Given my role as an enterprise architect, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different business leaders, each focused on leveraging IT to drive improved efficiencies, lower costs, increase quality, and broaden market share throughout their businesses. The improvements might involve any subset of data, processes, business rules, infrastructure, software, hardware, etc. A common thread is that each project seeks to make the corporation smarter through the use of information technology.
As I’ve placed these separate projects into a common context of my own, I’ve concluded that the long term goal of leveraging information technology must be for it to support cognitive processes. I don’t mean that the computers will think for us, rather that IT solutions must work together to allow a business to learn, corporately.
The individual tools that we utilize each play a part. However, we tend to utilize them in a manner that focuses on isolated and directed operation rather than incorporating them into an overall learning loop. In other words, we install tools that we direct without asking them to help us find better directions to give.
Let me start with a definition: similar to thinking beings, a cognitive corporation™ leverages a feedback loop of information and experiences to inform future processes and rules. Fundamentally, learning is a process and it involves taking known facts and experiences and combining them to create new hypothesis which are tested in order to derive new facts, processes and rules. Unfortunately, we don’t often leverage our enterprise applications in this way.
We have many tools available to us in the enterprise IT realm. These include database management systems, business process management environments, rule engines, reporting tools, content management applications, data analytics tools, complex event processing environments, enterprise service buses, and ETL tools. Individually, these components are used to solve specific, predefined issues with the operation of a business. However, this is not an optimal way to leverage them.
If we consider that these tools mimic aspects of an intelligent being, then we need to leverage them in a fashion that manifests the cognitive capability in preference to simply deploying a point-solution. This involves thinking about the tools somewhat differently.