The Cognitive Enterprise: Enterprise Experience and Humanity (4 of 4)

Sep 18, 2020

The final part of this 4 part series will describe the importance of the human assets in the transformation to being a Cognitive Enterprise.

  1. The Cognitive Enterprise (1 of 4)
  2. Market Making Business Platforms (2 of 4)
  3. Intelligent Workflows (3 of 4)
  4. Enterprise Experience and the Human Touch (4 of 4)

Technology has now moved beyond being an enabler and driver of efficiency. It’s become deeply personal as organisations seek to provide curated experiences for their customers, their employees, business partners or ecosystem. It’s empathy that allows organisations to stand out.

Augmented intelligence

AI is no longer just used to replace a human and assist a customer online. AI has been developed with empathy, taking knowledge from multitudes of points of data to understand the needs of the customer, and advising employees how to react. Whether that is in a call centre using a cognitive AI solution to assess intent from emails, via voice tone recognition, or face to face with the customer over a coffee.

Empowered teams

Cognitive Enterprises have leaders that are not only highly technically competent, but have a thorough understanding of the organisation’s intents, and can connect the capabilities provided by exponential technologies to the transformation of business models that meet the intent.

These new leaders also know how to empower cross functional operational teams, so that they can get to the business outcomes more quickly. A centralised model where leaders are afraid to let go can not respond quickly enough in today’s fast paced markets, and the skills needed in a cognitive enterprise are so diverse that leaders must be able to trust their teams.

Learning culture

As organisations become cognitive, programs for hiring, training, identifying and managing talents also need to be reviewed. Skills profiles based upon organisational need, as well as industry standards become part of the framework. Creating granular education is a key component of this and employees are starting to expect personalised training, delivered across multiple channels which suit the employee.

Action Areas

There are three Action Areas which are seen as critical to becoming cognitive:

  1. Human technology partnerships - Embed the understanding of why the organisation exists; who is the customer, how the customer, employee, and the ecosystem partners interact, and devise human centered design.
  2. Cultivate smart leadership- Select and develop leaders with business and technical expertise, making them accountable for the creation of a learning culture.
  3. Be agile without the chaos - Reduce time to market by empowering agile cross functional teams, without the chaos caused by a lack of structure and the circumvention of the good practices held up by other functions.

1) Human technology partnerships 

Why are we here and what guides us?

That's the first question that every organisation has be able to answer. This is not the same as asking 'what do we do'? That's simple. An insurer sells insurance. But we exist because we believe in making life easier and supporting people throughout their lives. Because of this belief, we craft great products that support you in good times as well as bad, and which give peace of mind. Our product happens to be insurance.

This is why organisations such as insurers adopt a "Payer-to-Partner, and Preventer" strategy (the 3P model), building innovative health ecosystems, connecting doctors on-line, partners that provide value added services such as fitness and wellness facilities, and risk advisory linked to IoT wearable tech or something as basic as providing preventive steps through tips and safety advice .

This alignment of purpose and society rallies customers, partners, employees, and the general public. It creates headlines, motivation and commitment. It can be argued that the Volkswagon false emissions scandal has been hugely damaging not just because it has lied to its customers - being caught out as a corporate liar is never good - but because it has deceived on a matter tied to the emotional subject of pollution and global climate change - factors that go into the 'should I buy' equation.

Has anyone told the employees?

Many employees do not always have the data, tools, training, or authority to apply the brand vision to their daily activities. Purpose should elicit an emotional reaction. Having employees do the what is not enough. They need to do the ‘why’. This has been talked about before as the ‘Golden Circle’.

Human centricity

As organisations cultivate understanding of the ‘why’ among their employees, they also seek to understand their customer base better. Not content with gathering enough data to predict future behaviour, cognitive organisations work to understand the customer as a human.

This is done by developing 'personas', fictional characters that represent a segment of the potential user or customer base. With better data, feedback, and learnings the market can be segmented, more personas developed, a more curated experience provided, and better alignment between the risk and the premium.

2) Cultivate smart leadership

Change is not what you see happen when a Change Manager is busy ensuring that the various business teams for a new initiative are ready for the go-live. Change happens a long way before that. It happens when smart leaders combine a deep understanding of the possibilities of exponential technologies and the market that they are operating in, with the strategic direction of the organisation.

This contrasts with many leadership teams, where leadership is segregated between those that are tech savvy and those with the business acumen. Smart leaders, with both of these qualities, are ideally positioned to re-imagine the intelligent workflows that will be needed for tomorrow, and understand how to get there.

Collaborate across ecosystems

Leadership is moving from the centre to the edge of the organization, into agile teams. Leaders need to fundamentally shift from a mindset of command and control to one of trust to allow for agile team  execution.

Operating models must exist across silos, starting with top level management, so that the rules of cross functional engagement are set, decision rights established, and the guiding principles known. Done properly, the burden of so many recurring meetings and the decision paralysis that occurs when working across silos can be reduced.

Taking this further, collaboration of the future may span different partnerships and ecosystems. What does this mean? Are teams from other organisations also given a voice? Are outside organisation design teams also included in conversations? Is data being unreasonably being held back from partners?

Drive ownership for building employee skills

Intelligent workflows and AI-enabled are going to lead to the skills of millions of workers becoming obsolete. Skills shortages have been most acutely felt in technology and while technology is always for the foreseeable future going to be an in-demand skill, in 2018 (IBM 2019 - The skills gap is not a myth) there was a shift towards soft skills, these being:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

It was noted that the time it takes to learn new skills is rising dramatically while the half-life of current skills continues to drop. The softer skills take longer to develop, but for technical skills, new ones keep emerging.

Smart leaders must be accountable for workforce reinvention, and can only do this by understanding in detail what skills will be needed to support the intelligent workflows.

It involves greater rotation of resources, moving employees to new teams and new areas of responsibility, creating a learning culture, learning by doing, and empowering employees to act.

If this is done transparently, the workforce will see the value in new opportunities to learn, and take on new challenges that lie outside of their BAU role. The willingness to be adaptable is what will help today’s worker to stand out from the rest.

Behavioural skill demand 2016 v 2018

Rank in 2018 +/- change Skill (Behavioural / Core or technical)
1 +2 Willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change
2 +5 Time management and prioritisation
3 +2 Work effectively in teams
4 -1 Communicate effectively in business context
5 +3 Analytics skills and business acumen
6 -5 Technical STEM* capabilities
7 +2 Capacity for innovation and creativity
8 -7 Basic PC and software / application skills
9 +1 Ethics and integrity
10 +2 Foreign language proficiency
11 -5 Core reading, writing, and arithmetic skills
12 -1 Industry or occupation specific

* STEM = Science, technology, engineering and mathematics

3) Be agile without the chaos

Accelerate innovation with cross boundary teams

Many organisations are adopting agile methods and what is being seen within the workplace are teams moving at different speeds. Some are fully agile, others are traditional, and others are somewhere in between. This often leads to disconnects between teams. To address this, organisations should think about the values that can foster agility across and there are two areas that do this: new ways to learn and speed to value.

  • New ways to learn
    Teams and coalitions that come from IT, Transformation, and across functional business lines need to come together. Ecosystem partners should also be part of this mix. Such diversity sees challenges from many angles, and the diverse perspectives that these teams have widen the potential outcomes. It’s from this that breakthrough ideas are likely to emerge. Agile teams frequently bring in outside views, such as those from customers or external partners.
  • Speed to value
    To deliver value quickly, organisations can no longer afford to go through a year of planning and development to finally find out that what they have delivered is not what is needed. Instead, work is broken down into smaller pieces, each release delivering some value, rapid feedback collected, and additional value built in subsequent releases. This is referred to as iterative design and as borne from being able to inspect and adapt after each small release.

Avoid chaos

With multi-speed teams in organisations (going from fully agile to traditional) the challenge is to avoid chaos. Chaos is what happens when agile isn’t implemented uniformly and people don’t understand it, and/or cannot let go of the control that they have. Organisations try to avoid this chaos by something described as purposeful agility.

Purposeful agility

Agile teams are empowered to explore ideas and find the best way of working. Leaders play a new type of role as that of a ‘servant leader’, clearly describing the outcome but not how to deliver it, and clearing the path of obstructions to allow the team to deliver. Their focus is on creating environments that allow agility to thrive, namely trust and empowerment. As agents of change, these leaders will build agility into the organisation by setting the skills building agenda.

Too many organisations decide to 'go agile' but often with the assumption that people will just pick up the know how along the way. Some will. Many won't. But the result will be the chaos of teams doing something their own way, in a vacuum to the rest of the organisation and without the guiding principles that the whole organisation needs to align with.


In the journey to being cognitive, business platforms will need to be built, ecospaces exploited, intelligent workflows designed, and workforces reshaped. All of this comes with considerable cost and risk.

However, becoming a Cognitive Enterprise enables organisations to reinvent themselves in ways that were not possible before the advent of exponential technologies, these being technologies that bring a disruptive economic and lifestyle effect, that are rapidly doubling in capability or performance, and whose current price-performance makes it feasible to incorporate them into organisations. Examples are AI, hybrid cloud, IoT, 5G, edge computing, and blockchain.

Despite the risk, organisations will be compelled to start the journey or risk becoming irrelevant. Organisations and the workforce will have to adapt and it's the smart leaders who will address how an organisation can innovate, deliver quickly, and to do this without ending up in disarray.

To understand more, read IBM's views on the actions to be taken to become a cognitive enterprise.

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