When creating a culture of innovation, many organizations face hurdles related to talent, capital and time. CIOs and the enterprises they lead are now at an inflection point in the way that humans and technology work together in the business ecosystem, with companies utilizing cognitive automation as a way to shift workflow dynamics and unleash the potential for every employee to be an innovator.
The opportunity for cognitive automation is so great that industry analysts predict that by 2020, smart machines will become a top five investment priority for almost a third of CIOs. By mimicking human activities such as perceiving, inferring, gathering evidence and probabilistic reasoning, cognitive systems can perform tasks that have historically required human intelligence and situational analysis.
The co-existence between human employees and cognitive systems is creating a new class of digital labor that can enhance human skills and expertise, allowing employees to innovate constantly. Working within this new ecosystem, generalists can behave like specialists, and less experienced employees can perform like seasoned veterans.
As the organization begins laying the groundwork for cognitive automation, key considerations for CIOs can be segmented into four phases.
Innovation discovery. Determine the disruptive impact on your business processes, people and culture. What are the benefits of digital labor? What are the cognitive opportunities across functions? How will employees do their jobs differently? Your innovation discovery should culminate in a clear understanding of these questions.
Vendor landscape. Separate hype from reality and choose the right solution for your needs. Do you need a niche software provider with narrow applications, such as digital assistants for retail customer service? Do you need a vendor for configurable process robotics software? Or is it best to seek a provider of more comprehensive platforms in artificial intelligence and machine learning?
Ultimately vendor selection should align with your strategy for creating enterprise value, balancing short-term quick wins with long-term game changers. Also consider how vendors will complement what your organization can already do by itself.
Strategy and roadmap. Prioritizing use cases can lead to “cognitive moments” that represent transformative opportunities to show how employees will benefit as innovators working with digital labor. This kind of approach creates best practices for the organization as it begins execution.
Implementation. Use a portfolio approach to reduce the risk of your cognitive transformation, while ensuring that the enterprise can extract value from both simple and complex implementations. For example, you might want to start with robotic process automation (RPA) to automate basic tasks, which in turn can support more complex cognitive projects. Cognitive projects take longer to implement but, accordingly, have a higher business impact. Finally, ensure that technology teams use modern design thinking and agile methodologies to drive user adoption at every stage of the implementation roadmap.
Just as critical to sustained success is a model for change management and governance, which should have the full commitment of leadership and underpins all four phases of a cognitive strategy. This model helps ensure that the cognitive automation vision – to transform the enterprise into an engine of unconstrained innovation – becomes a scalable reality, with buy-in from all parts of the organization.
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