Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Watson of OZ

One of the more exciting yet, subtle announcements Jeanette Horan, Vice President and CIO of IBM slipped in during her opening keynote address was a plan to use the Watson technology to support the IBM sales force. Once you know what you want, need or lack, you have somewhere to go to meet someone who has all the answers, the great and powerful Watson.

By now, everyone has heard about the incredible feat of engineering that resulted in a computer system that could consume, digest and use massive amounts of information to research questions posed in simple English form. Watson stunned audiences by understanding words, phrases and even puns, and answering questions correctly on the popular TV show Jeopardy.  In fact, Watson answered faster and more often than two of the most notable human champions.

A few weeks ago I predicted this technology would soon be put to use in other industries, in particular health care. The health care initiative was announced and is under way.

IBM saw the enormous potential if Watson could help its own sales force identify and configure solutions from among the thousands of product offerings. Feed Watson all the product information, capabilities, applications and case studies and suddenly Watson may be able to help you help customers determine which solution will meet their need optimally and most effectively.

Suppose you have a client in metals and their customer management skills are a little rusty. Watson could help you configure a CRM solution with real heart. Your agricultural client may be so flexible the management team can't stick to one plan. What they may need is some business intelligence. Whatever the requirements, Watson could figure it out.

Complex pricing models would be child's play. Watson could develop configurations based on the most appropriate guidelines, customer data and performance requirements. No more hoards of flying monkeys running around collecting things for you. Watson may even help write the proposal.

Ideas will not be limited by individual experience or time to conduct research. No more searching the knowledge base or asking others if they have encountered similar needs. The faster  delivery and accuracy of these proposed solutions should make customers happier and bring the deal home sooner.

It is not much of a leap to expect Watson, once loaded with comprehensive sets of system documentation, will start handling support calls. Soon you may be calling or sending an email to Watson with your computer systems issues. With the ability to understand the problem or specific error message in context, instant access to all documentation and known solutions, Watson will rarely keep you waiting or require you to undertake some wild mission to satisfy your needs. Watson will show you the solution has been right at your feet all along.

It's official. We're not in Kansas any more.

Captain Joe

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