Last month, I presented at the "IBM Technical University" event in beautiful Atibaia, Brazil. Here is my recap of the event.
- Marcelo Porto, IBM General Manager for Brazil and Client Unit Executive for Retail
What a great way to start a conference! Marcelo asked if everyone was comfortable? Everyone cheered in the affirmative.
He then said "Well, not for long. We will take you out of your comfort zone! You will disrupt yourself, and disrupt your companies. You will learn about new technologies and solutions that will make you very uncomfortable."
He explained how everything is virtual, specifically the three companies Airbnb, Waze, Uber. All of these three have new transformational business models, and he suggested all companies should follow suit.
He then said people need to be focused on four things:
- Adopting an "agile attitude"
- Act like you own the company
- Don't cling to the past
- Have the courage to re-invent yourself and your company
- Frank Koja, IBM Vice President for Sales, Enterprise Systems Hardware
Business [decisions are made with only 12% of available data]. Infrastructure needed to use data to make business decisions.
(Managers and business leaders could probably raise this percentage considerably if they talked to their employees before making decisions, but that's another blog post!)
Frank showed a video of an IBM client, Plenty of Fish (POF). This is a worldwide dating site with three million POF members in Brazil. They now process over 30,000 requests and/or messages per minute. FlashSystem connected to 30 servers makes that possible.
OpenPower consortium started with just 5 companies in 2014 for technology collaboration. Today, 250 members across 26 countries in six continents collaborate to make POWER technology as ubiquitous a commodity as Intel x86.
Frank then switched to "Business models" innovation. Out of the audience of about 800 people, only 10 raised their hands that have heard of Blockchain (he asked IBMers not to raise their hands, as all IBMers have heard of Blockchain!).
Frank feels that Blockchain is the most disruptive innovation since Internet banking. Blockchain affects supply chain, finance, insurance, shipping logistics, customs inspections, and government registrations.
A video showed a woman from Everledger, which uses Blockchain for shipping diamonds. IBM offers Blockchain on LinuxOne mainframe servers.
Hybrid Cloud is point of no return, including Local, Dedicated and Public clouds. Frank feels we need to cloudify all business processes.
- Mauro Angelo, IBM Enterprise Strategy & Industry Solutions Director
Mauro explained that ideas are turned into inventions, and inventions are put to good use to bring forth innovations.
If your business is not cognitive you are a full era behind. Machine learning is not knew. IBM DeepBlue beat Grandmaster in Chess tournament back in 1997.
Mauro then focused on eight specific trends:
- Systems of Engagement (SoE)
This is the combination of Mobile applications and Social business. IBM invited the first smartphone, the Simon, back in 1994. Apple's iPhone came later in 2007. Pokemon Go is example of augmented reality.
Cloud offers new service and location models. IBM [SoftLayer], [Bluemix], and [Kenexa] are a few examples.
- Cognitive computing
There have been a lot of enhancements in this space, including Natural Language Processing (NLP), visual recognition, even smell recognition. Cognitive solutions can also identify the appropriate context, such as GPS location. And Cognitive solutions can interact with users to ask for clarifications. It can process "Big Data", the collection of non-structured data that normal Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) do not touch. Finally, they can learn, something often referred to as "Machine Learning".
In 2011, IBM Watson beat two humans at the TV show game Jeopardy! Today, [Dino, a toy from CogniToys] provides Watson-like capabilities to children.
Mauro got one for his daughter. She naturally interacts with toy. "How much does an elephant weigh?" she asks. "It depends on the elephant, but a fully grown elephant weighs more than 2,000 kilos" it responds. That's cool.
Wearables like Fitbit can track blood pressure, minutes of exercise, total steps walked. IBM helped Under Armour company develop an app in this space.
Eliminates middlemen or trusted third party (TTP). The hotel chain, Hilton, is testing out a robot called Pepper, which can use Blockchain to book tennis courts.
These are technologies thinner than a strand of hair, measured in nanometers. The focus is to develop stronger, lighter materials, and macromolecules for life sciences for medicine delivery.
- 3D printing
Mass customization meets personalization and fast design prototypes. This is not just limited to plastic, but also metal, paper, wood, biomaterials, ceramics, food, and even cement.
Cement? That's right. A Chinese company prints houses using a cement 3D printer. In a country of over one billion people, this company has figured out how to build houses without human laborers.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
Olli, a 12-person self-driving bus, is the brainchild of Local Motors. They are testing it out in National Harbor, and hope to roll it out to cities like Copenhagen, Miami, and Las Vegas.
- Systems of Engagement (SoE)
- Luis Liguori, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO for IBM Brazil
What does IBM mean by "Digital transformation?" What separates success from failure? Developed countries from less developed countries?
Is it culture? Whether people focus on the long term, or just the short term? Does the culture encourage you to foresee the future, and adapt accordingly? Does the culture encourage you to be brave and bold? Do you hide behind Business case return on investments (ROI)? Does your culture consider conflict to be good or bad? The answer: Good!
Does your company have a purpose? When humans no longer serve purpose, they die. The same is true for companies. He said the secret to success is the four "R's" -- Relevant, Resources, Reputation and Rigor.
For example, in 1996, the Kodak was ranked the 4th largest, it filed bankruptcy in 2012 because it was no longer relevant.
Consider Samsung. Samsung has lost its reputation with the latest "Samsung Galaxy Note7" fiasco of exploding batteries!
Airbnb is an example of Digital Transformation. Who knew that there were lots of people who wanted to rent out their bedrooms and bathrooms to strangers!
Luis feels that successful companies are either born digital, or transforming to digital. Industries are merging. Lines are blurring between industries. The latest acquisition between AT&T and Time Warner is an example.
In the latest report from the International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook, [Brazil dropped down to 81, out of 138 countries]. Despite hosting the FIFA and Olympics, the country has been struggling financially.
Cognitive brings intelligence to decision making. For example, Watson health has been put to task to focus on Leukemia. In one case, Watson was able to [pinpoint a rare form of Leukemia] that had misdiagnosed and being treated incorrectly with little effect.
Why cognitive? Because human beings cannot read or remember as well as computers. There are thousands of peer-reviewed articles published every day. People are afraid to act to avoid mistakes. Computers are fearless.
Did you know that Brazil celebrates "Black Friday"? There is no "Thanksgiving" in Brazil, but retailers liked the idea of having people stand outside in the middle of the night to start their Christmas shopping! A few years ago, there were [a few problems], but in most recent years, it has shown to help [boost retail sales.] Based on these initial purchases, Watson can be used to help drive the rest of the Christmas retail season.
Watson can analyze personality based on social media writings. The world will be taken over by digital natives. The last century was focused inward, or "ego-centric", but in this 21st century, we will be focused outward, towards a complete "ecosystem".
Who are your competitors? Are they the companies that make products and services similar to yours? No! They are the companies that are competing for your customer's time and attention.
- Breakout Sessions
While I speak English and Spanish fluently, my Brazilian Portuguese is terribly rusty. We had several rooms with a pair of real-time translators. I presented the following:
- Software Defined Storage -- Why? What? How?
- The Pendulum Swings Back -- Understanding Converged and Hyperconverged Environments
- IBM Spectrum Scale for File and Object Storage
- IBM Storage integration with OpenStack
- Introduction to IBM Cloud Object Storage System and its Applications (powered by Cleversafe)
- IBM's Cloud Storage Options
All of my sessions were well received, and well attended!
- Pool-side Reception
On Wednesday night, we had a nice pool-side reception. Beers, Caiparinhas, and Caiparoskies. Caiparinhas combine a sugarcane juice-based distilled alcohol called cachaça with muddled limes and added sugar. Caiparoskies combined vodka with muddled kiwi fruit.
(Many of the IBMers from United States skipped this event to get dinner early, so they could then come back in time to watch the third and final US Presidential Debate. Because of the time zone changes, this didn't start til 11:00pm, so they could have easily attended the event and had dinner, with plenty of time to spare!)
There was also a live band! This three part band had two guitarists and one lead singer. The lead singer also did maracas and drums while singing. They covered both English and Portuguese language songs.
- Rodrigo Giaffredo, IBM Engagement Catalyst
Rodrigo gave the closing session. Wearing jeans and sneakers, he reminded me of the casual storytelling style of Jeff Jonas. He organized his stories around four points:
Consider the battle between Twitter vs. Pownce in 2007. Twitter won because it offered better ways to limit what you read, or who you communicate to, through methods like Hashtags, groups, etc.
Henry Ford disrupted transportation. He realized that Time and space is money. However, as he famously said "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!"
Today the challenge is processing data faster. The company that is able to process faster has economic advantage.
Strong ideas focus on user needs. Weak ideas are tactical and features. Consider the [Hippo Roller]. For centuries, African women and children carried water from far away wells either on their hands on or their heads. Much of it would fall out during the long walks. The Hippo Roller holds 90 liters (about 24 gallons) and rolls easily over rough terrain.
Rodrigo showed an graph. On the y-axis was "Importance" and the x-axis "Feasibility". Solutions in the upper right corner are obvious choices. Solutions in the upper left, important but not very feasible, are considered "big bets". Solutions in the lower right, feasible but not very important, he labeled "amenities".
Most designers, architects and developers know that the later the error is found, the more expensive it is to fix. A prototype is worth a thousand meetings.
Take the company Zappos, which sells shoes online over the Internet. The founder, Nick Swinmurn, tried to get investors, getting a typical response: "What are you drinking?" (In USA, we would ask what are you smoking, but this is the way the Brazilians say it.)
With no investors, Nick built a simple website, took pictures of shoes, and fulfilled orders by purchasing the shoes from local San Francisco retailers and shipping them to the clients.
Nick started this in 1999, and finally got some $20 Million USD in funding in 2004. His simple prototype allowed him to focus on post sales support. Zappos was recognized as having the best call center, moving his operations to Las vegas, NV.
Consider the challenges of urban mobility.
Approach Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Waterfall Wheels Axles Frame Car Agile Skateboard Scooter Motorcycle Car
Both methods eventually result in a car, but the agile prototypes allow for more effective experimental milestones.
As for Zappos, its prototype proved successful. Amazon acquired them for $1.2 Billion USD in 2009.
It is that simple: Understand, explore, prototype, and evaluate. IBM has adopted "Design Thinking" across its development organizations to better meet the needs of the marketplace.
Overall, it was a delightful event. It is nearly summer down in the Southern hemisphere, so a bit warm and humid. The attendees were all looking forward to a turn-around in the Brazilian economy, and the business opportunities that brings.
technorati tags: Marcelo Porto, Frank Koja, Plenty of Fish, POF, OpenPower, FlashSystem, Blockchain, Everledger, Hybrid Cloud, Mauro Angelo, Systems of Engagement, SoE, SoftLayer, Bluemix, Kenexa, Cognitive Computing, Natural Language Processing, NLP, GPS, IBM Watson, CogniToys, Dino, wearables, Nanotech, big+data, RDBMS, 3D Printing, Internet of Things, IoT, Luis Liguori, digital transformation, Kodak, Samsung, Galaxy Note7, International Monetary Fund, IMF, World Economic Outlook, Leukemia, Black Friday, Software Defined Storage, Converged Systems, Hyperconverged, Spectrum Scale, OpenStack, IBM Cloud Object Storage, Cleversafe, Caiparinhas, Rodrigo Giaffredo, Twitter, Pownce, Henry Ford, Hippo Roller, Zappos