A Week With Watson

watson

Last week I joined the tens of thousands of customers, partners, and employees who descended on the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the IBM Amplify and InterConnect conferences. It was a valuable opportunity to get the latest from one of the most respected companies on the planet and proved to be time very well spent.

It’s no secret that IBM has had challenges growing revenue in recent years as the tectonic shift towards cloud computing disrupted many of their core businesses, but times are changing, and the tech behemoth presented a compelling case this week that they are well positioned to help today’s enterprises capitalize on tomorrow’s opportunities.

Enterprise Strength + Security

When Ginny Rometti took the stage on Tuesday to interview business leaders and IBM partners [including Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce, Randall Stephenson, CEO, AT&T, William Cobb, CEO, H&R Block, and others], she made it quite clear that the IBM cloud was built to support the enterprise at scale. With the volume of mobile data on AT&T’s network growing at a pace of 40% month over month, Ginny illustrated that tomorrow’s challenges present big opportunities for businesses that can manage this growth with agile and scalable solutions. With the vast majority or the world’s credit card transactions, airline tickets, and stock trades running through IBM systems, the crew in Armonk certainly knows scale and has proven that they’re serious about security.

Cognitive is Here

Watson is at the core of virtually everything IBM does, and this week in Vegas we saw a lot of exciting ways in which artificial intelligence and cognitive processing have been implemented to drive value across business verticals.

Most of us are aware that Watson is a great chess player and has beaten some of the best in the world. Many of us have read about how Watson has helped doctors more easily identify anomalies in huge data sets and aid in the diagnosis of diseases of all sorts. Few of us, however, realize that Watson has learned the US tax code, line by line, and marries those data with those of virtually every tax return ever prepared by H&R Block [nearly 700 million] to find incremental deductions and help H&R Block customers proactively plan for their upcoming tax year to minimize tax exposure.

Watson has also begun to learn marketing. Watson Content Hub uses cognitive intelligence to automatically tag content in ways that make it easier for marketers to ID and leverage it, driving efficiency and efficacy. Watson Marketing Insights [which just went live in GA on Friday, Mar. 24], leverages a cognitive engine to help marketers more easily identify and activate specific customer segments. It can, for instance, comb through cross-behavioral customer data, select those most likely to churn, and then build segments to be passed along to Watson Marketing or to any number of partners for omnichannel activation. While in its infancy, I believe it could very well grow into an indispensable tool for marketers who are increasingly forced to deal with more data than they can effectively manage.

Smart Technology + Smart People

It was easy to get swept away this week by the almost science fiction like possibilities of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence, but everyone from Ginny on down reiterated that it takes smart people to leverage smart technology. Watson is an excellent pupil, but only learns when he is taught by good teachers who leverage a solid curriculum. Marketers looking for a silver bullet may be disappointed, but those in search of tools to better manage their business in the age of ‘big data’ may very well find a perfect partner in Watson.

Kudos + Thanks

Kudos to the team at IBM for producing an epic event, and thanks to all the team members who made the time to meet with me and give me the latest. Special thanks to Stacy Kirk and Silvia Galgano on the AR team for the hospitality and access; this Einstein had a great week with Watson.

For those who wish to dig deeper into the event, check out the recordings and resources online.

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