Add a new category to the never-ending list of disruptive technologies: cognitive technology, which is sometimes referred to by the broader labels of "augmented intelligence" or "artificial intelligence."
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"Cognitive technologies can perform and augment low-level tasks; provide evidence-based insights for better human decision-making; and create improved engagement and interactions that previously required human intelligence such as planning, reasoning from partial or uncertain information, and learning," explains Ryan Renner, principal and cognitive advantage leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP.
Included under the "cognitive umbrella" are things like machine learning, deep learning neural networks, natural language processing, rule engines, robotic process automation, and "combinations of these capabilities for higher-level applications," Renner says.
Early adopters of these technologies in the business world are excited about the impact on their companies. In a new study from Deloitte, 87 percent of respondents said cognitive technology is "important" or "very important" to their product and service offerings. Ninety-two percent said the technology is "important" or "very important" to internal business processes.
More specific to the HR and recruiting sectors, cognitive technologies let recruiters and HR professionals focus on human interaction by taking on much of the time-consuming and repetitive work that has traditionally fallen within their purviews. Moreover, HR pros in particular will find themselves on the forefront of bringing cognitive tech to the rest of their organizations.
"The adoption of cognitive in the enterprise is reshaping tasks and jobs, which will lead to an increase in demand for HR and talent processes including recruiting, transitioning, and retooling the workforce in the coming years," Renner says. "HR will be tasked with augmenting human work and retraining staff to work alongside smart machines so that employees can perform their roles effectively. HR should expect that the transitioning and retooling of the workforce will become business as usual."
Change Is Good
By now, we're all used to new technologies changing the way we work. Cognitive technology will provide the next wave of due disruption. As with any disruptive change, organizations will have to adjust their processes to make the most of cognitive technology.
"While having access to cognitive technologies is critical to driving change, to truly derive value from cognitive requires a combination of complimentary initiatives including mastering technology, identifying structured and unstructured data to better inform the issue, bringing science – data and behavioral – to the business issue, and updating how work is done and who does it in conjunction with machines," Renner says. "Taken together, cognitive will change how organizations perform tasks, derive decisions, and interact with all stakeholders of the company – employees, customers, and more."
Like any new tech implementation, cognitive technology will have a learning curve. Companies that get on board now will be better prepared to adapt to full implementation as these technologies become more widely used.
"Going forward, it's important to remember that designing how we work with cognitive technologies is going to be an ongoing journey," says Renner. "As our machines continue to evolve at an exponential pace, cognitive solutions will continue to evolve. Humans and their organizations who leverage this evolution to augment and accelerate their impact will likely discover a sustainable competitive advantage."
Getting Started on Implementation
A minority of respondents to the Deloitte survey (31 percent) believe the technologies are immature and not ready for full-scale implementation, but that doesn't mean the potential of the technology should be ignored.
"We believe that all large companies should have some form of cognitive technologies today," Renner says. "Even with the technology continuing to develop, there is great potential, and the risks can be managed accordingly."
Renner suggests organizations start their forays into cognitive technology by creating small, dedicated internal functions responsible for supporting cognitive initiatives focused on measurable business outcomes.
"This will help allow companies to take bets on cognitive technologies; identify the relative maturity of these technologies; and pinpoint operational, resources, and technology changes required to embark on a full on cognitive journey," Renner says.
Exploring the technology and planning for implementation doesn't mean that businesses must commit to full-scale implementation overnight. Companies that feel unsure about cognitive technology can operate pilot programs to see how it will affect their particular business operation.
"A good way to test the waters is to look for non-mission critical business processes to apply cognitive technologies, which could eventually be folded into a broader strategic vision," Renner says. "Also, look to gradually over time hire individuals with cognitive skills and educate managers regarding the role cognitive can play within the business."
Knowing when and how to apply cognitive technology to your business will require investment and persistence, according to Renner. While early adopters are seeing the benefits already, that doesn't mean other organizations should worry they're too late.
"[Companies] should not feel left behind as long as they can nurture a level of education and readiness for cognitive technologies within their organizations," Renner says.
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