Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

IBM Industry Summit - Making Markets and New Possibilities


Todd Watson continues to provide excellent coverage of the IBM Industry Summit in Barcelona this week.  I can't possibly do justice to everything being relayed there - please do head over to Todd's blog to read the full coverage.  Below are some of the highlights that stood out for me (To make reading easy, I'm not going to blockquote things, but all of this is directly from (or lightly paraphrased from) Todd's posts):

Ginny Rometty
IBM Senior Vice President Ginny Rometty talked about the three general phases people go through as they move towards a smarter business:
1.        Instrument to Manage
2.        Integrate to Innovate
3.        Optimize to Transform

The first step is simple: Understand the performance of your business by instrumentation. (You can’t know how fast you’re driving if your car doesn’t have a speedometer.)

Second, companies must integrate to innovate. Organizations must be willing to evolve and adapt horizontally, across all their systems and structures, so that they can then be prepared to apply business analytics more effectively.

The third step: Optimize to transform. Now that you’ve built a foundation using instrumentation and new analytics, you can now move on to the art of the possible: Optimizing your system towards a specific business goal.

Predictive analytics is very different from the “looking backwards” model businesses have historically depended on.  The next decade, argued Rometty, will be one of predicting the future before it happens.  (e.g., The Singapore Land Transit Authority is predicting bus arrival times at a 98% accuracy rate, and helping commuters understand bus seat inventory via their mobile devices.)

So what’s required to pull off this transformation, Rometty asked?  Three things. Leadership featuring an analytics based-culture. Systems thinking. And new forms of collaboration.

With regards to analytics, it’s actually simple to say (harder to do): Get your company and its people to move from guessing about your business via HIPPO (Highest Paid Person in the Room) and gut judgment, to one based on facts and trusted data that yields action.

Frank Kern

Following Ginny, IBM Senior Vice President Frank Kern spoke about "mastering the information tsunami," a talk that looks like it would be largely familiar to those of you who saw him speak at the IOD Day 2 General Session a few weeks back.

He spoke about the growing gap between the level of complexity CEOs face and their ability to deal with it, and the increased importance they are placing on technology as a way to close that gap.  

One of the key differences today from 10 years ago is the ability to standardize repeatable assets, allowing us to move on to higher order problem solving.

He concluded by talking about how you can operationalize new insight, and the possibilities this opens up:
We’re at a remarkable point in time, entering a new normal of economic conditions, one with an accelerating climate of unpredictability, and emerging out of all of this is this question on the minds of global business leaders:
What’s my greatest possibility?
When you got from what’s the problem to what’s the possibility, what are the prospects, what’s available to my enterprise that was never there before…well, this is a prospect worth the best efforts of us all.
And with our clients and partners we can enable and participate in all that.

Jon Iwata

The day started with IBM Senior Vice President Jon Iwata talking about making markets, and how challenging it can be when one's industry hits an inflection point, as it presents unique opportunities that don't come without risk.  By way of example, he described all the times over the past 100 years IBM has "made" a market, often involving bet-the-company decisions that involve plowing under previous cash cows  (I personally liked the comment about the people who were nervous about replacing punch cards with magnetic tape:  “We could see the data with the punchcards, but not with tape!"), and how the Smarter Planet initiatives are the evolution of that model.

In talking about the Smarter Planet initiative, Iwata cautioned that it was not about a marketing campaign - it was about how IBM initiating a conversation with the world to forge a shared belief.

What do you need to believe something, Iwata asked the audience in Barcelona? Facts.  Data. Evidence.

In Palmisano’s speech, the word “IBM” never appeared once.  In the advertisements and editorials that began to emerge as part of the campaign, the focus was on the evidence, the data, the proof of the gathering storm that indicated the new market was emerging, but it was one represented not by IBM-speak, but rather by business-changing facts emblematic of what IBM customers were doing to improve their businesses and, in turn, the world.

Now, we’re providing client and partner references with hard facts, and lessons learned.  We’re helping clients understand the “how to’s” of building smarter systems.
We’re developing clearer paths to value, and we’re focused on quantifying outcomes, often via industry-specific measures.
We’re building progressive paths to provide clear roadmaps and to help partners chart outcomes and quantified value for their clients.