills & Cognitive Tech

Skills and Cognitive Tech

As the pace of development speeds up and more cognitive tech becomes commonplace in the workplace, the need for training will become more imperative. 

As it is, 65% of CIOs already feel that skills and talent shortages will prevent their organizations from keeping pace with technological changes, and this problem will only intensify as more changes happen more quickly, and new technologies emerge.

There are several ways businesses can address skills gaps in the workplace:

  • Microlearning sessions for employees
  • Collaborative forums where employees can come together to talk about new technologies and share skills and information
  • Invest in digital programs and formal skills training
  • Collaborate with educational institutions and others in the field to locate workers with certain skills

Hiring and retaining talent are becoming crucial for businesses in their digital transformation journeys, so its key to explore options for recruitment and in-house upskilling in the skill areas that matter. 

How Cognitive Systems Are Changing the World

In the same way that digital transformed the modern world, so too will cognitive technology. In fact, you can already see examples of this, such as IBM’s Watson for Oncology, an AI system that processes millions of bytes of data to create personalized treatment plans for cancer patients. 

Across businesses, one area that will be impacted by cognitive technology is marketing. Smart machines will make it easier than ever for marketers to collect and analyze important data to create highly personalized shopping experiences for individual consumers. Whereas most marketers and businesses simply don’t have the time and resources to sift through all the personal data out there to create meaningful customer experiences, cognitive systems will have that capability.

This means marketing teams - now hailed as the growth driver in businesses - will be able to respond to customer queries and complaints instantaneously, provide detailed and customized shopping experiences, and serve customers across a wide range of channels.

Every business that wants to remain relevant today needs to be in some phase of a digital transformation to help leverage current technologies and opportunities to optimize processes and organization.

No matter how far along you are in your transformation, even bigger changes are coming up the pipeline as cognitive technologies can provide opportunities for growth, productivity and customer engagement. 

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