A new survey from IBM finds that 64 percent of chief marketing officers expect cognitive computing, such as IBM’s Watson, to be embraced by their companies. But only 24 percent have a strategy in place to implement smarter solutions. So what does IBM recommend?

According to the new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, here are steps to follow:

To realize the full potential of cognitive computing for marketing and sales functions, the IBV recommends the following actions to CMOs and sales executives:

  • Make room for cognitive solutions in your businesses’ Digital Reinvention strategy: Companies across multiple industries are in the midst of reinventing the customer experience with a variety of digital technologies, from mobile apps to Internet of Things (IoT) to virtual reality. These digital customer touchpoints are producing new sources of structured and unstructured data well suited for cognitive to inform companies about customers’ individual preferences, behaviors and attitudes. In fact, marketing executives listed “customer insights” as the primary way they could use cognitive to enhance their customer experience. Instead of seeing cognitive as a wholly separate initiative, CMOs and heads of sales should consider it a component of their Digital ReinventionTM strategy.
  • Enhance employees’ business skills, not just their data analytics skills: People with analytical skill sets are in high demand. But because cognitive technologies do the analytical heavy lifting, what marketing and sales may need the most are people with a broad perspective of both company strategy and the nuts and bolts of the business. These employees can more easily discern business implications from cognitive insights and need strong decision-making skills, as well as an empathetic understanding of their customers to consistently deliver their companies’ brand promise.
  • Make cognitive your golden opportunity for collaboration and innovation: Iimplementing cognitive solutions for marketing and sales calls for close alignment among the CMO, head of sales, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Chief Data Officer or Chief Digital Officer. This will ensure that the necessary technical requirements
 are met and the implications for cognitive maps to the business’s strategic goals. Cognitive used by marketing and sales professionals could also align to customer service, supply chain, product development, human resources and training, as well as operations and finance. This could help introduce new processes in traditionally siloed organizations for data sharing and ideation.
  • Start small, if necessary — but do start: Many marketing and sales executives fear the shift to cognitive will require them to “rip and replace” the tools and processes they use to analyze customer data and create customer experiences. Instead, there are numerous types of cognitive solutions — from improved capabilities for personalization to content tagging — that marketers and sellers can implement in stages to target specific challenges and often can be integrated into companies’ existing cloud platforms and data management systems. By starting small, companies can begin to enjoy the benefits of cognitive computing and determine how best to expand over time. More than half of Outperformers have already started their shift to cognitive. The real risk would be to wait too long on the sidelines while the competition forges ahead.

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