IBM today launched its latest strategic initiative: a 2,000-employee consulting unit devoted exclusively to business that builds on the cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson.
"Our work with clients across many industries shows that cognitive computing is the path to the next great set of possibilities for business," Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Business Services, said in a statement today. "Clients know they are collecting and analyzing more data than ever before, but 80 percent of all the available data — images, voice, literature, chemical formulas, social expressions — remains out of reach for traditional computing systems. We're scaling expertise to close that gap and help our clients become cognitive banks, retailers, automakers, insurers or healthcare providers."
The new practice, IBM Cognitive Business Solutions, will draw on the expertise of more than 2,000 consulting professionals spanning machine learning, advanced analytics, data science and development, all supported by industry and change management specialists.
IBM Senior Vice President John Kelly defines cognitive computing as systems designed to ingest vast quantities of different kinds of data, reason over the information, learn from their interactions with data and people and interact with humans in natural ways. "Though cognitive computing includes some elements of the academic discipline of artificial intelligence, it's a broader idea," he says. "Rather than producing machines that think for people, cognitive computing is all about augmenting human intelligence — helping us think better."
"Over time, it will be possible to build cognitive technologies into many of the IT solutions and human-designed systems on earth, imbuing them with a kind of 'thinking' ability," Kelly says. "These new capabilities will enable people and organizations to accomplish things they couldn't before — understanding more deeply how the world works, predicting the consequences of actions and making better decisions."
[ Related: IBM Bets big on Watson-branded cognitive computing ]
To underscore the need for the new consulting unit, IBM points to a survey of more than 5,000 C-suite executives by its Institute for Business Value (IBV), which found teh following:
- Sixty-five percent of insurance industry CXOs are pursuing some form of business model innovation, but nearly 30 percent feel the quality, accuracy and completeness of their data is insufficient.
- Sixty percent of retail executives do not believe their company is equipped to deliver the level of individual experiences consumers demand, and 95 percent say they will invest in cognitive in the next five years.
- The healthcare industry forecasts a 13 million person gap in qualified healthcare workers by 2035, and more than half of healthcare industry CXOs report that current constraints on their ability to use all available information limits their confidence about making strategic business decisions. Eighty-four percent of these leaders believe cognitive will be a disruptive force in healthcare and 95 percent plan to invest in it over the next five years.
The story was similar across all industries: executives surveyed by the IBV cited scarcity of skills and technical expertise — rather than security, privacy or maturity of the technology — as the primary barriers to cognitive adoption.
The Cognitive Business Solutions practice will work to ease that pain with "get started" offerings and readiness assessments that create low-cost entry points to the cognitive journey.
"Before long, we will look back and wonder how we made important decisions or discovered new opportunities without systematically learning from all available data," Stephen Pratt, global leader, IBM Cognitive Business Solutions, said in a statement today. "Over the next decade, this transformation will be very personal for professionals as we embrace learning algorithms to enhance our capacity. For clients, cognitive systems will provide organizations that adopt these powerful tools the ability to outperform their peers."
IBM also plans to train another 25,000 IBM consultants and practitioners on cognitive computing this fall.
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