I used to work for IBM and it is always a bit of a kick when I’m at an IBM event. IBM was not only the greatest company I ever worked for, it was the most frustrating. It was a firm defined by obsolete processes at the time, and decisions that were based on a worldview that seemed decades out of date.
This is what makes analytics in particular so interesting for IBM. If anything could address fixing a problem like this, it would be analytics—and IBM is all in. One of my biggest takeaways from this event is how much the entire focus of this event has changed from last year and I think it is largely because IBM isn’t just “selling” analytics. It is using analytics and instead of making decision based on old—and often false—data it is increasingly making decisions on current accurate data.
The one place this doesn’t yet seem to be working is IBM marketing. If this effort was backed with the kind of marketing effort that Louis Gerstner fielded, Ginny Rometty wouldn’t have to be on the defensive as much. In short, IBM is doing amazing things—it just isn’t communicating its progress as well as it once did.
The irony is IBM apparently has the most powerful tool in the world to do exactly that. It just hasn’t come to the conclusion that it needs to use it.
Let’s talk a bit about what you aren’t hearing about IBM.
Analytics Are Huge
Deepak Avani, who I’ve known for years, had one of the most powerful presentations. Ironically, much of his presentation was on how to use cognitive computing, an advanced form of analytics which reduces the need for a data scientist to be between the executive and the tool, to vastly improve the effectiveness of marketing. He showcased tool after tool that can micro-analyze customers and do amazing things to better target and monetize them. I thought back to the largely manual methods we used back when I did this kind of work and started to think about the amazing things we could have done if we had tools like this.
Let’s take an example of one service. Hyper-personalized marketing is a service offered by IBM that analyzes a customer’s personality along 51 parameters to understand what motivates them, and then can apply that to a campaign that specifically targets the elements that motivates them to make a decision individually. This means the pitch is customized to directly target aspects of their personality so that the effectiveness of that pitch improves dramatically. Same products but presented in a way that a top salesperson could present it by understanding individual motivations—but at scale, over the web, and without the salesperson. That’s amazing.
This is a sea change from focusing on customers by segment and being able to focus on them as individuals because we are individual. Not every 18 to 24-year-old man or woman is the same. Some are married, some can’t get a date, some have kids, some never want them, some love the outdoors, some live on their mother’s couch, some are millionaires and some are still on an allowance. But, historically, we have treated them like they all have the same needs, values, and motivations, and they really, really don’t.
IBM Has the Largest Digital Agency
This ranking is by AdAge and by the end of the year IBM will have 22 different studios focused on moving customers into the digital age. One of the more interesting efforts is the IBM Explorium—where companies can go and explore what makes the Chinese market unique and different. It is kind of a digitally enabled University on selling stuff in China.
Virtually every project IBM has is mobile. That is pretty amazing, because a couple years ago mobile was a small percentage of largely poorly-working projects. Part of the reason behind this is apparently the Apple alliance. For example, it created in 120 days an app for a major US bank for the Apple Watch so that it was available when the watch launched.
Wrapping Up: Digitizing The World
As this first set of sessions ended we had the guy running Watson speak on the fact that—for many professions—the professionals don’t know what they need to know. For instance, even attorneys that specialize don’t know the majority of the laws that define their specialty, let alone all of them. At the core of the IBM Watson effort and its general analytics push is to fix that problem. The time is coming when any professional that doesn’t have access to, and know how to use a tool like Watson will have inadequate skills to gain employment in the developed world.
Once you think about that, you’ll likely quickly realize that there is a whole new skill set that most professionals will need in 5 years and only a tiny number are getting those skills now. Imagine how valuable those folks will be once everyone understands the advantage they will have. You might want to think about becoming one of them. I know I am.
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