I just spent a couple of days with IBM in Rye Brook, NY, and I have to admit, I came away impressed. I should also mention that I landed quite a nice contract while I was there, so take that into account when reading this piece.
Why does IBM STG want to work with RedMonk, a developer focused analyst firm? Good question – and a question right at the heart of a major transformation in process at IBM. If you don’t follow IBM you may not know that the firm recently merged its hardware and software businesses under the leadership of Software Group supremo and noted executive geek Steve Mills. SWG acquired STG, and Mills is tasked with growing the combined business. Let battle with Oracle, another software + hardware play following the Sun acquisition, commence…
STG is already beginning to sound, and act, more like SWG. One of the key plays is to get IBM technologists out of the labs and closer to the customer. Software Group has worked hard to get a closer view of customer problems, but STG has traditionally been more of a field of dreams- build it and they will come. One of the mechanisms for change is the creation of a new consulting-led labs program, which in some cases will be free if the project is interesting enough to IBM. Essentially BM is recreating its Technical Sales program for the 21st century. Lord knows why IBM dropped the program in the first place- customers really love having dorks come into their shops and offer solid advice with no hard sell.
Design Local, Deploy Global
What do I mean- getting close to the customer? As the father of a 4 month old baby girl I couldn’t help but be struck by work between IBM and the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. The problem- its hard to spot infection in babies, and by the time you do, it can be too late. Infections can have a myriad of symptoms – so by analysing not one or two things but everything, brain waves, blood, temperature, skin tension, the machines are able to dwell on all the patients in a way clinical practitioner couldn’t. You might catch an infection a day earlier. The IBM Labs concept is “machines that observe the world”. The output in a clinical environment- lower child mortality rates.
A more prosaic example is IBM’s work with Centerpoint Energy in smart grids. The problem? Too much data. It sounds kind of obvious, but smart meters product so much information- at Centerpoint 5bn meter reads a day – that its hard if not impossible to store and analyse. IBM folks helped develop an approach that just tracked changes rather than every poll.
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