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Created For and Commissioned By: DELOITTE CONSULTING LLP
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A Cognitive Solution For A Data Dilemma

Machine intelligence promises to help resolve a rapidly emerging problem: What to do with all of our digital data.

A Cognitive Solution For A Data Dilemma

Data is powerful, right? And lots of data—an endless, streaming flow of information produced and delivered in real time—well, that must be all-powerful.

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If you’re not shouting “Yes!” you’re not alone. More and more, businesses today are realizing that all the data in the world is functionally useless without insightful analysis. That kind of higher-level thinking—a mix of knowledge, experience, and intuition—used to be work best done by human beings.

Enter machine intelligence (or MI), technology that mimics human cognition, but is in fact capable of analyzing data faster and at higher volumes than mere mortals. While unlocking hidden meaning. This isn’t one piece of tech, but rather, as Deloitte’s 2017 Tech Trends report explains, “an umbrella term for a collection of advances representing a new cognitive era,” encompassing machine learning, robotics process automation, computer vision, and more.

Machine intelligence’s ability to work hand in hand with data-driven technology—giving purpose to the data points, if you will—promises to make MI the future of business. A 2016 IDC report projected that worldwide spending on various aspects of machine intelligence will reach nearly $31.3 billion in 2019. And when Deloitte asked 1,200 IT executives to identify the emerging technologies in which they plan to invest significantly in the next two years, 64% included cognitive technologies.

Machine intelligence may seem futuristic, but it has the potential for many customer-facing applications in the real world. We may soon see it in the form of admitting patients to the hospital or recommending products and services at your local retail store. As the Tech Trends report outlines: “They may offer even greater business potential in the area of customer service, where cognitive agents could potentially replace some human agents by handling billing or account interactions, fielding tech-support questions, and answering HR-related questions from employees.”

Bill Briggs, global chief technology officer of Deloitte Consulting LLP

Recently, Bill Briggs, global chief technology officer of Deloitte Consulting LLP, sat down with FastCo.Works to discuss how machine intelligence will change the way we work and live.

Data has emerged as a critical business asset. What role does machine intelligence play in this age of data?

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Machine intelligence can find elusive patterns and correlations buried within massive amounts of data without humans having to tell it what to look for. The ability to automate this process represents a sea change in our approach to data mining and analysis.

Traditionally, these kinds of results have been hard to achieve for two reasons: First, the volume of information out there is overwhelming; and second, human bias can drive a conclusion or insight that may not be completely accurate. Machine intelligence not only automates very repetitive tasks, it actually mimics human intelligence while removing its biases.

How does this change the way a company thinks about data analysis?

You can apply machine intelligence to the tasks that have always been hard. For example, big companies have often struggled to manage and leverage the data they generate—even the readily available data living in transactional systems on their own servers. They own this data and the rights to use it. Yet many haven’t been able to consolidate it to get a single view of customers and their behavior, or of suppliers within a supply chain. Machine intelligence can help companies solve these kinds of persistent core data-management challenges.

Where do you see machine intelligence having the greatest impact in the next few years?

Companies are embedding it in many business functions—finance, supply chain, and customer experience, among others. They are also exploring ways to embed it in the digital experiences and products they are developing. These organizations are recognizing that machine learning can help them analyze large troves of data and reach conclusions they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. We’re talking about a higher level of insight—data doesn’t lie.

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What does machine intelligence mean for the human workforce?

It gives us an opportunity to automate some repetitive drudge work that requires little human passion. This way, workers can focus on the things humans are great at—tasks that require intuition and creativity. We’re seeing an era of augmented humans—man and machine working seamlessly together for higher-order results.

What is machine intelligence’s potential beyond automation and efficiency?

Within core business operations like HR, finance, and even IT, there are opportunities to streamline processes and utilize talent more efficiently and creatively. In that respect, there’s a lot of potential ROI upside. Yet beyond operational efficiency, there are larger opportunities to pursue and questions to ponder: How do we rethink how work is done? How do we rethink customer experience, products, services, and offerings? And, importantly, what does it mean to your existing talent, organization, and culture? Mapping the digital workforce of the future should be embedded in your Machine Intelligence journey.

This article was created for and commissioned by Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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FastCo Works is Fast Company's branded content studio. Advertisers commission us to consult on projects, as well as to create content and video on their behalf.

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