Remarks as delivered

IBM Think
May 11, 2021


Hello, everyone, and welcome to Think. Let me start by acknowledging the fact that the pandemic is still upon us; and while there's hope that we continue to engineer the most rapid vaccine roll out in the history of humanity, I know that for far too many the pandemic is still causing a great deal of disruption.

So, I'm grateful that so many of you have chosen to spend this time with us.  I couldn't be more excited to be here.  During our time together, you're good to hear from several clients and partners that have their own fascinating tales of transformation to share with you.  You'll hear inspiring stories of progress where powerful technologies are applied.  They grow the business.  They upend old models.  They provide their customers with far better experiences and outcomes.

I must admit, in my long career as a technologist, I cannot remember a time when changes in technology have been so profound and so fast.  Everywhere you look, the forces of digital technology are turning our economies on their head.  I venture to say 2020 was the first time in history that digital conservation spending accelerated despite GDP declining.

IDC claims that $7.4 trillion will be spent on digital transformation in the next three years.  To put that in perspective, that's a third of the size of the U.S. economy or 10 percent of the global economy.  I think we can all agree that as the world recovers there's no going back.  We'll reflect on this past year as the moment when the world entered the digital century in full force.

Two key technologies that will determine the success of organizations are hybrid cloud and AI.

Let me start with hybrid cloud.  IBM is all in on hybrid cloud, because we understand that businesses need a clear and credible path to modernize their mission critical systems with advanced cloud services.

A hybrid cloud strategy is about meeting you where you are in your journey, it's about giving you the ability to leverage the capabilities and benefits of the cloud across the whole spectrum of environments including the edge.  With hybrid cloud, you extend your data center to the cloud.  You consistently and securely deploy any app to any location.  You build cloud native apps.  You connect your back office to your front office.

What I'm really thrilled about is the fact that most of the opportunity is still ahead of us.  Cloud computing is one of the most exciting technologies shaping the future of business; and for good reason: the reality is only 25 percent of workloads have moved to the cloud so far.  When you think about it, that's unusual.  Generally, when a technology becomes popular it quickly becomes widespread.

A hybrid cloud approach helps overcome the challenges that prevent companies from moving to the cloud.  That's why I believe hybrid cloud will define the technology strategy of businesses over the next decade.

We are already helping thousands of clients across industries to tap into the power of our hybrid and AI platform.  One example comes from Schlumberger, the world's leading oilfield service provider.  Schlumberger has built Delphi, a powerful digital exploration and production platform.

By replatforming Delphi on top of Red Hat OpenShift, Schlumberger was able to dramatically increase its reach as it can now be deployed across both public and private clouds.  Today, we're announcing another milestone in our partnership with Schlumberger.  We are launching a data management platform that can run across public or private clouds based on open, common industry standards for oil and gas data.

This data platform allows everyone from operators to developers to geoscientists and engineers to unlock value from the massive amount of data produced by the industry whether that's the complex seismic data that is used to decide the best location to drill or the terabyte of data generated on average by an oil well each day.  A hybrid cloud strategy is even more important knowing that we're entering an era in which computing is becoming pervasive.

What do I mean by that?  We're entering an era in which computing can and must happen everywhere: private clouds, public clouds, the edge of the network.  And as computing becomes embedded everywhere, computing itself is being tailored to the needs of each industry, when each workload has such specific requirements: high availability, real‑time analytics, regulatory compliance, security and encryption in transit and at rest.

The world I'm describing is a world where computing exists anywhere the data lives ‑‑ a car, a factory floor or a cell phone tower ‑‑ and this is a world that's made possible by hybrid cloud.

To bring all this to life, I want to introduce you to my first guest today, Tony Hemmelgarn from Siemens.  Tony is the President and CEO of Siemens Digital Industry Software.  Tony leads a company that perfectly exemplifies the possibilities in a world where computing is becoming ubiquitous.

Siemens and IBM have partnered together on a new hybrid cloud that delivers an open, flexible and more secure solution for deriving real‑time value from operational data across the manufacturing industry.  Welcome, Tony, and thank you for joining me today.

I rarely get the pleasure of talking to somebody who's working at a company with an even longer history: Siemens, I think, founded in 1847; IBM in 1911.  But when you have such long histories, it really speaks to our ability to lead through crises, disruption, leverage innovation even when the world is coming to a standstill.  So, Tony, tell us how you're doing that today and how that fits for your vision for Siemens in this new world.

 

HEMMELGARN: Thank you, Arvind.  Thanks for having me.

And I guess you're right, you know, there's always some crisis or challenge around the corner.  And what we find with our customers is that we offer a lot of really good solutions to help out; and that is, if you really look at what's happened over the last year, year and a half, is companies that have embraced digitalization.

It's really made a difference for them and that's what we provide, the idea of creating a digital enterprise, creating models that can simulate, you know, you have people working from home and you want to rearrange your factory, rearrange your production, redesign products, these types of things.  That's difficult to do if you can't work in a digital way remotely, and that's what we provide.

KRISHNA: That's really interesting.  So, as you talk about digital, I'll use a word that we often use, I'll say that I think Siemens is building a platform business ‑‑ a platform business, meaning, one that is built on innovation, built to scale, built to allow for an ecosystem.  Can you talk a little bit about how Siemens Digital Industries is doing that, and whether IBM plays a small role in that.

HEMMELGARN: Yes. When we talk about what we're doing with our customers, we kind of break it into three areas.  One is what we call Comprehensive Digital Twin, meaning, how well the digital world can represent the physical world.  And the closer you can make that relationship, the more value that is there to our customers, because if you're working in a digital way and you don't have a comprehensive view of the model of the system, the factory, the product you're producing, it's hard to make decisions in confidence if you can't do that.  So, that's a big part of our solution.

The next part is personalized, modern, adaptable.  We believe in the future more software will be software that will be personalized to the individual and the way they want to work, and we allow solutions, for example, a low code capability, these types of things, for our customers to be able to do that.

And then finally, an open ecosystem.  And what this means to our customers is it allows them to create a digital environment, a platform, a portfolio of solutions, really, that allow them to create this digital enterprise.

Now, where IBM comes into play with that is, we have a concept we talk about of closed loop digital twin, meaning, I design the product, I think about how I'm going to manufacture it.  then I go through the manufacturing process, and then I could put the product in production as well.  And I can actually monitor through industrial IoT to understand what's happening with the product through the manufacturing process with the feedback loop from the product being used, and I can make design changes.

But our customers want flexibility ‑‑ again, back to open solutions, back to agile / flexible.  They want to know they have choices; and so, when we look at this, IBM helps in a number of ways.  One is the idea of giving us the flexibility with the Red Hat capability to be to be flexible in deployments. 

The second area is with Maximo; and that is, I can tell you the product as it's built, I can tell you as it's designed, I can tell you as it's delivered, but I want to know as it's maintained and serviced as well.  And so by linking Maximo to our Teamcenter product ‑‑ Teamcenter being our product lifecycle management solution that we have today ‑‑ we provide a real value to our customers because we can link so many of our customers using what's happening with Maximo and link it in with Teamcenter.  So, that's really how we come together as an organization.

KRISHNA: It's so wonderful to hear you explain this, Tony.  You make it so simple and you take these really sophisticated concepts, like I remember closed loop from my graduate school classes in electrical engineering and how people would struggle with those concepts, but you kind of bring them to life in such a simple way.

Now, you also touched on Red Hat, and that's something as the...as our audience knows is really close to my heart in talking about open, hybrid cloud.  Could you touch a little bit ‑‑ just a little bit ‑‑ on how that concept from Red Hat is really coming to bear and provide value for your customers.

HEMMELGARN: The key part of what we're doing with Red Hat is, again, back to the MindSphere solution of an industrialize IoT.  You know, we at Siemens are a little bit unique as a software company, because we also have the automation capabilities.  Our solutions ‑‑ our hardware and our software solutions ‑‑ run most of the factories in the world today.

And so, when we talked to our customers, they said, look, give us a little bit more flexibility, and that's why the Red Hat discussion really started, you know, probably about a year ago, as well, what can we do together to help solve that problem?  And I think the exciting part about this is that the teams got together, they looked at options and very quickly we came back with some ideas that really we're getting a lot of positive feedback from our customers to give that choice of deployment options as they go forward with MindSphere.

KRISHNA: That's great to hear, Tony. So, thinking about imagination, Tony, the next topic.  I mean, AI is important.  I think we all kind of agree with that.  How are you using AI applications to improve, whether it's product performance, maintenance, operations, some of these aspects you touched on when you were explaining MindSphere.

HEMMELGARN: In a number of different ways.  We use AI today where we can look at a person using the software; and after using it for a few hours, maybe a day or two, we can tell you within 95 percent accuracy the next command you're going to select in the design process.  Right?

And so, we learn from that user; and then from that AI application, we can make the software much easier to use because we eliminate things that probably don't make sense as we prompt you, as we work, and so forth. 

The second example is, like most, when we think about that feedback loop and so forth for things like predictive maintenance, condition monitoring, these types of things, you know, you really want to use AI ‑‑ and we do this ‑‑ to come back and give you some kind of predictive decision making things that you might have to do; for example, maintenance routines, those types of things.

But I will tell you, one of the things that we like about what we're doing with AI is the combination of AI with our digital twin or digital models.  Why do I say that?  It's very easy to have correlations of data, if you just throw data at a problem, that don't always make sense.

So, now think about the complexity you spoke about a little bit ago about the complexity of a closed loop digital twin.  How do you know if you don't have bad...if you have these bad correlations?  You really don't know, because if you're just throwing data, you've got to keep learning and understanding.

But what we like is if you take that data and then you validate it against our digital models, now you can start to have something.  You can start to understand, if I've got a vibration problem in a machine that's running, I can take the vibration data, I can load it back into my analytics tools and I can start playing with it and understanding from real data what's really happening against that model and then I can start making decisions.

And so we think about the combination of AI with our digital twin and our digital capabilities really being a game changer when you think about how you can leverage this to the full extent to make decisions in confidence for our customers.

KRISHNA: You know, for our audience, you just got a wonderful...you couldn't have paid to get a better explanation of a) causation as opposed to correlation, and the reason why so many of us talk about that if you can't infuse models from physics and engineering into these AI models, you're really going to get weird artifacts.

And I think you just got an understanding of how models could infuse AI to make it even better.  But I think, Tony, from your examples, you're really talking about how AI augments human intelligence, it doesn't really replace it, and I think that's great.  So, just as a quick close, from your perspective, what do you think is next for Siemens and IBM?

HEMMELGARN: Another area that we're working on today, we're already working with a few customers on, is we have software for electrical systems, right?  This is everything about the electrical system like a wire harness, for example, that would go in an automobile, into an airplane, these types of things.

And we really dominate in that space with a lot of our software, but when we talk to our customers, they're using tools from IBM as well in your ELM space; for example, DOORS and Rhapsody and these types of tools.  And they're asking, hey, could we do some kind of an integration here between those tools?

And the teams have done a very nice job of integrating these two software packages or solutions so that we can bring value faster to our customers, to be able to link the requirements that go into a wiring system, electrical system, model based systems engineering type definitions where we can define the models and validate through a system engineering approach back to the electrical systems that we've laid out.  And so those are areas and I think there will be others as we go forward.  We're quite excited about the partnership we have with IBM.

KRISHNA: So wonderful, Tony, to hear you talk about what we're doing together across so many different fronts: products, cloud, AI, DOORs, Teamcenter, MindSphere, et cetera.  Thank you so much for being here and for sharing your insights.

HEMMELGARN: Thank you as well.

KRISHNA: We have just heard from Tony about how Siemens has built an open, hybrid cloud that allows them to unlock real‑time value from their data wherever the data resides.

This brings me to the second key technology I want to discuss: AI, or Artificial Intelligence.  What we are seeing today is that it is data, not just software, that is eating the world.  By 2025, data is going to grow to about 175 zettabytes, according to IDC.  Yes, you've got to go look up what's a zettabyte, but that's the equivalent of a stack of Blu‑Ray disks that can get to the moon and back 23 times.  That is a lot of data.

The only way we know how to make sense of the phenomenal amount of data is artificial intelligence.  At a global level, AI is slated to unlock almost $16 trillion in productivity by 2030, a study by PwC.  In the same way that we have electrified every factory and machine in the past century, we will infuse AI into every software and system in the 21st century.

We are really thrilled about this potential for AI to transform business everywhere.

A new IBM study of the adoption of AI shows that the imperative to embed AI is becoming even more urgent during this past year: 43 percent of IT professionals say their company's accelerated their role out of AI.  Half of IT professionals say they evaluate AI providers in large part on their ability to automate processes.

This is why we invest massively in building these rich and powerful AI capabilities for business.  Our goal is to help business infuse AI into their core process ‑‑ customer service, hiring, supply chains and so many others ‑‑ to unlock the massive value that AI can unlock.

To give you a sense of what's possible, my next guest today leads a company that is working with IBM to pioneer a bold, new approach that uses AI to unlock the power of data.  I am honored to welcome Karen Lynch to Think 2021. 

Karen is President and Chief Executive Office of CVS Health, a company that is dedicated to helping people on their path to better health through health services, plans and community pharmacists. 

Like me, Karen took on the CEO job during the start of the pandemic; and as we can see, she's made a tremendous impact over the past year.  Welcome, Karen.  I'm delighted you could join us today.

Karen, I'd like to first start off with a really big thank you.  The work CVS Health is doing to help test and vaccinate the citizens of the United States so the economy can open up again is just heroic.  Can you tell us about the role CVS is playing to help the United States recover from the pandemic?

LYNCH: Well, hello, Arvind, and thank you so much for having me with you today.  You know, we have...first of all, I would be remiss if I didn't step back and say thank you to the 300,000 colleagues who have stepped up during the pandemic and were there when Americans needed us the most.

We did over 23 million tests in the last year.  We've done 17 million vaccinations and counting; and you know, we are certainly as part of bringing Americans one step closer to doing the things that they enjoyed and that they loved.  You know, we have been in the communities, and we've been in long term care facilities for the better part of the last year.

And you know, we've also had extremely strong second dose compliance: almost 90 percent of people that got one shot at CVS have returned back to CVS to get the second shot, and that's remarkable.  All that was done through the efforts of our digital team.  We started making appointments through our digital connections.  We did...we were able to do over 300,000 appointments in one day; and we...you know, that was amazing for our team.

And I would tell you, at the same time, Arvind, we, you know, strengthened the partnership between IBM and CVS.  While your engineers were helping us build our cutting edge technology, we were also taking care of IBM members and customers.  And I couldn't be more thrilled with the strength of the partnership that we've had throughout the last year.

KRISHNA:      That's amazing.  I think when you think about it, Karen, what strikes me is a) the scale at which you can get things done, because I think it speaks to the power of CVS Health, but also then you touched on digital a little bit.  So, if I touch on the digital aspect and just pull on that thread, if you don't mind, I know that you have a huge investment in digital; and you I think both personally and as a company believe that that is an additional way you will deliver value to all of your...all of your citizen customers.  Would you share with us your vision for CVS Health in the digital world, not just the pandemic?

LYNCH: Well, Arvind, embracing digital has dramatically changed how we think about the company.  We have to drive more progress for more people, and the only way we're going to be able to do that is through our digital connections.  We are aggressively advancing technology to connect consumers to both our physical assets and our digital assets.

And during the pandemic, one of the great things we did was we partnered with you, and we partnered with you to develop groundbreaking artificial intelligence for us.  All of our artificial intelligence was powered through IBM Watson.  We developed our intelligent call agent where we were, you know, dramatically changed the landscape of how people interacted with us.

We knew we needed to be there to inform our customers, we knew we needed to be there to educate our customers.  And we used the intelligent call agent that we partnered with you on to answer millions and millions of calls for our customers.

And Arvind, what was interesting, it was so easy for our customers.  I have to share this incredible story.  One caller told our virtual assistant how thankful he was that we were bringing him one step closer to the things that he loved to do because he was able to get a vaccine.  He didn't know that he was talking to...that he wasn't talking to a live agent, and I think that speaks volumes of the work that your team has done that makes the technology so personal and so incredibly simple and convenient.  And I thought that was a great story that I had to share with you and your colleagues.

KRISHNA: No, I love that, both at the individual level that the individual is so delighted with that interaction, because that has to be our collective goal, but also when you talk about it that it dealt with millions and millions of calls helping towards that goal. 

KRISHNA: But I also love the fact that we know that people are talking about lots of personal and health information but we've got to do all these things within the regulations, really respecting HIPAA and privacy and all of those aspects.  And I think that is really what makes the partnership so special, because we bring technology to bear, but you know your domain and how you have to give it in a safe and effective way.  And that, I think that that partnership really works well together.

LYNCH: It really does.  And as we think about the future of healthcare, technology will be the backbone of how consumers interface with the healthcare system.  The healthcare system will change dramatically, and I think the partnership that we have will be in the forefront to help Americans live healthier lives.

KRISHNA: So, Karen, thinking a little bit about AI, the digital and the digital platforms that you mentioned, how do you think you will apply these intelligent platforms to other areas of your business beyond COVID vaccines?

LYNCH: Well, we've got a lot of plans in front of us, and you know, it really is about turning insight into action.  And you know, because of the success that we had with our intelligent call agent, we are now expanding those capabilities into our businesses.

For example, in our Aetna business, our members will be able to call and find a provider in their community, you know, just telling us...telling the intelligent call agent about their symptoms, and they'll be able to...we'll be able to connect them with a provider, you know, through that technology.

And in our pharmacy services business, our customers will be able to call and find where their prescription is.  They'll find out where their cost of their prescription, all through intelligent agent.  I think the possibilities are limitless.  And for us, it's a game changer; and for potentially our members, it could be life changing.

KRISHNA: Karen, it's so great to hear that.  You know, the reason I get so excited, look, we're the providers of a base technology; you make it come alive for the people that you talk about.  But it's so rare and it's so special to find technology that both reduces cost and increases service.  Right?  This is a rare one that does both those things and takes, as you said, insight from all the data that you collect and now we can unlock even more value from it.  I think it's absolutely spectacular.

LYNCH: Yes, Arvind, you took the words right out of my mouth, because customer experience through improvement in our cost structure is where our company needs to go, and we couldn't be more excited.  The simple truth is that we have to build resilience and innovate consistently so that we can not only be looking around the corners but we're staying ahead of the curve.

KRISHNA: So, Karen, just one final question, if you want to share final thoughts with us on any lessons over the past year that you have learned you'd like to share; and, what's next for CVS Health?

LYNCH: Yes.  So, you know, a couple things that we've learned is the power of purpose and how incredibly passionate our colleagues have been and how resilient they have been through this entire crisis.  They stepped up to help Americans prevail through this pandemic, and I couldn't be more proud of them.

I also want to share with you a short video that captures what it looks like for patients who have received the COVID vaccine, and let me share that with you now.

KRISHNA: Karen, thank you so much for joining us here today; and thank you, again, for the work that you and CVS Health are doing to accelerate the recovery from COVID‑19.

LYNCH: Thank you very much.

My conversation with Karen Lynch from CVS highlights what is perhaps one of the most exciting and most promising changes we are seeing today.  Companies are not just digitizing things that were once out of reach; what they are doing is far more consequential: they're rebuilding entire business models around the possibilities of digital technologies like hybrid cloud and AI.

By doing so, they're infusing greater intelligence into the core processes that underpin their business.  Of course, we have talked about digital transformation for years, but what's changed is that having a strong digital foundation is no longer seen as a source of competitive advantage but an existential priority.

Let me be clear: it's not just about having that digital front door.  Once you have that front door, a number of things have to change behind it: business workflows have to change, culture and talent have to realign.  When you do all that, magic happens.  That's when businesses transform on how they work to do things they couldn't do before.

To help organizations accelerate their digital transformation journeys, I'm excited to announce a bold, new set of innovations and breakthroughs from IBM.  The first one relates to something that has been on the news lately, and that's the global shortage of semiconductors.

While we no longer manufacture chips, we are heavily involved in advancing chip technology.  You might have seen just last week we announced a major breakthrough on the world's first 2 nanometer chip.  Just to give you a sense, a human hair is 10,000 nanometers and we're talking about two nanometers here.

Built at our innovation lab in Albany, New York, this new wafer contains the smallest transistor architecture released to date.  The chip could house 50 billion transistors.  This new frontier will accelerate advancements in many areas: 5G, maybe 6G, edge computing, autonomous systems, quantum computing; and of course, AI.

Talking about AI, there's a few other announcements I'm happy to share with you today.  First, to speed up the application of AI, our Research teams have been hard at work on CodeNet.  CodeNet is a large scale, open source data set, 14 million code samples, 700 million lines of code, all of which enables AI to understand and translate programming languages.  We are confident that CodeNet will help businesses infuse AI across their organizations.

In addition, we're announcing AutoSQL for our Cloud Pak for Data.  Available today, AutoSQL uses AI to automate access, integration and management of data without ever having to move it; and, we are excited about AI's ability to make professionals across every sector and industry more productive.  Think about it: time is our ultimate limited resource.  All of us have the same exact time budget: 8,760 hours per year; that assumes we don't sleep, eat, rest or have any recreation.

But with AI, we could automate key business processes so that people can reclaim some of that precious time and focus on what matters the most.  To deliver against this promise, we are happy to announce a new, interactive AI solution called Watson Orchestrate.

You can interact with Watson Orchestrate through any of the collaboration tools that are used by professionals everywhere.  We use a powerful AI engine that combines prepackaged skills based on organizational knowledge and prior interaction that helps professionals perform work a lot faster.

 

DEMO: But rather than tell you, let me show you what Watson Orchestrate can do.  On my right, you can see Watson Orchestrate help a seller ‑‑ Kate ‑‑ automate her everyday work: sending e‑mails, scheduling meetings.  Of course, it also looks for any missing information it needs along the way.  On my left, you can see what's happening with Watson Orchestrate under the hood as it assembles its out of the box skills to get the job done.

In this scenario, Kate had asked Watson Orchestrate to send an alert when one of her opportunities in Salesforce moves to the proposal stage.  This frees her up while Watson Orchestrate keeps tab on Salesforce.  As soon as someone else [operates] that opportunity, Watson Orchestrate Slacks Kate and offers to help her with the next steps.

So, Watson Orchestrate allows professionals to gain access to critical business data using a single tool and to get the answers they need in seconds.  Rather than log into Salesforce, run some reports, move data maybe into Excel, create graphs, Kate simply asks Watson Orchestrate to get the data in the format that is most useful to her.

With built‑in memory and context, Watson Orchestrate allows her to continue working with the data over multiple requests with each request building on the previous one.  And with one request, Watson Orchestrate helps generate a quote.  For Kate, this happens in the blink of an eye, but behind the scenes, Watson Orchestrate is mixing and matching skills to identify the solution.  It parses the product and quantity information from documents, imports it into Salesforce, creates a quote and exports it as a PDF.

It then helps Kate determine which add‑ons can also or should be proposed.  Watson Orchestrate's planning algorithm does this by evaluating the request against all of its known skills and generates a confidence score for each.  It selects the skill that scored the highest; in this case, the upsell propensity skill at 96 percent confidence.  It then executes the specific steps within the selected skill.

Finally, when Kate asks to include add‑ons and get the quote approved, Watson Orchestrate is able to break down the single instruction from her to recognize it needs to complete two tasks in sequence: first, include two add‑ons that increases the value for the client; second, submit the final proposal to her manager for approval.

Without Watson Orchestrate, this process would have required Kate to log on to multiple systems and complete multiple forms.  All of this now in a single step; that means less time working with internal systems and more time building customers relationships and closing deals.

The example I just showed you was for a seller.  That said, Watson Orchestrate is designed to increase the personal productivity of business professionals across many areas: sales, human resources, operations and many more.  Our research, engineering and design teams have been hard at work to create this capability, and the innovation we are unveiling today is a preview of what comes later this quarter as part of our IBM Automation Cloud Paks.  For those of you who want to delve deeper, I encourage you to watch Rob Thomas' Think session later today.

You can see why I'm truly excited about the possibilities ahead as more and more companies tap into the power of hybrid cloud and AI.  One thing is certain: this is a future  that must be built on a foundation of deep industry collaboration.

We've been hard at work at IBM to build a powerful ecosystem of partners to help realize the true potential of hybrid cloud and AI.  Salesforce has been one of our most important partners that has helped us move our clients on those journeys.

To bring some of those stories to life, my final guest and an outstanding partner is Salesforce's President and Chief Operating Officer, Bret Taylor.  Bret leads Salesforce's Global Product teams ‑‑ engineering, security, marketing, communications.

IBM and Salesforce are making and expanding markets together with innovative hybrid cloud and AI solutions.  In fact, we have been expanding our Salesforce solutions capability including our acquisition of 7Summits last quarter.  Welcome, Bret.  It's great to see you again.

TAYLOR: Thank you for having me.  It's so great to be here at IBM Think, and grateful to be here with your clients and grateful to be here with you.

KRISHNA: So, to start off, a topic I know is near and dear to your heart, Bret.  Tell us about how you're seeing different businesses leverage cloud strategies to accelerate their digital transformation whether for innovation, for revenue and so on.

TAYLOR: Well, it's a great question.  You know, this pandemic has been so disruptive to our businesses.  But when you look at what's been really going on in digital, I would argue that we had about a decade's worth of digital transformation in 13 months, you know.

And I think fundamentally when I see the businesses that are coming out of this accelerating ‑‑ and I love that word accelerating ‑‑ it's those who said, let's not let a good crisis go to waste and embraces this disruption and really digitize all aspects of our business, whether it's the supply chain, the customer experience.

And you know, fundamentally you and I have talked a lot about this, I think we're entering into an all-digital work from anywhere world.  And all the behaviors that you and I as consumers learned in this pandemic, whether it's buying our groceries online, or telehealth, or the fact that our salespeople aren't going to conference rooms and restaurants but talking on Zoom every day.  They're not all just going to step back.

And I joke that for people who think they're going to get on airplanes for every business meeting again, their CFO hasn't just giving them their new travel and entertainment policy yet.  You know, every business is saying, how do we retain what we've learned in this pandemic, the good parts, as we accelerate out of it.

And I think that really blurs the line between your employee experience, your customer experience, the contact centers that went from being in buildings to being in the cloud.  You know, maybe we should embrace that future.

And one of the great joint customers that I think is a great example of this is Pepsi and Frito‑Lay.  It's a great mutual customer.  You know, one of the things we worked with them on that I think is a great example of this is Snacks To You, where you can buy snacks directly and small businesses and food trucks can order directly online.

You know, really digitizing their relationship with some of their retailers, with their resellers, with all these small businesses.  And I think that example, it's a great example of saying, how do you digitize your customer experience?  And I think the thing that I think is especially exciting especially with our announced acquisition of Slack is how that overlaps with the employee experience as well.

So, my high level is, embrace the digital imperative that came with this pandemic and recognize that we're not going to snap back to the way things are.  And I think it's a great opportunity for forward leaning businesses.

KRISHNA: Well, that's a great example, Bret, and you used some other great examples when you touched on it.

But if I think about how these industries have been impacted, let's dig a little bit deeper.  An industry that I know, I know we both care about deeply is financial services.  What do you think the future holds for financial services in the context of what you just described?

You know, I don't think an industry has been more impacted by digital than financial services, whether it's our experience as individuals, or consumer banking, investment banking, you go to all parts of the modern bank and it's entirely gone digital.

A couple of the things that I think will come out of this year of disruption and be very positive, number one is really urgency and speed.  And I think when I talk particularly to the CIOs and CTOs at banks, the thing that they learned is they need to choose the right platforms that will enable them to be agile in the future.

Just look at, for example, the PPP loans process early in this pandemic.  The banks that are able to set up portals to process those loans faster, process the most loans, the banks that were able to set up self-service portals, quickly manage their caseload better as their entire banking experience went online.

And then more than anything, I think, you know, as banks go from operating in silos to saying, hey, we want a single view of our customer across investment banking.  Maybe they own a business, and the small business, and their commercial banking customer.  Maybe they're an individual investor as well.  How do you actually break down those silos?

And you know, IBM's hybrid cloud solution is a great example of how one does that to really bring together all your technological silos.  And as we talk about our partnership, you know, we operate a little higher up in the stock.  We say, how do you break down your business silos?

But fundamentally, for every bank around the world, that's where the growth is going to come from.  And I think that's why I've been so excited to partner with so many mutual financial services customers really at every level of the stack, how do you create a single unified experience across all aspects of your bank.  And I think it's a great opportunity, especially looking into the next couple of years.

KRISHNA: Well, as you know, we agree completely with that perspective.

So, going back, Bret, to some of your opening comments.  You touched on customer expectations and you said employee and consumer expectations are going to merge.  And so we know that an area there that is going to be impacted deeply is customer service, and you touched on it when you described contact centers.

And something which I know is near and dear to you personally and to Salesforce is Slack, which you acquired just a few months ago, or announced it, could also be transformational.  We believe that for contact centers.  So, any thoughts on that?

TAYLOR: Yes.  I think customer service I believe is really, I say it's the anchor tenant of your customer experience, you know, and I think thinking of it as something that is only a reactive channel when someone has a problem is the old way of thinking.  You know, that's really where loyalty and brand is created.

And you know, as customer service has gone digital, the importance of AI has just gone up and up and up.  You know, I'll just talk a little bit about Einstein.  Einstein chatbot conversations have gone up 706 percent in this pandemic ‑‑ 706 percent.  As you can see, 10 years of digital transformation in 13 months.

But you know, what's so interesting to me is how we've been working together on Watson in our Service bot as well.  I think probably one of my favorite examples of that is actually IBM itself: 25,000 IBMers are actually using Service Bot and Watson together.

And when you think about what does a digital customer service experience look like, it's self-service.  You know, no one wants to talk to somebody to change their password or ask, where is my order.  It's faster and better for the customer and it's much easier for an agent like Watson to answer that question than a human being.

It also means when you're an agent now and you're operating in the cloud and you get a really complex question, how can we have AI technologies facilitate and help you answer that question so you get faster time to resolution, a higher quality of service?

I think we're in the really early innings of this.  You know, I think that, you know, I think you all were earlier than anyone else in AI. 

When I look around customer service around our customer base, people are in the very early stages of really helping their agents be more productive, helping their customers help themselves.  And I think this is a tremendous opportunity.

One of the great joint customers, actually PayPal, that you know, both of us work with deeply, extensive AI capabilities really out of the box in that relationship.  And it's also a great example of how Salesforce and IBM I believe are truly better together.

KRISHNA: So, Bret, one final question.  So, I think we'll agree a key aspect of returning to life ‑‑ not just work ‑‑ is going to be about credentialing, credentialing are you vaccinated, are you tested, have you recovered, all those other aspects.

And as you know, we worked together on the Digital Health Pass, which leverages blockchain and other technologies and we work on it together not just in the United States but in many other countries as well.  What do you see as the future of these kinds of technologies and of our work together in this space?

TAYLOR: You know, it's so interesting.

First of all, it's been such a privilege to help our public sector customers with their pandemic response.  You know, I joked to one government leader, I didn't know what contact tracing was 13 months ago; and now, you know, we're powering it across the globe.

Similarly, as you're talking about things like this Digital Health Pass which has been an amazing partnership with you, these are foreign concepts prior to this pandemic and I think top of mind for public sector around the world right now.

And I think it really shows the importance of partnership between the private sector and the public sector to solve what is the most important health but also economic issue of our time, which is, how do we actually reopen our economy safely?

And across Europe, IBM and Salesforce have been working with two national health systems to really deploy these end to end solutions for vaccine administration.  And looking forward, it really sort of begs the question, which is, again, how do we take what we've learned this pandemic and accelerate the future?

How can it apply to education for transcripts?  How can it apply to healthcare?  How can it provide even more broadly like the veracity of something like a luxury good and prevent counterfeiting?

So, I really look at what we've learned this year and the urgency with which we learned it and say, how can we take the partnership that we developed and the technologies we developed and help accelerate the digital transformation of every industry?

And I think it's partnership between the private and public sector and partnerships like ours so we show up together to our clients and say, we are going to show up and help you get there faster because we're showing up as a team.  And I think that's really the example of what a partnership represents.

KRISHNA: Look, Bret, thank you so much for joining me, but more, from my heart, thank you for helping forge such a strong partnership between Salesforce and IBM.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

An insight I hope you take away from today's session is as the world recovers, businesses need a strong digital foundation.  It improves time to value and reduces costs.  It provides access to business innovations at a much faster pace.  It increases speed and agility to take on any of the challenges the world throws at us next.

IBM's hybrid cloud and AI platform is designed to deliver exactly that.  It underlies everything we show you today during our Think event.  We are all in on hybrid cloud and AI precisely because we understand the immense possibilities it can open up for organizations everywhere.  We are laser focused on delivering the critical innovations that you need to realize the true potential of hybrid cloud and AI.

Let me close with a word of thanks to all of you for your trust in IBM.  This event is designed to help you accelerate your journey.  I am confident we will all benefit greatly from this time together.  With your continued faith in IBM, we will all emerge stronger than ever, together. 

Thank you.

Arvind Krishna delivers the opening keynote remarks at IBM Think

Arvind Krishna delivers the opening keynote remarks at Think 2021