Cognitive computing

Four key forces that are impacting digital business

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Digital technologies are ushering in a new era of business, but is your organization ready for the change?

Customer expectations are high: users want personalized, real-time, omnichannel experiences. Traditional industry boundaries are shifting as a result of market changes. New technologies come out every year, and businesses at times struggle to adapt to the rapid overturn. But the future of business is also an exciting time; the same shifts that challenge us present great opportunities for serving customers better, for innovating to solve problems and for embracing the power of digital to keep us competitive.

Here are four key forces that I see making a significant impact on digital business today.

1. Smart machines

Smart machines seem to be everywhere these days. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, 3D printing … some of the biggest current trends in technology stem from smart machine capabilities. Business Insider forecasts that there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, transmitting huge volumes of data. To handle all that data, we are developing smart machines that mimic human learning and can support advanced analytics.

Smart machine capabilities include:

  • Sensing (think of IoT sensors)
  • Learning (automated smart advisors)
  • Acting (automation, self-driving vehicles)
  • Creating (3D printing)
  • Interacting (using speech recognition, engaging in conversation)
  • Sharing (APIs that enable new ecosystems)

Smart machines are already becoming a part of our everyday lives, transforming our interactions and relationships. They will have a growing effect on work and roles and demand new levels of learning, skill development and innovation in business.

2. Cognitive computing

The computers that take advantage of the above-mentioned smart machine capabilities are a hot topic in tech today. Cognitive computers that use artificial intelligence (AI) can understand, reason, learn and interact using natural human language.

These cognitive systems augment rather than substitute for human intelligence and effort. They think fast and slow, providing both real-time insight and deep analysis. Cognitive computers ultimately help your business make better decisions. Rather than being programmed, they pose hypotheses based on data patterns and probability. They help organizations to take much greater advantage of the data they have.

3. Digital technologies

We’re all familiar with the trending topics in digital business: data and analytics, cloud, the IoT, mobile. These technologies, which define the digital age, are becoming crucial tools for achieving business goals. New business models are being formulated based on digital technology, and enterprise integration of digital with nondigital technologies is becoming a priority for many organizations.

As a result, having a digital transformation strategy is becoming a key business priority for many. Those who aren’t embracing digital are not likely to remain competitive.

4. Disruptive change

While it’s true that “disruption” is a buzzword in technology today, digital really has changed how we work — and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Disruption might mean new job roles and could impose a requirement for businesses to innovate around learning and skill-building opportunities. It might also show up as resistance to change in your company. Change, after all, isn’t easy.

Research from the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that businesses have an increasing focus on innovation and growth. Its 2015 survey shows that business leaders’ top three initiatives are:

  1. To increase product innovation
  2. To enter new markets
  3. To improve customer responsiveness

So, no matter how challenging change can be, it’s the direction that business is headed.

What are your next steps?

Together, these four forces are pushing more businesses to form digital transformation strategies that will carry them into the future. How can you prepare your company to compete in the digital age? Stay tuned for my next blog post, in which we’ll take a closer look at developing an effective digital transformation strategy.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for expert advice on your organization’s next steps toward digital transformation, IBM Systems Lab Services can help. Our consultants offer proven expertise to help businesses design, build and deliver IT infrastructure for the cognitive era. Whether you are conducting a high-level IT planning and strategy or trying to solve a specific technical challenge, IBM Systems Lab Services can offer expert support. Email us today.

Manager - World Wide Business Development, IBM Systems

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