IBM Gives Watson a New Challenge: Your Tax Return

Description:  In its first steps toward commercialization, IBM’s Watson took on grand, science-laden challenges like helping doctors diagnose cancer. But that is changing as IBM strives to build its artificial intelligence technology into a multibillion-dollar business.


Date: Feb 1, 2017


Today, companies including Geico, Staples and Macy’s are adding the Watson technology to answer customer questions or to improve mobile apps that guide shoppers through stores.

Now in its broadest deployment so far, Watson will be assisting H&R Block’s 70,000 tax professionals this filing season at 10,000 branch offices across the country, where 11 million people file taxes.

The H&R Block partnership with Watson, announced on Wednesday, is being presented to a wider audience with a 60-second television ad during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

For IBM, the collaboration with H&R Block underlines its strategy in the emerging market for artificial intelligence technology. Watson will touch consumers, but through IBM’s corporate clients.



 Questions for discussion:

1. Do you feel that that IBM’s strategy of using Watson’s AI to touch corporate clients and not consumers will succeed?  Why or Why not?

2.  What are some applications of Watson AI that you would find exciting as a manager of a business?


68 thoughts on “IBM Gives Watson a New Challenge: Your Tax Return

  1. Kacy Tams

    I think the most interesting part is how it will have an impact on the job market, secretaries or other people who will soon lose out to these services. We eventually could see it step into places like the university. The program could answer student’s questions and help people when the teacher becomes busy so the learning can be more engaging. If this were the case I believe there is a huge market that has not even been explored but could be a huge investment opportunity as the amount of students and universities is enormous and have not been introduced yet. But in terms of tax returns I am not sure that this is the greatest use for the technology as they hope to retain more people to do tax returns with them, getting people to stay would be based off performance and the cost and less out of the knowledge people gain from getting their taxes done there. Taxes is something that has to be done every year and people typically do not like to spend money to hope to get some back from the government. If the system could answer questions about cost and person specific about getting money back then I could believe that it would have some practicality. It will be interesting to see the effects it has on jobs and businesses as we are moving more and more to online and unhuman contact to achieve things. These systems say the exact same information so there is little to no miscommunication with the wrong information so it replaces the human errors when it comes to giving customers or future customer’s information.

  2. Kacy Tams

    I think the most interesting part is how it will have an imact on the job market, secretaries or other people who will soon lose out to these services. We eventually could see it step into places like the university. The program could answer students questions and help people when the teacher becomes busy so the learning can be more engaging. If this were the case i believe there is ahuge market that has not even been explored but could be a huge investment opportunity as the amount of students and universities is enormous and have not been introduced yet.

  3. jordan kwiecinski

    Yes, I believe the use of Watson through corporate clients is a great corporate strategy by IBM. This allows consumers to have a more comfortable interaction with a technology that can be daunting at first. Meaning that consumers can see an easy and practical approach to doing their taxes which is something you find a lot of individuals usually fretting about. From a manager’s perspective, Watson is a very exciting development for any business. Because of the use of Watson, you’ll find massive cost reduction from not having to hire employees to do simple work. This allows employees to use their time more efficiently and help increase productivity. Overall, I believe Watson is a great innovation to the business atmosphere as well as for consumers.

  4. Luke B

    Yes, I do think their corporate strategy will succeed. AI is definitely something that can be used to help businesses and people do their work with more ease and efficiency. Like the article indicates its seem Watson can be applied to a broad array of businesses for many different business functions, whatever they may be. It appears Watson can be custom tailored and can “learn” how to perform these functions at a much faster than humans. This should make day to day businesses operation more efficient, timely, and accurate.As well as making employees work easier. All these benefits from Watson will flow from IBMs corporate clients down to those corporate clients own consumers, making everyone better off. I don’t know a lot about AI but it will be interesting to see how advanced it will get in the future. For example, will I one day be asking my computer questions and without doing anything it manually it pull up web pages I ask it to. write what I ask it to. pull up relevant information to make a specific decision, etc.That would be cool. I’m sure they’re are super computers out there that already have these capabilities. But how long until it we all have our own?

  5. Leonorah Chikukwa

    Watson is an example of what the future encompasses. Using artificial intelligence maximize productivity which will benefit corporation in the long run. I do however feel that artificial intelligence should not replace humans completely. There should always be an option for those who want to deal with humans versus machines. The fact that in the near future( 2018) , 75% of new business software will include A.I is quiet amazing , comparing tho what it technology was 10 years ago.

  6. Katie Bergeson

    I feel that that IBM’s strategy of using Watson’s AI to touch businesses and not consumers will be successful. I think businesses have many applications for AI, as managers think through complex problems and Watson could help tremendously with that workload. I think that consumers do not have such complicated problems that using an AI would fill any need or create any value, the way that it would for businesses. I think that consumers need to see a need for AI before they are interested in it, and by introducing people to AI through business it provides a practical application and a way for consumers to see the usefulness. It is a little scary to have AI “thinking” instead of a human, but realistically an AI is probably trust worthier than a human. AI’s don’t have motives for fraud, or motivations to participate in corrupt behaviours, and I find that comforting. I think as consumers see the real applications of programs like Watson in the future, and stop being scared of AI because of unrealistic sci-fi movies, the consumer demand will increase.
    An application of Watson AI that I find exciting is the fact that an AI just makes a business so much more efficient. From producing a better customer experience, to the fact that the AI can process data so much faster, these efficiencies can improve profits. An AI can learn much faster than a human, and I am excited to take advantage of that, in order to make my own thinking more efficient.

  7. Jessica L

    Watson AI will be capable of success before humans allow it to be as successful as it could be. The training process that goes into this piece of equipment, described as a crawl walk run learning, will be faster than teaching humans to do the same action. Watson will be able to accomplish all that it is required before humankind is humble enough to rely on this help and trusting enough that the results are accurate. Due to our hesitation, I think it is a very smart move to gravitate Watson towards a corporate setting as opposed to consumers. Consumers may not be aware of all it could do and be willing to test those limits, whereas corporations can see a need and fill it with something innovative or out of the box, and consumers will be drawn towards the solution. As a business owner, Watson provides value because it frees up employees for more complicated cases. Watson helps to eliminate wait time and provides quick answers to basic questions. This service also keeps clients happy because their time in the wait line will be decreased, and happy clients always make for good business.

  8. Layla Lahiji

    As a manager, I would find the use of data storage and its application to be a huge asset. Being able to use technology to store data and later analyze and present that information would save a lot of time and human resources. This could allow employees to focus on more critical tasks at hand rather than spending time on more tedious tasks. But as I’ve stated before, with technological advancement increasing at such an incredible speed, human involvement is being seen more as an inconvenience. Technology makes tasks more efficient, more precise, and more economical. It has the ability to perfect our flaws, and not only correct our mistakes, but to avoid them in the first place. But what will happen to those employees who cannot do their work as efficiently as a machine? What happens when they become too slow? Make too many mistakes? Or become too costly to keep around? Do I want to replace my entire staff with machines? As a fellow human being, no. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus. I want to give students summer jobs because I know how much they need them to learn and gain experience before coming into the workforce. But as a manager, it will be less efficient, less practical, and more costly to keep the employees. Also, it will be difficult to keep up with the competitors who are opting to go with technology. Yes, it is possible to work with technology, but how long will it take before they completely surpass us? These applications are an exciting idea right now, but in the future, the choice between technologies and employees is not going to be an easy one.

  9. Clark

    The use of Watson’s AI is very innovative and efficient and will help decrease resources and time. I believe that the use of Watson will be successful to an extent. I don’t think the connection between two individuals can necessarily be the same when an AI is included. Individuals whom are very interested with the new technology will much likely be very interested in utilizing the use of Watson, but there should always be a person to be available for those who are not capable with working well without the help of another person. The applications that Waston AI will have and that I would find very exciting as a manager are Watson’s ability to take on a repetitive task numerous times in a row and its ability to act proactively in all situations when dealing with clients. I believe this would allow people to utilize their time to innovate and focus more of their attention of much more important tasks.

  10. Amanda Brown

    I believe that IBM’s strategy of using Watson to touch corporate clients and not consumers will succeed. I think that this strategy is good because as consumers we don’t have a huge need for an AI such as Watson. Currently companies such as Apple deploy lesser personal assistants such as Siri and those get used a fair amount by consumers but I haven’t personally seen it as a huge trend. The companies that are using it on the other hand will have increased productivity from a decrease in menial tasks. When the article stated “By 2018, the research company IDC predicts that 75 percent of new business software will include artificial intelligence features” I think this demonstrates how useful it can be to a business on any level.
    Some applications of Watson AI that I would find exciting as a manager of a business would be that there is a decrease in repetitive tasks since an AI could do it. I think this allows for people to put their potential into more important and creative projects to push the business forward.

  11. mackenzie

    I think the IBM’s strategy of using Watson’s Al to touch corporate clients and not consumers will be successful. As mentioned in the article it is required to teach Watson to perform tasks. The average consumer is not going to know how to do this, but corporate clients with more knowledge will. By reaching out to corporate clients to get Watson up and running it will then benefit the consumers as it will be usable. This type of technology needs to be implemented as there needs to be added depth to the partners. Watson will benefit many companies as it is easier and faster to train Watson than it is to train the actual employees. This strategy will also succeed because the corporate market does not have as many competitors.

  12. Sandy Derksen

    I think that IBM’s strategy to introduce Watson to corporate clients before consumers will be successful. As mentioned in the article, Watson can take a while to be taught, trained, and integrated properly into a business. By introducing it into corporations first, Watson will be used for major tasks such as feeding 74,000 pages of the federal tax code and assisting shoppers on online web stores such as Macys, Geico, and Staples. For now it appears to be more useful to the corporate client rather than the average consumer. For reference, intelligent assistants such as Assistant by google, Alexa by Amazon, Cortana by Microsoft, and Siri from Apple, have been widely overlooked by consumers in the industry so far. However, corporate companies can find great use from the intelligent assistant Watson because it allows for employees to focus on significant tasks rather than trivial matters in the business. As a manager, the main points of Watson that I would find exciting include its ability to react proactively to client’s responses and reduce liabilities especially in the tax field.

  13. Joshua Lam

    Watson is good for handling customers, and will definitely cut down resources and time for everyone, but I do not believe we should just throw away human contact. This is a great start, but people should still have the option to deal with people. AI is a common thing to see now, some companies even use AI systems to schedule appointments for us. AI can also pick up on our behaviour and this can be beneficial when using services such as H&R Block

  14. Joshua Lam

    AI is very cool, but should not be the primary take over of humans. I think this will be a good way to be more efficient as a company, and can make clients’ lives easier with a smart AI able to answer questions. Of course we are not fully comfortable only dealing with computers, so humans should still be around to help people, but this will definitely clear up a lot of time and energy. We see a lot of companies that can book appointments with the use of AI, or even apps now that can figure out our habits and behaviour online. This is a step into the future, but should not get to the point where it will take over human contact 100% of the time.

  15. Simone Bowes

    I recently read an article in the National Post describing how the Canadian video game industry generated $3 billion in revenue, and that we are third behind Japan and the US. If I were a manager in the video game industry, Watson AI would be invaluable in regards to tracking and understanding video game users needs and interactions. Especially for RPGs, if you had Watson working as NPG’s, you could have those non-playable characters become dynamic instead of static which would increase the interactivity of the game and potentially the longevity of the game. NPG’s could track user language and idioms and be able to change its own dialogue on a whim as opposed to be needing to be programmed, which could save and redirect resources to developing or expanding other aspects of the video game. This would be especially useful for AR or augmented reality games, as Watson AI (or something similar) could be used to interact with the world and provide immediate feedback to the player. Currently, in Pokemon Go, the AR characters do not interact with the physical world. However potentially AI could recognize the physics of the surrounding area and have the AI interact with it in a natural way. This would increase the interactivity of the game, making it more engaging and increasing the longevity of the gameplay which could in turn increase revenues.

  16. Zac Nickel

    I believe that by using Watson with only corporate clients will be successful. Watson is an expensive piece of technology and is to be used primarily in the office or workplace. Opening it up to the general public seems like a bad idea as it would force other companies out of business. That is a large hit to the economy and selling it to outside sources is only good for the very wealthy clients. Watson makes me excited as a manager because of the limitless potential that it possess. According to the article, Watson is teachable and can learn. This means there is no limit to what it can do. By having Watson being able to learn it means that it is good no matter the time changes or changes in methods people discover with regards to how they do their business. Watson’s technology would make it possible for companies to make the lives of their employees easier as well as use it for a long time. The possibilities here are endless and it is really exciting for anyone who uses this technology.

  17. Christopher Dupuis

    I think that Watson would be useful in the following: data analysis and cloud computing to more than make up for the erosion in its traditional hardware and software products. AI will be a lot more efficient at tackling these functions then any human will ever be. Not only do programs like Watson increase efficiency they also are going to massively overhaul how bushiness interact with customers


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