Cognitive Procurement on Display at IBM Empower 2016

IDC estimates that by 2020, half of all business analytics software will incorporate cognitive computing functionality.1 The nonprofit Pew Research Center echoes that point: “By 2025, artificial intelligence will be built into the architecture of countless functions of business and communication, increasing relevance, reducing noise, increasing efficiency and reducing risk across everything from finding information to making transactions.”2

Cognitive technology promises a dramatic shift in technology’s role in the business – and was a key theme of the IBM Empower conference in Orlando last week.

Chitra Dorai, IBM Fellow and VP of CTO Cognitive Services at IBM Global Business Services, gave a keynote presentation to more than 250 procurement leaders and professionals at the conference, discussing IBM’s “vision of how procurement will be transformed in the cognitive era.”

According to Dorai, cognitive computing and cognitive-based systems accelerate, enhance, and scale human expertise by:

  • Understanding natural language and interacting more naturally with humans than traditional systems
  • Reasoning, forming hypotheses, making considered arguments, and planning
  • Learning and building and retaining knowledge

“Over time, cognitive systems will simulate closely how the human brain actually works, at tremendous scale, and help us solve complex problems by penetrating the scale and complexity of Big Data,” said Dorai.

Dorai spelled out three general areas where cognitive computing could significantly benefit, even reimagine, procurement processes and organizations:

  • Discovery: Applying cognitive capabilities to create new insights and new value
  • Decision support: Providing bias-free advice quickly and semi-autonomously, thereby lending speed and confidence to decision-making
  • Engagement: Interacting and assisting by understanding both content and context

Dorai continued, “We see these three broad areas of capability for cognitive systems. Opening new doors for innovations, these capability areas directly relate to the ways people think and work. They demonstrate increasing levels of cognitive capability. In the future, we will see systems with higher orders of cognitive capability. And it is important to note that these capabilities are not mutually exclusive; a specific business solution may, in fact, leverage one or more of these capability areas.”

She then discussed how IBM was applying these cognitive capabilities in supply chain and procurement through its Supply Chain Risk Insights (discovery), Watson Company Analyzer and Supplier IQ (decision support), and Cognitive Procurement Assistant (engagement) capabilities and services.

For further information on cognitive technologies in procurement, read my colleague’s post: “The Future of Procurement: Cognitive Technologies – Get Ahead of the Competition with 6 Key Projects.” 

We also invite you to join us at World of Watson later this month. Hope to see you there!


1. IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Big Data and Analytics 2016 Predictions

2. Pew Research Center: Predictions for the State of AI and Robotics in 2025


Product Marketing - Watson Commerce

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