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The Data Briefing: Will an Artificial Intelligence Agent Be on Your Next Project?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bill Brantley
July 18, 2017 

I recently signed up for an online project management application which uses an artificial intelligence (AI) agent to help with common project tasks. Tasks such as notifying team members of project deadlines, helping the project manager identify risks and provide progress reports. What is interesting about this AI agent is that it can digest the project information and provide strategic advice to the project manager. An AI agent that advises rather than simply reads data is a major leap forward.

I’ve written before about cognitive computing. Essentially, “cognitive computing is where computers operate much like the way people think. Computers use data mining techniques, pattern recognition algorithms and natural language processing to search a large set of unstructured data to find solutions. Cognitive computers excel in making connections between seemingly unrelated data and assisting people in searching large collections of information. Cognitive computers are also good at solving process problems when the cognitive computer software is paired with Internet of Things sensors.”

Closely related to project management is the use of applications for documenting standard operating procedures (SOP). As many in government know, SOPs are step-by-step guides, checklists or other documentation to document important processes. Using SOP software is a step up from the standard SOP paper notebooks that could fill several shelves. I remember working on one system which had a 500+ page PDF SOP that sat on my desktop. Even with an index and detailed table of contents, it could take half-an-hour to find the right procedure for a task.


Now, imagine the shelf of SOPs has been digitized and cognitive computing AI agent has digested the SOPs. The AI agent can then monitor your progress through a process and advise on next steps and warn you if you are not following the SOP guidelines. The AI agent can also suggest improvements to the SOPs and even automate parts of the SOPs. Automating SOPs will leave the agency employees free to concentrate on the citizen requests not in the SOPs.

In an article for PA Times, I made the case that government needs more enterprise-focused (EF) mobile apps. From the article, “EF mobile apps help employees by providing organizational information services or support employee collaboration. The private sector has rapidly adopted numerous EF mobile apps for data analytics, human resources processes and supporting distributed teams.” Federal agency employees could benefit greatly from EF apps; especially EF apps powered by cognitive computing AI agents. Better project management and better execution of SOPs means better customer service from the federal government to the American people.

Each week, The Data Briefing showcases the latest federal data news and trends. Visit this blog every week to learn how data is transforming government and improving government services for the American people. If you have ideas for a topic or have questions about government data, please contact me via email.

Author: Dr. William Brantley works in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Enterprise Training Division. You can find out more about his work in open data, analytics, and related topics at BillBrantley.com. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA.

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