A systematic approach to engaging with and implementing cognitive technologies may seem to require more effort than the “do something cognitive” approach, but it is more likely to achieve expected results and may require less time and money over the long run.

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An opportunity and a challenge

Many of our clients and research sites report a set of behaviors relative to cognitive technology in their firms that represent both an opportunity and a challenge. The behaviors are these: Senior executives and members of boards of directors hear about the potential of cognitive technology to transform business. They encourage the company’s leaders to “do something cognitive.” The leaders, feeling the pressure, engage with prominent vendors of these technologies. The leaders do a high-level deal with the vendors—typically for a pilot application. The vendor contract often includes services work to develop the pilot—in part because the organization lacks the necessary skills. The pilot becomes highly visible within the organization. There is optimism around the transformative nature of the technology, but often a lack of consensus on the risks and goals of the pilot.

SwissCognitiveThe opportunity here is that senior managers are interested in and engaged with a new technology with the potential to transform their businesses. They are displaying openness to innovation and a desirable urge to take advantage of an exciting capability. And we know that when senior executives aren’t engaged, technology projects often fail.

The challenge is that projects that start this way often fail for various reasons. Often teams struggle to define a good starting set of use cases. Perhaps they don’t use the right technology for the problem, or the pilot is overly ambitious for the envisioned time and cost. “Transformative” projects are high-risk and high-reward. So it’s not surprising that they often fail even at the pilot project level. Some of the projects impact the organization’s existing technology architecture, but IT groups may not be involved in these initial cognitive projects, making it difficult for them to be integrated into an existing architecture. Finally, pilots that are not designed with humans as the end user in mind often lack adoption and acceptance within vital constituencies.

In any case, there are a number of negative outcomes from such a process. The failure of the project sets back the organization’s use of cognitive technology for some time. To use a Gartner term, the technology prematurely enters the “trough of despair.” And because the project was done largely outside the organization, it doesn’t improve internal capabilities and builds a layer of cynicism among the ultimate users.

A better way to approach cognitive

We believe there is a better way to get started with cognitive technology than the “do something cognitive” approach. It harnesses the potential enthusiasm of senior managers while preventing some of the current problems. The steps below require that there is some group or individual within an organization who can exercise at least a minimal level of coordination during the early stages of these technologies […]

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