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AI Technology in the Digital Enterprise

AI-based cognitive solutions are making rapid inroads into business environments, but it will take time – and support – before they can realize their full potential.

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Cognitive technology solutions that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) advancements have moved seemingly overnight from the computing fringe to mainstream business practice. At least, that’s what a recent survey conducted by IBM and IDG suggests at first glance. Of the 200 executives and decision makers at large enterprises who participated, 51% said they have already deployed AI in their cloud environments, and the remaining 49% said they would do so in the next 12 months.

But what types of cognitive solutions are being adopted? The IBM/IDG survey provides data on two high-profile AI-based technologies: Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the survey respondents said they have already deployed machine learning technology in some fashion, and 56% said they are currently using “bots” – software-based robots that automate tasks and human-machine interactions in various ways.

Indeed, the goal of many AI-powered solutions is to automate routine or repetitive tasks traditionally performed by human operators and decision makers. Robotic process automation (RPA) does just this, performing tasks ranging from data entry to invoice processing to and help-desk problem solving. For example, a cement and building materials firm operating in 50 countries used an IBM-built RPA solution to automate the labor-intensive reconciliation of multiple reports. The solution reduced the reconciliation cycle time by 39%, and performed the process with zero errors.

Cognitive technologies will become pervasive

Despite growing numbers of such AI-enabled successes, it’s important to recognize that a high percentage of today’s cognitive technology deployments are still small-scale point solutions. While these solutions provide real value, relatively few companies can claim to be “cognitive businesses” that have fundamentally transformed their operations and strategies by exploiting new AI-based capabilities.

Fortunately, there is a growing pool of services and resources designed to help organizations make the cognitive computing journey. One example: IBM’s Institute for Business Value offers white papers covering cognitive manufacturing,  digital operations, or  cyber security moving from small-scale pilot RPA projects to transformative deployments of these intelligent automation solutions.

Over time, cognitive solutions of all types will enhance many business functions within front-, middle-, and back-office environments. In a survey of more than 6,000 senior executives around the world, IBM identified 13 key functions likely to be aided by cognitive technologies. The survey then determined the respondents’ priorities in applying cognitive solutions to each of these core functions. The top four cognitive-function priorities:

  1. Information technology – Enhancing IT operations, IT architecture and engineering, and IT finance, procurement, vendor management, etc.
  2. Sales – Supporting supply chain operations, customer-facing services, sales management, etc.
  3. Information security – Detecting and preventing cyber attacks, and speeding incident response and remediation, etc.
  4. Innovation – Helping organizations formulate hypotheses, identify and validate new ideas, make unexpected associations, etc.

AI-powered cognitive solutions are rapidly being deployed across these and other functional areas, but it will take time for organizations to make these solutions part of their core business “DNA.” Still, given the broad scope of these solutions – and the growing enthusiasm for them – the number of true cognitive businesses is sure to grow quickly.

To learn more about IBM’s cognitive computing solutions and thought leadership, click here.

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