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IBM Think 2019: Beginning the Digital Journey

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IBM’s 2019 Think Conference kicked off last week with Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty’s keynote, describing the digital journey that most businesses find themselves on today. According to her, the path to the future is paved with artificial intelligence (AI), the hybrid Cloud, and responsible stewardship. Rometty claims that many companies are at least starting to experiment with AI and many more are committing “random acts of digital.” 

That’s the good news — that many businesses have already bought into the vision. The challenge now for those businesses is how they face the enormous task of implementing AI and the Cloud into their day-to-day business. But, as Rometty says, “You can’t just layer new technology on your old way of thinking.”

AI is Getting Real

Mike Adams, the Gordon Flesch Company’s AI Solutions Manager, sat in on several advanced sessions for developers. He says that AI adoption is more universal than even he would have thought before attending the conference. “I was in a number of sessions for developers, and when a speaker asked how many of them were currently working on an AI project for their company, literally every hand went up,” he says. 

Other surprises we uncovered at the show involved learning how closely AI is becoming integrated with everyday web applications. For example, we learned that Cloud storage providers Box and IBM’s Watson are already tightly integrated, meaning organizations can unleash the power of machine learning on their document and data collections stored in the Cloud.

The implication of this is that organizations can uncover value from their data without a complex document management system. In fact, we found that many vendors believe that it’s becoming easier and easier to utilize forms, contracts and things that have minimal structure and make them immediately accessible to advanced analytics.

This means that analytics and business intelligence will be within the grasp of almost any organization, regardless of size. To drive this point home, Rometty announced a new product offering, WATSON ANYWHERE. Created to help businesses use Watson AI wherever they are storing their data, Watson can now access public or private data.

Welcome to the AI World  

The first thing I wrote down from the keynote was “AI needs IA” (information architecture). In other words, companies need a business platform to connect all of their digital services and manage the lifecycle of their AI apps. IBM Think was also the coming out party for our own Watson-based app, AskGordy. The Gordon Flesch Company’s (GFC) AI Solutions team has worked diligently since last year’s event to produce an app that can access data within any company’s managed content systems

We believe AskGordy provides the IA solution that companies need to connect all their digital services with the power of IBM Watson. This was an exciting time for us, as AskGordy has come a long way in the year that’s passed since the 2018 IBM Think, and we were thrilled to debut our AI solution. Mike Adams led a well-received breakout session that teamed with IBM to discuss the exclusive and ongoing support we had with IBM to develop AskGordy. Adams says that over 127 individual IBM personnel assisted his team in the past year. 

Do You Believe in the Cloud?

IBM executives say that most companies today have completed 20% of their Cloud journey and can now embark on the next chapter which involves using multiple Cloud environments. Of course, the great concern was how to move data to different Clouds safely, given that many organizations are still nervous about putting their precious data and customer information in the hands of a third party. 

However, as Rometty discussed, succeeding on the digital journey means conducting business with trust, transparency and purpose. Building trust was key in the journey as was being good stewards of technology. She announced the Call for Code, a global call to action for developers to apply their skills to provide solutions for disaster preparedness and relief. IBM also initiated the #BeEqual campaign, designed to promote the advancement of gender equality in business leadership.

What Does This Mean to a Non-Techie?

As GFC’s lead marketer, I was most interested in how all this advanced technology fits into my day-to-day work. The marketing breakout sessions I attended during the three days all discussed the buyer’s journey. Today, organizations are evolving from product-led to experience-led businesses, and 84% of Chief Marketing Officers surveyed by IBM suspect their current business models may be threatened. Most companies today are in a mature market with many competitors, and the only way to differentiate themselves is with the customer experience.

Watson Campaign Automation (WCA) is not just the “programming,” it’s a way of making marketing tools work together. You need to track customers’ behaviors, combine the data points, and then build automation around what you have learned. To create a successful Journey Map, you must match the buyers’ personas and goals to the correct campaign and lead generation content. In other words, humans working together with business intelligence and automation tools can create a better and more engaging experience for your customers, clients and employees.

The IBM Think Conference was a fascinating journey, and it has me thinking of all sorts of ways to integrate this methodology into GFC’s business. If you’re interested in learning more about how to automate and reimagine your existing business processes, please reach out to us. We’d love to go on a journey with you.

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