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POWER > Business Strategy > Competitive Advantage

IBM Helps Clients Derive Insights for Fast and Efficient Service

cognitive business
Illustration by Romain Trystram

Disruptive business models, such as Uber, have upended their respective industries. These examples should be taken seriously by every industry, as they are indicative of a power shift to where customers are calling the shots. Companies must accommodate this change, and IBM is helping them make that shift through cognitive business, building on IBM’s Watson* brand.

In cognitive business, data is used to derive insights in a way that makes sense for the client, enabling fast and efficient service. For example, it can be used to detect language and its nuances to provide companies with information, insight about the customer and recommendations. A Spanish-speaking chat line customer service representative in Spain can assist a German-speaking customer through the use of instantaneous translation. In addition, the Spanish-speaking customer service representative will receive insight into the personality and mood of the German-speaking customer with recommendations on how best to deal with the customer, as an individual. The result is information delivered in seconds in the language the customer understands and in a communication style that resonates the most for the customer.

“POWER is the platform built for data, so being the infrastructure for clients doing cognitive business is a very natural evolution for Power Systems.”
—Kim Querner, director, Power Software Solutions, IBM Systems

Cognitive runs on POWER* using traditional as well as open-source software. It can be run on-premise or in the cloud. IBM’s approach to cognitive ensures the data remains secure and in compliance, no matter where it’s used or stored. 

  New Insights From Data

Companies have long relied on traditional, structured data housed in relational databases. Unstructured data, including text and audio that can be transformed into text, contains valuable information, but companies need a way to tap into it. Cognitive business provides that access.

“Cognitive takes the largest portion of what is referred to as unstructured data, performs analytics against it and can derive insight from it,” says Les King, director, Big Data, Analytics and Database Solutions Information Management, IBM. Cognitive systems operate in a manner that reacts to the way people think and interact with those systems, providing useful information in a time frame that mimics human-to-human interaction. “We now get an intelligent, topic-specific response,” he adds.

As in the customer service example, cognitive can detect a language being spoken, convert it to one the recipient must see, and provide astute recommendations based on the words chosen and the tones used. Companies can now analyze and obtain insightful information from data in many languages. “It’s a fascinating breakthrough,” King says.

Shift in Focus

Cognitive also acknowledges and enhances the shift in business focus to the customer. Businesses have been customer-centric for quite some time. Now, the focus is on serving and anticipating the customer’s needs—a subtle but radical change in direction. Cognitive brings a shift in power to the consumer with goods and services that never existed before. King uses Uber as an example of this change in business consciousness. Uber’s systems interact with a customer’s mobile device in a way that helps the customer. For example, after booking a car through Uber, the customer can sit in a restaurant and track the car using a mobile device rather than standing outside waiting for it. The customer can see a photo of the driver’s face and view the driver’s past ratings. The fee is known upfront, and the payment can be made through the mobile device. This business model puts the customer’s needs first.

Customers now have the power to make or break companies. “Look how many companies hire people to monitor tweets made about the companies,” King says. Clumsy handling of a customer gets tweeted across the Web. When the tweet goes viral, a company’s reputation can be irretrievably tarnished, he points out.

Companies are just now beginning to understand the shift. “Worldwide, less than 10 percent of companies have understood the change in power structure to the consumer and have accommodated that change by putting systems in place that provide a return on investment (ROI) and give the company a competitive advantage,” King explains. Companies in North America and Europe tend to be in the 10 percent of companies that are aware of the shift now. “While this shift is occurring more slowly in other parts of the world, the same trends are happening,” he says.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at



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