CEOs Must Master Big Data or Risk Going Bust, IBM’s Ginni Rometty Warns

istock-531634250-compressorCEOs left bewildered by the jumble of so-called big data at their fingertips had better start connecting the dots soon. Otherwise, they could fall behind the competition over the next five years, especially if they’re in financial services or healthcare.

That’s the view of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who says these are the two industries set to either lose or gain the most from advances in cognitive computing capabilities and their applicability to data sorting.

“The future will be cognitive,” Rometty told a financial technology conference on Monday. “The advantage is going to go to who has the best insights.”

Most CEOs recognize the potential of data analytics to boost company profits, either by helping them cut costs, optimize worker performance, improve products and services and enhance the overall customer experience. But, to date, few have figured out how to use it properly.

“I’m going to assert that that’s going to re-set the basis of competition, and that, in the next five years, every important decision you make in your company is going to have some information informed on it by a cognitive system.

Just 27% of 300 senior executives polled globally last year by the American Institute of CPAs thought their company made “highly effective” use of data, while 32% said access to reams of new information had actually made things worse.

Rometty argues that data accumulated by a company, whether it be a social media post or even a sound, will be “the natural resource of our time”.

However, in a not so subtle plug for IBM’s Watson product, she said companies will need the assistance of cognitive computing systems to make sense of it all. Other tech companies are developing similar assistants—which simulate human though processes—such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa.

Already, Rometty said some IBM customers are gaining a competitive edge by utilizing these cognitive capabilities. Fintech company AcuteIQ, for example, is predicting the tendency of some populations to need a loan, quadrupling customer acquisition rates.

“It will allow you to put thinking into every product and every process,” she said. “And I’m going to assert that that’s going to re-set the basis of competition, and that, in the next five years, every important decision you make in your company is going to have some information informed on it by a cognitive system.”

In the financial services sector, Rometty also cited blockchain as a revolutionary technology. “Blockchain is so profound it will do for trusted transactions what the Internet did for information,” she said.

For the uninitiated, here’s Chief Executive’s point-of-view about what blockchain is and why it’s important.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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