Recent meetings with IBM reflect a number of forward thinking strategies; from silicon to software, services and IT hardware. Of course no company is perfect and IBM, as reflected by their last quarter’s results, is not immune to the dynamics of markets and/or technology. Having said this, their initiatives around Smarter Planet, business analytics and Cloud are growing at (an impressive) double digit rates, as too their business in many of the world’s emerging economies, notably China, India and Russia.
Of course when revenues are put under the spotlight, companies look at improvement in sales execution. To this, IBM believes that increased momentum of their channels operation is (understandably) one enabler for growth. Within this ecosystem (primarily focused on the ‘mid-market), IBM is successfully cultivating a broad network of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). This set of partners aims to take advantage of the trend in customers to outsource their IT management and provisioning. Recent discussions with a number of IBM’s MSPs indicate that IBM is successfully differentiating themselves through both partnership and product not least in the area of Cloud. The broad and secure (and managed) nature of their Cloud offerings and a broad portfolio of software and skills seems to resonate well in larger end-user organisations, and there is significant opportunity for growth via MSPs and other Business Partners in (large and) mid-to-small organisations.
Of course we all know that execution touches on many dimensions, one of which is coverage of industry segments. IBM’s successful SAP practice (of over 20,000 IBMers) is a proof point of their proficiency across a broad range of industry segments including, of course, manufacturing. Cynically, one could say that their focus on this (and other ‘Industrial’ markets) may have been be somewhat hidden under the bushels of ‘traditional’ IBM markets such as finance and government. As IBM’s Smarter Planet program gains momentum, many aspects of this initiative play very well to industries such as manufacturing, process and energy.
Speaking on Smarter Planet; I for one support the assertion that it is more than just a thought leadership exercise. It has evolved to be a program in which IBM has been able incite and deliver on new ideas, products and services. The embryonic forms of a number of these can be found as research projects with IBM’s research labs, Zurich. Examples include ‘Watson’ applied to medical diagnosis, nanotechnology (e.g. lower power/higher performance) and intelligent electricity grid management. If anyone’s interested there’s a fascinating (IBM) view on the “four technologies that will change the world” from Dr. Matthias Kaiserswerth, Director and Vice President, IBM Research in Zurich; his presentation can be found here . There is also an interesting video from Dr John E. Kelly III, IBM Senior Vice President and Director or Research recorded last year, here. Well worth a read and look if you ask me.
On a concluding note; as an avid acquirer of companies IBM knows full well how difficult it is to integrate software technologies. IBM Rational and the extended software group are showing increasing interest in joining up the ‘dots’ in our disconnected enterprises. Non-invasive inference and intelligence, the kind used by Watson and (perhaps at a more pragmatic level) Rational Engineering Lifecycle Management (RELM), are just two of the recent technologies from IBM that turn islands of distributed information into something eminently more practical. Although RELM, for one, is focused on the needs of an enterprise in the area of systems engineering and product lifecycle assets there’s no reason that its principle can’t be extended to other disciplines or indeed other industries. As these solutions are made public I’m sure that this will incite further conversation.