C-Suite Cozies up to Cognitive Computing

Thursday Jul 6th 2017 by Pedro Hernandez
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Business leaders are banking on cognitive computing solutions to help improve their financial fortunes.

Cognitive computing and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) will soon become commonplace in the workplace, if CEOs have anything to say about it.

IBM today released the results of a survey of 6,050 executives conducted by the its Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics. The C-suite was well-represented, with participation from CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and CMOs among others.

According to the study, half of global CEOs (50 percent) said they plan on adopting cognitive computing at their organizations by 2019. Most CEOs (73 percent) also believe that cognitive computing will play a major role shaping the future of their businesses.

Considered somewhat synonymous with the AI field of computer science and some of its many branches (machine learning, neural nets, etc.), IBM defines cognitive computing as "next generation information systems that understand, reason, learn and interact. These systems do this by continually building knowledge and learning, understanding natural language, and reasoning and interacting more naturally with human beings than traditional programmable systems."

And business leaders expect these advanced, brain-mimicking capabilities to boost their bottom lines. Respondents said they expect a 15 percent return on investment on their cognitive projects.

According to the report, cognitive computing is already having a big impact on the business processes of some early adopters.

It cites the experience of an unnamed North American communications provider that is using machine learning and natural language processing to drive utilization of its customer self-service to 90 percent, massively reducing the amount of cases that are escalated to customer care. Similarly, a bank is using error-reducing machine learning systems to slash trust fund expense verification times by 60 percent, a move that will help it save hundreds of millions of dollars over five years.

IBM's findings echo those of a recent study on AI and robotics in the workplace from Randstad Sourceright. More than a third (36 percent) of U.S. executives said they increased the use of those technologies in the previous 12 months while nearly a third (28 percent) expect a significant bump on adoption rates over the next 12 months.

CEOs and other executives aren't the only ones bullish about cognitive computing. The IT industry is also awaiting an AI-fueled economic windfall.

Salesforce and IDC recently published a forecast stating that by 2021, AI-enabled CRM (customer relationship management) will drive an additional $1.1 trillion in global business revenue. By 2018, 75 percent of enterprise and ISV (independent software vendor) development efforts are expected to incorporate AI or machine learning in at least one application.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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