Can Business Intelligence Become Smarter With Cognitive Support Services?


Analyst and research director of data and analytics at Info-Tech Research Group, Igor Ikonnikov speaks to the biggest missed opportunities in business intelligence (BI) that can effectively protect both businesses’ and consumers’ data privacy.

Imagine you are viewing a collection of art, such as paintings, sculptures, craftwork, etc. You are definitely not an expert, and you may be wandering around for hours as you struggle to guess what is good, and why this ugly black square is considered a masterpiece. But, if you get some context around these pieces of art, in terms of their artistic or historical value, this experience would become more meaningful to you as you would start understanding the contextualized value behind those pieces. Business intelligence provides that context to the bare facts that might otherwise be difficult to appreciate.

Business intelligence (BI) can be defined as the ability to effectively support decision-making processes by visually presenting historical, current, and forward-looking business perspectives created from properly contextualized data assembled from internal and, if necessary, external data sources. Where BI tells a story about what the data is saying, Advanced Analytics (AA) tries to uncover patterns that can give insights into what could come next.

Learn More: The Importance of Ensuring Data Integrity in the Modern Day Enterprise

But How Do We Take This to the Next Level?

Cognitive Support Services (CSS) interactively assist humans during the decision-making process by providing conclusions and suggestions derived from systematic, complex and comprehensive analysis of data processed in various formats (structured, unstructured, semi-structured). 

The simplest explanation would be this formula: CSS = BI (or AA) + AI.

CSS are interactive and react to changes in assumptions as they happen during the decision-making process. If BI or AA can only provide visualization of a certain perspective to stimulate insight, CSS can analyse various perspectives, synthesize insights, and make recommendations. For example, in a Boardroom, Reporting & Analytics are on the screen stimulating the discussion, while CSS participates in the discussion.

IBM Watson’s win in Jeopardy was the first example of such capabilities. More recently, many other companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) have created AI-based “assistants” currently in use in the commercial market. In the analytical domain, we can see several implementations of delivering analytical results as a narrative – as a story, rather than tables and charts.

Suppose we add this value-adding participant into the board room. In that case, such participants must have access to and be able to process more information than other parties at the table. Also, the decision-making process must follow some formal logic and adhere to specifically defined rules of argumentation – at least until a super smart and flexible Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is available.

How To Create a Detailed Formal Model of the Business

For businesses, the ability to quickly analyse multi-variant scenarios overlaid with complex external factors (e.g., regulatory, macro-economic, political, etc.) will drastically expedite the time for making critical decisions. The quality of such decisions (e.g., benefits maximization, risk mitigation, etc.) would also dramatically increase. Creating a detailed formal model of the business would also enable effective business process optimization and re-engineering. These models would also significantly facilitate the planning and optimization of mergers & acquisitions. Formalizing the decision-making processes will provide greater transparency for stakeholders, improve corporate governance and, consequently, increase the corporate reputational score that usually translates into quite tangible additional benefits for the organization.  

When it comes to technology, the advent of CSS will drastically increase the demand for fully automated AI-driven data management platforms. Since the information involved is highly sensitive, the cognitive part of CSS will need to remain in-house. This means that current “AI as a Service” offerings will have to accommodate this super-sensitive information protection and maintain the safeguarding against malicious hacking into the AI governing the CSS.

Learn More: Combating Infobesity: 5 Things To Keep in Mind When Building Machine Learning Models

How To Implement Cognitive Support Services

Use-case specific modeling of a business, its informational and behavioural models, along with establishing the right level of constraints and decision-making process formalization, is a significant undertaking. It will require lots of help from experts who equally understand business, information and technology architecture. In addition, these experts will need to have enough business acumen to understand the strong and weak characteristics of each organization that is planning to implement CSS.

Cognitive Support Services Is Not a Dream

Many components either have already been built or are being developed, e.g., voice-driven communication with AI-enabled assistants, AI-driven data management, analytics over unstructured data, etc. It is just a matter of applying enough will (and skillset) to combine these parts together and to reinvigorate your organization.

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