November 30, 2018 By Rachel Reinitz 4 min read

Introducing IBM Garage, an expansion of IBM Cloud Garage

As the Chief Technology Officer for the IBM Cloud Garage, when I look back on all the expansions that have occurred since we started the IBM Cloud Garage in San Francisco in 2014, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for the industry-changing innovations we have been able to help our clients achieve over the years. Today, there are 14 IBM Cloud Garages in startup communities across the world, where clients of all sizes are finding a new way to define, design, develop, and manage innovative applications leveraging IBM Cloud (formerly IBM Bluemix). We have worked with thousands of clients, and with each client experience, we harvest what we learn and incorporate those learnings into our methodology. Today, clients who partner with us on their cloud journey benefit from all the experience we have collected and integrated into our IBM Garage Method (further described here), such as significant new content on analytics, organization, and management in the cloud.

We have also expanded the Garage through collaboration with more teams across IBM. I’m delighted to share that IBM Garage is an expansion of IBM Cloud Garage. This expansion allows us to add more practices to our methodology, provide clients more great spaces to have a Garage experience, and offer additional trained IBM Garage consultants globally. If you can’t come to a Garage location, we can come to you and help you customize your space.

In the IBM Garage, we partner with our clients to rapidly make their big ideas a reality by building and testing minimal viable products (MVP) and then scaling the MVPs to meet demand and enterprise requirements. Clients are often pleasantly surprised when they experience new ways of innovating and working in the Garage and are delighted with the Garage’s focus on incremental delivery to rapidly achieve business outcomes.

The IBM Garage Method

Our award-winning methodology, the IBM Garage Method (pictured below) has an iterative lifecycle and set of practices that can be applied to both an MVP that is focused on proving out a specific idea and at scale that is focused on building a sustainable innovation capability. We work in cross-disciplinary squads with clients working side-by-side with IBMers, and through this immersive experience, we enable our clients to work in new ways.

The IBM Garage Method

IBM Garage Method lifecycle phases

For each of our lifecycle phases—Think, Transform, Thrive—we use a variety of practices from Enterprise Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile, devOps, Site Reliability Engineering, and organizational change. Related practices are logically grouped into collections of practices represented by the hexagons. We have a prescriptive approach for integrating practices across the entire lifecycle. Examples of our practices are used below to explain how we apply the practices to the lifecycle phases.


In Think, we ideate to develop big ideas, define personas, empathize with target end users, develop proofs of concept, conduct user research, develop high level business cases, and create a backlog of prioritized ideas. We then combine IBM Enterprise Design Thinking and Lean Startup practices to define the most critical hypothesis to be tested and the MVP that should be built to test the hypothesis. We produce a high-level design of the user experience and ‘just enough’ technical architecture. For a single MVP, we execute a subset of these activities in one week to get alignment on the hypotheses and the MVP definition. At scale, we execute ideation to create the initial backlog of ideas and then work on multiple ideas simultaneously moving a subset of the ideas into Transform.


In Transform, we iteratively build MVPs. Typically, this takes four to eight weeks for MVPs leveraging cloud services. We set up multi-disciplinary squads with product owners from the client, architects, full stack developers, designers, business and technical subject matter experts, and an experienced squad leader. We coach our client product managers to develop a ranked order backlog of user stories. We use Build practices from Extreme Programming, DevOps, and lean design, including automated continuous integrationrefactoringpair programmingiterative software designuse of reference architectures, and build to manage. We use many other practices, such as aligning development and ops for successvalidating designs with sponsor users, and automating application monitoring.

We focus on how to pilot the MVPs effectively to prove hypotheses, often by using business analytics. We also address how the MVP can integrate into and change existing business processes. Occasionally, we test hypotheses with MVPs that don’t require a technical solution. We always focus on what aspects of the idea need to be tested to determine whether to make continued investment using fail fast and learn fast. For a single MVP, we have one squad working on one MVP—often with the dual objectives of developing the MVP and also trying out the Garage Method as a new way working. At scale, we set up multiple squads to transform how our client work.


In Thrive, we focus on scaling in multiple dimensions. Initial MVPs which are well-received are iterated on in subsequent MVPs, adding and testing more features using such techniques as A/B testing. Typically, more non-functional requirements are addressed, such as data resiliencyhigh availability, and recovery without disruption. We often work on changing operations to support the new cloud technologies. But scale is not just about technology; scale often focuses on training parts of the organization on the Garage Method, both through working in squads together and through our bootcamp program.

While we have point of view and a practice that we continually evolve based on client learnings, we also realize the need to adapt to a particular client’s situation, reality, and culture. We apply our expertise to recommend adaptions, and we are continuously improving with our clients through experimentation and retrospectives.

Hear from some of our clients

Let’s work together on your company’s next big idea!

Reach out to the IBM Garage

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