Think 2019

Cognitive BPO is the new engine of innovation

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We are living in a new business era, driven by exponential data growth and disruptive technologies like automation, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain. IBM calls this the era of the Cognitive Enterprise.

Many companies are already adapting to this changing world, but there’s still significant opportunity to do more. In IBM Institute for Business Value’s study – “The evolution of process automation,” nearly all companies reported they were using some form of automation. However, only 12% reported they were doing intelligent process automation, where robots have the ability to make decisions and interact with humans.

A modernized approach to business process optimization (BPO) can play a key role in helping an organization become a Cognitive Enterprise. We’re seeing a shift away from traditional BPO—which is primarily about doing the same tasks more efficiently—toward automated, cognitive BPO, which can be a catalyst for innovation and digital transformation.

What is cognitive BPO?

Cognitive BPO leverages technologies as well as industry-specific building blocks an organization needs to apply cognitive computing and automation to their business processes. By doing this, businesses can not only increase efficiency, but also help workers make more informed decisions and be more productive, while improving quality and user experience.

The solution is highly scalable and flexible, making it easy for organizations to keep up with a quickly changing business world. It’s also designed to integrate easily with an organization’s existing operations, so there’s no need to rip and replace legacy IT environments before deploying cognitive BPO.

With cognitive BPO, organizations like yours can increase agility by taking advantage of new technologies, cut costs by automating manual tasks, and increase quality and improve the user experience with intelligent, streamlined workflows.


Where can cognitive BPO make the most difference?

Although the potential of cognitive BPO extends across the entire organization, it’s particularly well suited to start to optimize core processes in HR, procurement and finance.

HR, learning and recruitment

A business is only as good as the people it hires. That’s why a smarter approach to HR can be so valuable. A cognitive BPO solution can help automate the hiring process, ensuring that the right applicants are identified, right when they’re needed. In addition, cognitive systems can help guide the learning process, so that employees can build the skills they need to meet the changing demands of the market.

HR can also support managers with data-driven insights. For instance, analytics capabilities can alert managers when the organization is in danger of losing a great employee, so the manager can take action to retain that employee. According to research from the IBM Institute for Business Value, two-thirds of CEOs say AI will drive significant value in HR, yet only 11% of CHROs report their organizations have the AI, data science and machine learning skills needed to fulfill that potential.


With as much as 65% of the value of a company’s products or services derived directly from its suppliers, procurement professionals can play an important strategic role within the organization. Cognitive BPO can help make sure they’re successful.

Putting data-driven insights directly into procurement processes can allow team members to make informed, confident decisions about sourcing and pricing. In addition, cognitive systems can help procurement professionals create smart contracts. These contracts are automatically populated with the appropriate terms and conditions for a particular deal, with no need for lengthy contract negotiation cycles.


Cognitive systems can give finance professionals insights and next-best action recommendations that can help them work quickly and confidently across finance operations, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, and record to report. According to a study called “The Cognitive Enterprise,” leading financial organizations are significantly more likely that their peers to optimize processes with digital technology. This trend held true across a variety of operations, including:

  • Order to cash: 68% vs 51%
  • Procure to pay: 65% vs 46%
  • Financial planning and analysis: 58% vs 33%

By automating manual tasks, organizations can greatly increase the accuracy of their financial reporting, while reducing the lost revenue and noncompliance risk created by human error. Automation will also free up financial professionals to spend more of their time on high-value tasks, such as providing hands-on customer service and exploring innovation opportunities.


Learn more

For a closer look at how modernized BPO can help you succeed in the era of the Cognitive Enterprise, register to attend Think 2019, the flagship IBM technical conference. There, you can attend sessions dedicated specifically to BPO and connect with some of the leading experts in the space.

In addition, visit the IBM Business and Process Operations webpage for more valuable content to expand your understanding of business process automation.

VP Client Services IBM BPS, Global Business Services

Patrick Eskew

North America Leader, Cognitive Process Transformation, Global Business Services

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