Wednesday, October 26, 2016

World of Watson (WOW) Aims High

World of Watson was literally and figuratively a "WOW" for this analyst and probably for many others as well. There were several sub-themes that were on display like "Out Think Possibilities" and "Watson in the World". Instead of AI(Artificial Intelligence), IBM was hitting on IA (Intelligent Assistance) putting the spotlight on people with software and machine assists. There were a great number of sessions for the 18,000+ attendees. I will just highlight the ones I thought were excellent.

Ginni Rometty, the Chairman, President and CEO of IBM took the stage late in the conference and highlighted the vision that IBM has for Watson for the future. While it is clear that we are just scratching the surface with Watson, there was plenty to get excited about. While deep down IBM believes that AI will assist people, machines and software, the emphasis was on the extension of human intelligence with Watson. There is a clear dispersing of the seed of Watson in the areas of human interactions and data understanding as the early steps of changing the world with AI. 

To prove that IBM was partnering and making exciting progress, Ginni brought several folks to the stage with proof points and partnerships. IBM is now partnering with GM by extending OnStar, so Mary Barra the Chairman and CEO of GM came to stage and painted a vision of cars becoming digital assistants to the driver and occupants of GM brand vehicles. 

Then IBM demonstrated it's commitment to education showing it's Teacher Assistant that helps teachers with lesson plans and bringing John B. King Jr, the US Secretary of Education to the stage to talk about IBM's long standing commitment to pioneering with practical ways of linking business needs with custom education programs in the New York area. 

Next Ginni turned to health care and talked about the treatment of chronic diseases. To that end, Yitzhak Peterburg, the chairman of the board of Teva Pharmaceuticals to give a vision of combining smart medicines (some with chips inside) that could vary dosages based on conditions and emit smart data in context to online and remote physicians. Illustrations were depicted for asthma and diabetes leveraging the DNA baselines of individuals and predictions to avoid more serious down stream consequences for those conditions. 

IBM Also Announced  and Demonstrated Things that Caught My Attention *

The new Watson enabled Data Platform that leveraged machine learning some pretty slick visualizations leveraging virtual reality 

Watson Workspace that showed an integration of several collaboration and communication capabilities including Cisco portfolio and Slack 

Watson is also being leveraged to search on the content inside of video which were previously considered to be dark data.

* While there were other announcements on the IBM press page of interest to others

Presentations of Interest:

While I attended many good sessions, two still stood out as helpful in understanding Watson and how it learns. Training Watson is the key to success and it does learn slow at first, but rapidly out paces many of us. Listening to folks who leveraged Watson, it was clear that the training is ongoing, but faster over a long time period. 

Joichi Ito presented some key findings from MIT on how people and machines learn and how each add their own lenses to situations that must be taken into account when trying to replace understanding, judgment, decisions and actions bots for both software and machines. He went on to show were jobs were likely to be displaced with the advent of AI. 

Rob High had a fantastic session on "How Watson Really Works" leveraging a highly entertaining Myth busters style. Some of the myths debunked were that Watson needed super sized computers that could only be found at large companies. Only super-PhD types can build applications with Watson was another myth killed by the availability of usable APIs with focused capabilities such as sentiment and emotion. Also Rob indicated that Watson had no intentions of taking over the world. 

Bottom Line:

The World of Watson was exciting and challenging. It is clear that IBM is spreading the use of Watson into many areas by all means possible. IBM developed, Partner developed and ecosystem developed. The Cognitive Concourse was amazingly large with four big themes of redefining development, transforming industries, monetizing data and re imagining professions. The number of vendors that had booths were pretty impressive as well. AI is here to stay this time and IBM will play a big role going forward. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Customer Journeys are Just the Beginning

Just like designing a better user experience (UX) has been and continues to be a major focus of  digital efforts,  customer journeys and customer journey mapping are gaining attention as the next investment to attract and retain customers in a hyper competitive world. In a world where the customer is in charge, customer journey mapping will be a key weapon in designing an attractive interaction with your organization. Journey mapping is not a "one and done" effort as mining actual customer experiences will also be mapped for audit purposes. Also journey mapping can be applied to employees and partners. Read more by clicking on this link

Monday, October 3, 2016

Selling Digital Process Efforts to Management

There are any number of ways to sell digitally based process (BPM) efforts to management, but I have found that linking BPM to something management has on its’ plate as a challenge is the best way. Search for the best benefit stream.

 If it’s a better user experience, show that BPM can help by surrounding old transactions. If it’s better revenue opportunities by attracting and new prospects, leverage BPM to show customer journeys that would attract. If it’s operational improvement, use BPM dashboards and process intelligence to show opportunities for improvement .If it is governance monitoring and enforcement, show management how BPM can be leveraged to watch and guide the right behavior. After the first success, incrementally use it in a larger context or for a more complex problem. I have seen this approach work where there is little executive vision and support to win to live another day until an executive gets how BPM is beneficial and reliable for fast changing conditions.

If you are lucky enough to have a high level visionary, then ask that visionary for a chance to educate the rest of the folks and start with a meatier and larger scoped effort. Back this visionary with education, usually from an outside source, and great results. If the rest of the executive team rejects the idea, then make the visionary a hero with a set of projects that has significant impact. This works as well, but the risk level is higher. A digital transformation program is an ideal umbrella cover for BPM.

Net; Net: 

There are many ways of winning management, despite swimming upstream with political debris floating your way. If you can find a visionary, leverage that situation otherwise, win each little battle until it delivers an overall victory. Keep in mind that there are many process and case types and apply the right process style to the right problem. BPM supports easy to use and change delivery that can be leveraged quickly to show the change resistant that BPM works. Sand-boxing and incremental delivery seems to help either a bottom up or a top down BPM effort. I have personally used both in each kind of BPM program with good success.