TECH | Aug 31, 2017

Cognitive computing: technology is not enough

Technology, people and culture are the three areas to work on when introducing cognitive computing into your business

When discussing cognitive computing, a parallel is immediately drawn with artificial intelligence ,or, as has been written, machines that are capable of reasoning. Actually, the issue is probably more complex and the opportunities it offers for companies are perhaps still little understood.

Cognitive computing technologies, due to the analysis of large amounts of unstructured data (big data), lead to autonomous learning (machine learning) and therefore the possibility for machines to reason, understand, process and use man’s natural language. Machines can return useful information because they can self-learn from things that happen and from collected data. All this does not necessarily emulate the human brain and replicate what man is able to do on his own, but increases the ability to reason thereon.

How ready are businesses to seize opportunities?

Despite the huge amount of data collected by businesses today and the desire to use it to improve financial results and better understand customer needs, only 24% of Chief Marketing Officer and sales leaders are currently thinking of developing strategies for implementing cognitive computing solutions. This emerges from the study conducted by IBM and Oxford Economics “From data deluge to intelligent insights: Adopting cognitive computing to unlock value for marketing and sales“,based on a survey involving 525 Chief Marketing Officers and 389 global sales managers.

61% of respondents consider cognitive computing to be “disruptive”, with some looking mainly to the potential problems and others focusing on opportunities that, in the case of marketing and sales, are to be identified as improving the ability to understand customers’ needs, intercept new targets, increase the quality and punctuality of assistance, anticipate customers’ needs, and much more.

How can cognitive computing be introduced into businesses?


Cloud. To take maximum advantage of cognitive computing, three are three areas in which to act: technological, cultural, and a focus on people. It is not enough, in fact, to concentrate on technological aspects as companies often do; a strategy that also takes account of the other aspects must be developed.
tive computing is a cloud-based technology, so adopting it on a company level will be an indispensable requirement. From this point of view, the study reveals that 72% of respondents currently have planned investments in cloud-based storage, with 76% doing it over the next three years. A cloud solution will certainly not be enough to allow easy access and data analysis, since everything will have to be inserted within a strategy that is as well-planned and defined if not more, than the management procedures it will adopt in order to gather large amounts of data.

Data analysis and collection.. There can be no discussion of cognitive computing if it does not include Data Management, that is, the possibility of having data collected internally and externally, structured or not, and of various types. Data, as the report says, is the connective tissue of the business and 71% of respondents say they have started a Data Management process to study commercial data, that which is generated by customers or social media, events, mobile applications and objects (IoT).


Every technological change hides a cultural change, which is probably the most difficult to handle because it is all too often overlooked.

Collaboration and innovation. The potential of cognitive computing technologies is expressed in the ability to analyse multiple types of data in a continuous learning process resulting from new data and feedback. If a company works via watertight compartments this will obviously not be possible. That is why, in order to benefit from the positive effects of cognitive computing, it is first and foremost necessary to introduce a corporate culture based on collaboration, openness, and exchange. This culture must bring the Chief Marketing Officer, Sales Manager, Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Data Officer or Chief Digital Officer face to face, in collaboration, to achieve the company’s strategic objectives together.

Strategy and governance.Only 24% of respondents claim to have developed a company strategy for the introduction of cognitive computing where investments and ROI are highlighted. This approach is however highly desirable and useful to outlining the impacts on business models, processes, customers, and employees. Have a culture of planning and therefore governance of “disruptive” events like this will help prevent companies from jumping into a void.


The impact of technologies such as cognitive computing on people is not to be underestimated in terms of new skills and change in company lead.

Skills.93% of respondents believe that the introduction of cognitive computing will profoundly change the type of skills needed in the company. New employees will need to have a perspective on the business strategy and plans, marketing and sales, business decision-making, content creation and market research, to name just a few of the profiles required.

Leadership. 93% of respondents agree that cognitive computing can facilitate their work, as long as people are chaperoned during the introduction of these technologies. Not having employees dedicated to Data Management and Digital Transformation, who know how to support others, is no small problem .

Sonia Montegiove