Watson: It Doesn’t Sweat or Hate Making Decisions. What’s Not to Love?
Erick Brethenoux 270003QWTD firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  watson decision-making natural-language-processi... decision-management predictive-analytics business-analytics business-rules
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I was reading Twitter the other day and came across this tweet from Tim Siedell: "If a genie gave me three wishes, my first wish would be for fewer wishes. I hate making decisions."
I think a lot of people would agree with Tim's tweet. And probably for a lot of different reasons – ranging from fear (of making the wrong decision) to fatigue (having to make too many, everyday). Ever wonder why there’s a market for smart appliances – like refrigerators that decide when to throw out the lettuce? There are just some decisions that are ripe for automation, literally and figuratively.
Enter IBM Watson the complex of commercially available computers that recently played Jeopardy! against two human super champions and won. If you didn’t see it, Watson was designed to handle the nuances of human language, to quickly analyze a lot of information about a lot of things, to put it in the appropriate context, and then play the game – buzz in on time and wager to its benefit. That’s quite a quadruple threat and teases at the enormous potential of computers to help people make all kinds of decisions in and out of their business lives.
But what does Watson have to do with our day-to-day decisions? From a business perspective, decision making has never been more consequential than it is right now, given the large amount of data at our disposal and the small amount of time to process and act on it. In fact, the ability to automate, improve and manage decisions is emerging as a primary competitive advantage for realizing business strategies, faster and with greater success. And Watson represents a new level of computer-mediated decision making that is on the horizon.
Watson's design ensures that the optimal decision will be made based on rapidly changing conditions. In a way, Watson benefits from both internal and external decision management strategies. “Internal” allows it to quickly get to the relevant answer using a vast amount of knowledge in the appropriate context. "External" decision management strategies allow it to “play the game"; providing answers when and if it is beneficial to do so -- a skill that has been lacking from most IT systems up to today.
While Watson is not a product you can buy off the shelf, so to speak,there are decision support technologies used by organizations today that are dramatically improving the timing and quality of their decision making. Technologies like business rules and business analytics can make it easier to automate and improve key operational decisions right now, making it possible to:
Today, if a customer phones into a call center to complain, the agent can have the necessary customer information and suggested offers at his or her fingertips to prevent defection (internal, tactical answer) or, better yet, instill loyalty -- a decision that comes after determining whether that customer is worth retaining in the first place (external, strategic answer).
Right now if you’re an insurance firm, agents can accurately predict which claims are likely to be fraudulent and automatically flag them for investigation, allowing them to accelerate the payment of valid claims.
And hospitals can validate changing patient conditions, taking into account critical lab results and other important medical factors, to determine when to trigger an alert and to whom that alert should be sent; lowering the risk of transmission errors and decreasing the amount of time it takes for nurses and doctors to react to conditions.
And the list goes on. Automating the decisions that need to be automated or providing humans with the right information to make the best decision, especially under stressful conditions, is what decision management is all about at its core.
Think of the speed, accuracy and confidence that Watson could have in its next generation. Infused with Watson's skills, if not its power, decision management solutions will continue to make operational decision making more agile, personalized, accurate and consistent across business processes and applications -- while complying with a broader strategic plan.
So, Watson doesn’t sweat or hate making decisions -- two key value propositions for decision management technologies. They allow us to calmly and coolly find the best decision and then systematically apply it across appropriate channels for better business outcomes, immune to the pressures of time and human noise. What’s not to love?
And here’s another point of view, by James Taylor, on what Watson means for Decision Management.