Cognitive Systems And The Workplace Of The Future

Creating new forms of employee engagement through intelligent IT

By Hugo Moreno, Editorial Director, Forbes

The way we work is undergoing a major shift. We expect the same kind of intuitive, tactile experience with our workplace technology that we now take for granted with our smartphones, tablets and gaming systems. Perhaps the most dramatic change comes from the potential for cognitive support to combine intelligence and sentiment for a true sense-and-respond experience. Cognitive systems will change the workplace in ways we haven’t yet imagined. The workplace may soon incorporate virtual reality tools and wearable devices, all connected to a cognitive platform. This shift is explored in a new report by Forbes Insights, in association with IBM, “The Digital Workplace in the Cognitive Era — Positioning for the Future: Intelligent IT for the Anytime, Anywhere Workforce.”

There is no question that technology gives us more choices and better tools. Yet what most of us want is less complexity and, if we are paying for it, lower costs. Planning for the workplace of the future means striking the right balance between finding the right tools for each user today and accessing an infrastructure that can expand with the intelligence and the power of the technology of the future.

Key points include:

• The digital workplace merges work and life — a virtual space with applications, services and information on demand. For users, this means access to the technology they need, when they need it, on whichever device they prefer to use.

• Employees expect their enterprise systems to be as engaging, exciting and intuitive as consumer devices. Technology research company Gartner calls this a shift from technology-literate people to people-literate technology.

• Companies now have more exquisitely detailed data about how their products and services are used than they ever had before, thanks to a vast network of sensors and advanced analytic tools.

• Cognitive systems can parse all that data and learn what employees need to do their job better — even if they don’t yet know it themselves. Cognitive systems will deliver the ability to visualize vast amounts of data, curated and analyzed, for a unique task and a unique user.

• The workplace of the future will embrace emerging new cognitive and analytic capabilities. These tools can provide insights into how employees engage most effectively, what the best technologies are for each task and for each individual, and help provide a seamless work environment — an environment that will help to attract and retain the best talent.

• Success in the growing mobile, digital world requires a deliberate business and IT strategy that allows you to provide cognitive capabilities that set your digital experience apart every time in the context of the moment. When businesses design around this revolution, instead of simply accommodating it, whole industries can shift.

Cognitive computing is an opportunity to put the growing universe of customer and corporate insights into the hands of workers whenever they need it and wherever they may be. Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, for example, are training Watson, IBM’s cognitive platform, to assist doctors in treating cancer patients. Watson can take information about a specific patient and match it to a huge knowledge base of medical journals and documented treatments and outcomes for similar patients. A cognitive assistant can find patterns and present options that can both personalize and broaden the information available to medical professionals when making treatment recommendations. The insights from cognitive assistance can help patients and doctors make more-informed, evidence-based decisions.

These same tools can provide insights into how employees engage most effectively, help select the best technologies for each task and each individual and help provide a seamless work environment. Imagine having an intelligent assistant draw on the recorded knowledge of your profession as well as real-time data from your environment, helping to inform your decisions and describe probabilities to your range of choices for a given task. Imagine that assistant can also then learn over time, through real-life interactions with you and others in your profession, expanding knowledge and offering more precise assistance.

The workplace of the future will be designed to ensure ubiquitous, personalized and secure access to emerging new cognitive and analytic capabilities. Cognitive systems will learn continuously how best to engage with users and enhance productivity. They will provide the ability to visualize and more effectively use vast amounts of data, curated and analyzed for a unique task and a unique user. And they will be open to whatever new platforms, applications or devices we may need to do our jobs in the future.

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