Weaving the data fabric through IBM Global Financing

By | 4 minute read | September 13, 2021

When your IT infrastructure suffers an outage, the last thing you want is high visibility and—even worse—revenue loss. But that’s exactly what happened to IBM in 2017. An aging and disparate internal IT ecosystem that had been starved of investment created a perfect storm, and in 2018, I was brought in to lead an ambitious modernization effort that had been long overdue.

As Director of IT for IBM Global Financing, I lead a 600-person team responsible for a diverse portfolio of more than 70 applications, some with millions of lines of code accrued over decades. This complexity is compounded by the rigor and controls that IBM Global Financing must uphold. As one of the world’s largest IT captive financiers with an asset base of $25 billion, we provide loans, leases and asset recovery services to IBM customers and business partners. We’re also registered as a bank in four countries. Upgrading our infrastructure is critical for IBM’s business and for the clients we finance across 60 countries and 20 industries.

When I was planning out my vision for modernization, I grappled with challenges that are common in CIO organizations: Not only were there legacy systems, but there was a legacy culture to simply “keep the lights on.” Additionally, many approaches to solving IT challenges were reactive rather than proactive—we made fixes after users alerted us of problems. Consequently, it became eminently clear that for IBM Global Financing to succeed, we needed to improve efficiencies, flexibly respond to change, and better predict outcomes through more access to data for all our users.

In this blog, I’ll discuss how we are achieving these goals by using IBM Cloud Pak for Data, a unified platform for data and AI, and building a “Cognitive Headquarters” with its data fabric.

The value of a data fabric

In the past, we used a traditional data warehousing approach. A myriad of transactional systems fed data via disparate interfaces into an information warehouse that various users queried. If one interface didn’t sync to the others, a damaging ripple effect could ensue.

With a data fabric, we can eliminate the need to manage and monitor different data interfaces, and we can empower our stakeholders to use the same tools. This architecture provides access to the right data at the right time, agnostic of location or deployment method. As a result, we can simplify data management and governance in complex hybrid and multicloud landscapes. Now, different groups won’t have to maintain multiple data warehouses for distinct purposes, which will reduce both risks and costs.

Once we have a data fabric in place, we can turn to another question: What do we do with all that data?

The short answer is that IBM Global Financing is building and infusing AI algorithms into business processes. On a unified platform, having built-in AI tools that connect with the advanced analytic capabilities of a data fabric allows us to create and deploy models faster. And we’re finding this seamless integration in IBM Cloud Pak for Data.

Use cases of IBM Cloud Pak for Data at IBM Global Financing

IBM Cloud Pak for Data and its services have already helped IBM Global Financing succeed in various ways:

  • Data virtualization helped modernize our sales portal, making data integration significantly faster and more efficient. In addition, predictive logic helped our sellers prioritize their workloads by surfacing which opportunities are most likely to close with financing.
  • In our accounts receivable function, data science and machine learning capabilities in IBM Watson Studio allowed us to predict whether loan payments would be on time. This yielded tangible results with collectors taking proactive actions based on prior client activities.
  • Server space can be an issue, and historical data analyzed on IBM Cloud Pak for Data helped us create a predictive support process. When a server is forecasted to reach capacity, we can start proactive remediation. As AI models get more refined, my vision is that we can eventually run automated scripts to fix problems without human intervention—achieving the holy grail of a system that heals itself.

With the data fabric on IBM Cloud Pak for Data, we’ll look to consolidate these use cases and many more through a cohesive and intuitive front-end experience for all our business functions.

Extending the data fabric vision: A Cognitive Headquarters

A Cognitive Headquarters is the next step in our IBM Cloud Pak for Data journey. This portal will become the single point for consuming all IBM Global Financing data simply and quickly. The data fabric will help us overcome challenges arising from outdated, fragmented and inaccurate business reporting. We could migrate data to the cloud, build an access page to all data across multicloud and/or hybrid environments, and provide user-friendly ways to retrieve and derive insights.

With the data fabric, we’ll not only modernize our legacy systems but pave the path toward greater AI-powered innovation.

We are more excited than ever that IBM Cloud Pak for Data is the future of many more data and AI use cases to come!

Next steps

Explore the benefits of a data fabric on the web and in this report.

Learn more about the services that IBM Global Financing offers.