Cognizant Shows Off ‘Bluebolt’ GenAI-Powered Innovation Assistant
‘We have partnered with Microsoft. They have a fairly mature enterprise ChatGPT, which we have used. We fine-tuned it to work on our knowledge base, our history, our innovative libraries, synthesize them, and then help our associates in their context, at their point of work, with ideas, potential problems, and solutions, such that they can do their job better,’ says Alexis Samuel, Cognizant senior vice president in charge of global delivery excellence and global program management.
Global IT solution provider Cognizant this week unveiled a new generative AI-powered virtual assistant the company said is already helping its own employees come up with new ideas for helping deliver customer solutions.
The assistant, called the Bluebolt GenAI innovative assistant, will also eventually be available for use by clients looking to deliver their own solutions, said Alexis Samuel, senior vice president in charge of global delivery excellence and global program management for Cognizant and responsible for the Cognizant Bluebolt program.
Teaneck, N.J.-based Cognizant is ranked No. 6 on the CRN 2023 Solution Provider 500.
Samuel (pictured above) told CRN that a big part of his responsibilities includes ensuring that Cognizant projects are repeatedly delivered on time and within expected costs by setting up the right processes, practices, metrics, and methods, and to improve productivity year-over-while ensuring client satisfaction.
“In this context of continually improving our services, safeguarding and running them between proper guardrails such that we meet client requirements consistently and improve productivity, innovation becomes very important,” he said. “And innovating at edge where associates are working with clients, which is incremental innovation, is the grassroots innovation program that we are running at Cognizant, which is Bluebolt. Cognizant has had a decade-long practice of running innovations for clients. But what we have done this year is bring in a lot more executive ownership, a lot more visibility, and a lot more investment, and rebranded it as Bluebolt.”
When people talk about innovation, normally what comes to mind is product innovation, Samuel said. However, after Ravi Kumar joined Cognizant as CEO in January, he shifted the company’s focus to be more of a innovation-as-a-service organization, he said.
“As part of that initiative to facilitate the innovation process at scale, we are doing many things,” he said. “The Bluebolt GenAI innovative assistant is one. We have partnered with Microsoft. They have a fairly mature enterprise ChatGPT, which we have used. We fine-tuned it to work on our knowledge base, our history, our innovative libraries, synthesize them, and then help our associates in their context, at their point of work, with ideas, potential problems, and solutions, such that they can do their job better.”
GenAI virtual assistants that can be used by all employees have already been piloted and last April were launched internally, Samuel said.
“We are going public with that now for two reasons,” he said. “The first is, I'm sure there are others doing it, but we think this is one of the biggest enterprise-wide deployments of a GenAI-enabled system. But the fact that we are using GenAI in our internal systems to help every associate incrementally innovate and problem solve at speed for clients is our message to the wider community.”
After the launch of Bluebolt in April, Cognizant ended 2023 with 104,000 ideas of which 20,000 were implemented, Samuel said. The company also saw 205,000 people train on design, thinking, and innovation with Bluebolt, he said.
“We have not hit these numbers ever before,” he said. “And we want to really scale up these numbers this year.”
Samuel gave a couple examples of those 104,000 ideas generated in 2023 with the help of the Bluebolt GenAI innovative assistant.
“Let's assume you're you are an engineer doing database maintenance for an account,” he said. “You can come up with an idea and say, ‘Look, this database has these frequent problems. If you do A, B, and C, this performance can go up, Mr. Client. Do you agree? Can we implement this?’ That's one idea. This is what we call an incremental innovation. These ideas can come from the GenAI assistant. Mainly, these ideas come from the associates. But we want the GenAI assistant to facilitate this process and hasten the process of innovation for associates.”
It is also possible for a Cognizant associate to use the Bluebolt GenAI innovative assistant for those ideas, Samuel said.
“For example, if I'm an associate, I can say, ‘Look, I'm running a Hadoop database. What problems have people faced by using Adobe in the retail industry?’” he said. “Now this GenAI assistant can look at our innovation literature of the last five, six years and say, ‘Look. In the retail industry, you can face this, this, and this problem.’ That's problem identification acceleration through the system.”
Bluebolt can go further, Samuel said.
“The associate can say, OK, I am facing this problem. What ideas have been implemented in the past that have worked,’” he said. “And it will synthesize the tacit knowledge in the system and present it as four or five, six or seven, thoughts that you could take forward. It does not give you a cookie cutter solution, because that's difficult. The contexts are very different. It gives a set of ideas an associate can sift and embellish and add and modify and come up with a workable solution.”
While the Bluebolt GenAI innovative assistant is currently targeting Cognizant’s own workforce, it is a technology the company also expects to offer customers some day, Samuel said.
“We are thinking about it,” he said. “When we present our global journey to clients, clients come back and say, ‘Guys, this scale is phenomenal. Can you do it for me? Can you manage this process for me? Can we have a global platform that helps orchestrate this end to end? … We can tell them we can manage their innovation process from soup to nuts, create energy behind innovation, and use these platforms, these aids to help their associates innovate better. That's the larger offering, but we have not launched it yet. We are working on it.”
Cognizant also launched what it calls Bluebolt Garage as a way to “park” all the ideas generated by the Bluebolt GenAI innovative assistant for possible future use, Samuel said.
“We have associate who are wanting to innovate,” he said. They're using generative AI to generate more ideas. They synthesize this and say, ‘Okay, here are five ideas we can implement. The human interface comes in, reveals those ideas, and sees that two of the five are good. One of those two can get implemented as part of a project. But the other one requires a additional tools, additional effort, additional manpower. We can move those ideas into this virtual garage, and use fresh engineers who have come in looking for jobs to convert these ideas into MVP, or minimum viable products, or prototypes that can be demoed to the client.”
A company of the size of Cognizant at any one time has a few thousand employees on the bench that are transitioning between engagements, Samuel said.
“We are utilizing that surplus capacity,” he said. “These associates are at their least productive when they're transitioning, and most able to look outside the organization. We can keep them engaged in the innovation cycle through this Bluebolt Garage. They're not only fully involved in doing something creative, they're learning and becoming a better fit for their next design.”