Industry Insights

Cognitive Transformation Loves Agile


It’s been two years since IBM introduced the Watson business unit and the new business environment called “The Cognitive Era”.

There have been many companies who started applying cognitive technologies into their businesses, but not so many have transformed their business in a fundamental way.  Some have done well and some have struggled.

I would like to layout the key challenges of transformation in the Cognitive Era based on my experiences with several clients these past 2 years.
 These are: “Experiences”, “Data” and “People

1. Designing Experiences

While definition of AI (IBM calls our technology components as Augmented Intelligence) is quite varied, regardless of the definition, companies started trying to solve their business problems by using AI/Cognitive technologies.  But yet this leads to one common pitfall of cognitive transformations, that is, using a technology driven planning approach.  Many electronics companies are predicated on using sophisticated technologies in nature and sometimes tend to take a technology centric approach in the early stage.  However for cognitive transformations we recommend using the IBM Design Thinking approach instead. This enables you to keep your eyes on customer experiences by getting feedback from customers frequently during the early phase of the transformation journey

2. Tackling the data

Building cognitive capability is completely different from the traditional IT implementation.  We used to design and build program modules in order to provide certain outputs from certain inputs.  But now if you want to implement cognitive systems your main focus would be the data itself, because the data will train the cognitive systems to provide the desired outputs. This data may come from uncertain inputs including unstructured data such as natural language, image, audio and so forth.  And you have to know the data to evaluate the quality of the training result because the training and the evaluation cannot be done with pass/fail type tests as you typically can with program modules. Instead it requires continuous trial and error to find out consensus points of the expectations.

3. Transforming people

Lastly, the biggest challenge to adopting cognitive technologies is transforming the people.  Not only changing mindset of the resources who implement the system, but also strategies, business processes, and the organization. What it means is that we need to redefine interactions within the business itself.  For example, if you want to enhance resource skills using cognitive technologies such as a sales advisor, people need to change the way they interact with knowledge, need to change the definition of skills, roles, evaluation processes, incentive design and so forth.  In addition, you need to redesign the mechanism of capturing data as knowledge.  People need to change themselves to enter this new environment.


In order to realize the cognitive transformation, you must be customer centric, treat data as key resources and keep yourself in iteration processes.  And lastly now is the time to change yourself to move forward to the Cognitive Era.

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Subject Matter Expert, Global Electronics Center of Competence at IBM

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