IBM Report: CEOs Across Industries Expect Cognitive Computing to Play Key Role

CEOs across multiple industries expect that cognitive computing will play a major role in their companies’ futures, according to the findings of a new IBM study. Seventy-three percent of the more than 6,000 executives surveyed indicated they felt that way, IBM said in a news release July 6.

Cognitive computing has almost endless possibilities to improve business processes and functions, IBM pointed out, saying all executives in the study expected to see a 15% return on investment from their cognitive initiatives. In addition, 50% of those surveyed said they planned to adopt cognitive computing by 2019, IBM said.

Although investment in cognitive computing is expected to provide significant competitive advantages, surveyed executives said they were prioritizing its application in specific business functions including information technology, sales, information security and innovation, according to the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, “Accelerating enterprise reinvention: How to build a cognitive organizations.”

Cognitive computing is a next-generation information system that can understand, reason, learn and interact with humans in natural language, IBM pointed out. Although traditional analytics can provide data-based insights, cognitive computing more easily transforms those insights into actionable recommendations, it said. A new IDC spending guide found global spending on cognitive platforms is expected to grow from about $3 billion in 2016 to more than $31 billion by 2019.

The new study also provided insights into how the surveyed executives planned to prioritize cognitive investments within individual business functions to accelerate their business transformations. The study found the top three functional priorities to apply cognitive computing by surveyed CEOs were: information technology, to “support faster, more efficient planning, development and testing of enterprise software to enable greater agility and accelerated solution design”; sales, to “improve the efficiency of customer-facing services, expand customer account management capabilities, increase cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, and improve efficiency of lead management — all with richer contextual understanding”; and information security, to “enable faster, more reliable fraud detection or other activities within volumes of structured and unstructured data,” IBM said. Accelerating threat detection and cutting down on resolution time can save as many as thousands of staff-time hours, freeing personnel up to concentrate on more business-critical initiatives, it said.

To accelerate enterprise innovation with cognitive computing, IBV recommended businesses “envision the future” and “outline a 18-to-24-month digital strategy for adopting cognitive with a limited set of initiatives that paves the way for smaller, more exploratory investments with finite objectives and time frames.” It also recommended that companies “focus on thorough and periodic assessments in the market and with target users.” Companies should “experiment and educate the rest of the enterprise on how cognitive capabilities are being used — such as the use of natural language processing or machine learning for large data analysis and insights,” it said, adding organizations should “create common use cases and applications, and design the basic standards and architectural considerations tailored to” that organization.

IBV also recommended that, during the shift from planning and design to execution, companies should “apply cognitive to specific use cases, rapidly explore and prototype solutions to solve specific and measurable business challenges.” It added: “When these concepts are incubated, commercialized, and scaled, use a lean governance model to periodically review progress and value. Monitor the business case value realization and make adjustments, as necessary.”