IBM : Connected and InterConneted

IBM, known by many as the world’s IT ‘super tanker’, is transforming their image of former years, to a one that’s more innovative, approachable, cool, connected and industry focused.

The message from both IBM’s PartnerWorld and InterConnect conferences (held a few weeks ago in Las Vegas, NV) is one of change. They (and their partners) are clearly excited by a new era of opportunities. One that will be driven, to a large part, by the dynamics of today’s more connected and insightful world.

There are many driving dimensions that’re fuelling the engines of (IBM’s) change. Amongst these is the need to derive intelligence and actionable outcomes from today’s exploding (often dark and/or unstructured) disconnected data sources. Then there’s the nature of todays’ connected world we live in; our buildings, the products we use, and their oft (IoT) connected ecosystems. And, of course, not forgetting our users, developers partner communities, and (often) open ecosystems (see my former blog); the innovators that underlie today’s increasingly digital world.

So what’re the key initiatives that’re at the heart of IBM’s transformation? To many to mention naturally, but in my view the most noted highlighted at the events included:

  • A makeover of IBM’s partner channels to more industry aware and solution-centric sales channels. Delivering higher value from connected ecosystems of partners to better leverage software and services, cross-domain and cross-industry. With noted mentions of the opportunities available in delivering series and solutions based on SaaS (Software as a Service); and of particular note, for IBM’s Bluemix/Watson platforms.
  • A re-focus on areas of competency and strengths, most notably with regards Cloud and towards the enterprise.
    • Here I note a shift from selling Cloud as a cure for all ills, to a realism that (certainly larger) enterprises will, in fact, be transforming their infrastructures over time. As such, Hybrid Cloud is the practical reality that best fits the transformative business. Especially where complex, often legacy IT assets need to marry to newer generations of applications, products and services.
    • This initiative was further supported by announcements on broader API availability, an agreement to partner with VMWare for hybrid cloud, support for Apple Swift on Linux and Github enterprise to be supported c/o IBM’s Bluemix platform.
  • Taking advantage of the immediate and near-term opportunities in more cognitive, predictive and interconnected analytics (via Watson and WatsonIoT).
    • Watson is undoubtedly a gem in IBM’s crown, especially as it outflanks many of their traditional competitors. Critical to success is making it available and valuable to both large and small alike with minimal investment and short return cycles. They’re doing a good job here, and those who’ve trialled, or are using Watson services via the developerWorks web site as I have, will hopefully agree.
  • Positioning IBM as an open innovator and leader in the rapidly evolving IoT landscape.
    • IoT is high profile, and the reducing cost of entry and innovation in new (IoT enabled) products and services is, in my eyes, disruptive. In this, IBM’s keen to take early advantage of both the entrepreneurial developer community and the benefits to the enterprise. Their breadth of offerings and support for device innovators, standards and open communities’ is laudable, but in such an embryonic ecosystem one must caution on spreading their resources too far afield from their (IoT) spheres of competency. That said, they’re doing a good job in partnering with device innovators, product and service organisations; focusing on relationships, applications and ecosystems that touch both large and small companies alike. Some interesting references too, including:
      • Siemens Building Technologies (BIM/building management)
      • Kimberly-Clark (Washroom devices)
      • Kone (Intelligence from elevators and people movers)
      • Boeing (in service/asset management)
      • Daimler (connected cars: Car2go)
      • Photonstar. A small UK company developing IoT connected LED based building lighting systems.

Just to be clear, transformation in IBM’s eyes is not solely down to product and focus on the largest enterprises. So too communities and their recently renamed Commercial segment (formerly mid-market). For these, IBM’s strategy is to capture more opportunities via partners and self-service mechanisms. Critical to this is enablement, notably via IBM’s PartnerWorld and developerWorks communities and portals. Both of whom play important role for respective partners and users; making it easier to see the wood from the trees with regards IBM’s enormous product and service portfolios.

On a final note, I particularly laud IBM for their focus on communities. Keen to capture both enterprise networks and the entrepreneurial (or inquisitive) enthusiast, their developerWorks community portal has come a long way over a short time. Their support for all things developer including the enthusiast, start-ups and open communities is impressive. At the end of the day, individuals and small companies are amongst the most innovative of today’s disruptors, and to be seen as cool, connected and interconnected needs their buy-in.