IBM held their think conference in March 2018. As with all vendor conferences, the content comes fast, it is varied and takes a while to digest.
Think was the first time that IBM integrated all their business units into the one event. If it is to be an integrated enterprise, it had no choice. As a result, coverage was broad and sessions numerous. Key focus areas from both a session and an exhibition perspective were:
* Cloud – IBM has started to understand what it wants to do in the cloud, execution is the challenge
* AI and Analytics – Watson, Watson and more Watson
* Security – IBM has a robust security functionality, but needs to do a better job of integrating it back into both IBM’s business and that of clients and partners
* Systems, Services and Software – Yes, this still exists with varying degrees of growth and visibility
Overall it was a successful event from an IBM perspective, more Oracle Open World, than Dreamforce, but that is to be expected. It is clear however that IBM has been to, and learnt from Salesforce, so expect more from that.
There are a few key areas that capioIT is talking about after the event.
Walmart Case Study on Blockchain and the Humble Mango
IBM had an excellent case study in Walmart. Walmart has a supply chain scale that is not matched by any other traditional retailer globally. That is not to say it is perfect. The humble Mango and subsequent deployment of Blockchain may help change that. Blockchain is successfully being used to check the mango from farm to plate. This leads to increased supply chain visibility and effectiveness as well as massive improvements in the ability to react as required, for example, if there was a product recall due to food safety issues. Pre Blockchain, it could take weeks to comb myriad pieces of paper, now it takes 2.3 seconds. This is a startling number, and when you see the IBM investment in blockchain, the potential for it to be the cornerstone of IBM in the future alongside Watson and cloud is clear.
IBM Approach to Data Integrity and Respecting Customer Privacy
It is unsure if it was a blessing or a curse, but as the event unfolded in Las Vegas, so to the controversy over Facebook’s use of customer data and Cambridge Analytics came to the fore. IBM, and any other enterprise that directly or indirectly (through Watson for example) manages customer data had to be very sure about their response, particularly given the changing information.
IBM chose to handle it directly and honestly. They went for a high-level approach to respecting data integrity and customer privacy. If IBM can maintain this, it may find that a more conservative approach to data will win it friends from users and enterprises alike.
Is IBM tone deaf to non-enterprise customers?
This was the biggest disappointment of the day. CEO Ginni Rometty gave an energetic keynote outlining IBM’s vision until the customers hit the stage. At the Interconnect event in 2017, a precursor to Think, the opportunity was largely missed to have new industries. In 2017, we had Telco, Bank and on a positive note, Everledger, an Australian startup focused on using blockchain to circumvent the illegal diamond trade. Alongside this, we had Girls Who Code. This showed promise and diversity even if the banks, telco and tax planning customers were mega enterprise and very limited. 2018 took this and removed the startup and diversity angle. We got a Bank, Telco and logistics company that IBM is in a JV with. No start-ups, just CEO’s of some of the largest enterprises on the planet. It was very tone deaf to the needs of IBM’s non-enterprise customers and partners. It was incredibly underwhelming. IBM needs to address the mid-market and startup community with a lot more vigour and credibility if it is to reach the levels of growth again that it requires. It won’t have another chance if it retakes a limited view.
Salesforce is IBM new best friend
For years IBM and Salesforce had and wanted nothing to do with each other. One was the new model, the other the legacy world. Of course, times change. Now the two firms are intimately entwined. The first significant step was the acquisition of Bluewolf. This created a relationship that has built rapidly from this point. Einstien and Watson are now engaged, and will by definition learn from each other. IBM also acquired event inputs from Dreamforce. There were many subtle and otherwise nods toDreamforce at the event, although it still has a way to go to match the theatre of Salesforce. For the future, capioIT expects significant advances in the relationship. This will be driven by further activates in the machine learning space with Watson and Einstein, but also in Blockchain. This will make significant opportunities for both, and expect Bluewolf to be central to the advance of this relationship/
A couple of weeks post Think 2018, there are fundamental talking points. IBM has started to slowly rebound and has strong positions in Cognitive, Blockchain and digital services with a growing capability in Security. It needs to execute and integrate quickly on this to ensure that it can lead, and fill the vacuum that will come regarding enterprise data privacy and integrity. It also needs to reflect on customers and partners a commitment to them even if they are not Fortune 100. It has this capability; it fails to communicate it repeatedly.