Breaking down silos with IBM watsonx and Slack
Transforming collaboration across client-facing teams at IBM
Businesswoman explaining strategy to male and female coworkers sitting in board meeting at workplace
Multiple tools and client data sources

The IBM Chief Information Office (CIO) organization delivers the IT solutions that IBM employees use to do their daily jobs. Success in doing so not only affects IBM employees, but also every client they interact with. That is why the IBM CIO organization is laser focused on providing its client-facing teams with the information they need to excel.

In 2023, the organization took time to document and understand the challenges that client-facing account teams were having, especially supporting their large and signature accounts. It wanted to gain an understanding of how employees collaborate, what information and resources they needed, where they were going to get them, and how they were working together. What the organization found was that in many cases, teams did not have access to information when they needed it.

For example, IBM sales teams and Customer Success Managers lacked visibility into support cases, which impacted their ability to effectively prepare for and respond to customer questions. Support teams did not have a view into recent sales opportunities and deployments, which could provide much needed context as they worked on open cases. It took IBM employees so much time to move between different tools and pull information together.

The IBM CIO organization wanted to eliminate the time employees spent looking for information and instead, radically simplify the experience by delivering resources to client-facing teams in Slack, where they were already working and collaborating. To address this business challenge, the CIO Digital Transformation team, relying on the IBM® watsonx AI and data platform together with Slack, developed an “account 360” solution to enable IBM teams to work more productively.

1 view improving productivity and strengthening client relationships 6–8 weeks to deploy pilot
We have done a 360-degree digital transformation with the implementation of our strategic platforms. Still, we needed to support the end-to-end user experience when collaborating across our strategic platforms. That is where an ‘account 360’ solution comes in. Geoff Marinski Director, IBM 360 Digital Transformation IBM
Watsonx-powered account management

The solution is designed to help anyone collaborating with a client get up to speed quickly on the key activities and actions taking place at the account. The tool pulls data and information from across multiple tools and repositories and provides one-click access to relevant and integrated account resources through a Slack app on either the desktop or a mobile device. Because it’s built upon Slack, the solution offers anywhere/anytime availability.

The goal was to create a “co-pilot” to any client-facing team member that delivers a real-time snapshot of account activities, including strategic initiatives, leads, opportunities, deployments and open cases. The solution also streamlines the process of finding the right person—whether it is the account Managing Director, a brand sales specialist, client engineer or support agent—and then connects team members together. This can transform account team collaboration—for example, eliminating the need to spend the first 15 minutes of any call just gathering and sharing the information only to discover somebody did not get a file. With this solution, IBM is applying its strategic platforms to automate collaboration and efficiently share, track and record account team activities.

We wanted to create a tool that allows people, regardless of their role on the client-facing team, to get a snapshot of what is happening with sales, support, leads, overall initiatives and strategies on an account for them to get up to speed quickly when needed. Sheila Zinck Program Manager, IBM 360 Digital Transformation IBM

In addition to transactional data on account opportunities and support cases, the solution provides access to a rich set of planning documents such as the client profile, which includes details about history, install footprint and organizational structure, along with account influencers and account plans, which establish the strategies and strategic initiatives. The solution leverages watsonx products to provide quick summaries of these key documents as well as respond to natural language queries on accounts, delivering relevant, accurate answers grounded across complex data sources.

The application was written in Python and hosted within IBM’s internal Hybrid Cloud platform built on Red Hat® OpenShift®. The first challenge in pulling account information together from diverse sources was deciding how to define the account, and then find and link data by that common identifier through all of the company’s data sources. This involved, for instance, finding common identifiers across sales and support systems.

The IBM CIO organization had to produce a system for getting the support data aligned for an account, combining the quote documents and other key client data with the support tickets associated with the client master records. It then took this combined data, manipulated it and stored it in IBM Cloud® Object Storage. From there, the organization was able to serve the application directly. Now, whenever users make a request to the application, the data is already available pre-processed in IBM Cloud Object Storage.

IBM uses its watsonx.ai AI studio as the summarization tool for the documents described. So when users go to the collaboration section, they see the account plans, company profiles and deal reviews associated with an account. They can generate a summary, get a message sent to them, or interact with the summary.

Watsonx.ai is primarily used to generate the document summary. When users go to the collaboration section, they see the account plans, company profiles and deal reviews associated with an account. Geoff Marinski Director, IBM 360 Digital Transformation IBM
Enterprise digital transformation

Going forward, planned additions include the IBM watsonx.data data store and IBM Cloud Pak for Data Virtualization. Also, IBM is currently implementing watsonx Assistant for chat.

The company’s initial user community is small and currently targeted to executive advocates. IBM initially rolled out the solution to about 70 accounts. These account team members can see and use the information, and IBM continues to work to quantify the business benefits for these client-facing teams. In the first half of 2024, the company plans to add all its commercial signature and strategic accounts into the tool and create a demo account for sellers to highlight to their clients.

As a technology sales leader, this type of ‘account 360’ solution powered by watsonx has been a complete game changer. It brings all my client information together for me in Slack. This is really cool because it eliminates the time I used to spend searching for that information in various tools and it now lets me connect quickly with my teammates and respond faster to my clients. Megan Grant Senior Strategic Partnership Leader IBM
Lessons learned

For AI to work and to obtain business value out of applications like this, data matters. IBM faced more challenges in connecting the data across the different areas than in the technology. Data governance and data quality are essential to the success of any project that spans multiple data repositories and silos.

Focusing on how people work and collaborate is essential. The solution is designed to help client-facing teams work more effectively by speeding the delivery of real-time information and resources to them—when, how and where they are working.

Other large organizations have the same silos. Many transformation efforts that have occurred elsewhere have been either done vertically or through platform modernization. Through this experience, IBM has seen a cross-pillar, horizontal approach that can create AI value across the enterprise.

For your AI to work, your data matters. Your data, data governance, data quality are going to make or break these things. Geoff Marinski Director, IBM 360 Digital Transformation IBM
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About IBM CIO Organization

The Chief Information Office (CIO) Organization leads IBM’s internal IT strategy and is responsible for delivering, securing, modernizing and supporting the IT solutions that IBMers, clients and partners use to do their jobs every day. The CIO strategy encompasses creating an adaptive IT platform that makes IT easier to access across the enterprise, accelerates problem-solving and serves as an innovation engine for IBM, catalyzing business growth.

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Produced in the United States of America. April 2024.

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