Here's the deal: I'm your new IBM blogger. I know your purchase order didn't mention anything about getting a blogger, but one of our recent market research studies indicated that you wanted one, and I happened to be standing in a hallway in Armonk with a red target painted on my forehead.
So, I'm it. Nice to meet you, virtually speaking. Of course, there will be plenty more where I came from. (Actually, there are already are on other parts of the IBM Web...I'm just the first blogger on this particular area of our Web site. Over time, I'll be pointing you to other, more knowledgeable bloggers in given topic areas).
Remember, this is IBM: We travel in large packs. ; ) I'm just here to help get the conversation going.
As for my day job, you can read my bio above, and I'll likely be writing more about what I do at IBM here in future posts. However, I keep pretty current on the Blogosphere, and the average life expectancy of the corporate blogger has recently dwindled close to that of the average fruit fly. I figure that now that I've started blogging, I'm out of here within the next few hours.
Do know in advance that it has been a really good ride, IBM is a great place to work, and I had a lot of fun blogging on behalf of the company these past few minutes. More importantly, the bidding for my services moving forward will start on eBay just as soon as I get the call from HR in Somers. With that in mind, feel free to consider the following an abbreviated version of my IBM obituary -- or, if you happen to be in the market to hire, the summary version of my new resume. My qualifications go something like this:
I'm a 14-year IBM veteran who knows how to build and manage large, complex, global Web sites; who can build impactful online advertising and marketing campaigns; who does great PowerPoint; who has the ability to fly coach from Austin to Tokyo and use the fare savings to help boost your company bottom line; and who can convert several global time zones and currencies in his head on the fly.
If you need any or all of these qualities, I am your man.
If not, and assuming I continue to be employed by IBM in the coming days, bookmark this site or add it to your RSS reader, because we're about to embark on a virtual adventure the likes of which have never been seen in the Blogosphere, the Biosphere, or any other virtual/human-inhabited environment.
You see, I have always subscribed to the philosophy that business can be both profitable and fun, and I have tried to practice that in my own efforts. Frankly speaking, boring talk about boring business verges on the coma-inducing. The globalization of business and the core ideas behind what we call On Demand Business at IBM are about some of the most exciting and enervating and challenging topics I have ever dealt with, and that is precisely how I aspire to approach them -- with your participation, of course.
I have been focused on leveraging the Web and the Internet to enhance IBM's business for going on 11 years now, and have the unique perspective of having been there as the ideas and approach behind the original idea of e-business were being developed. While much of the rest of the world was talking about which Internet browser to use, we at IBM were talking about how the Internet would change the world and business and about the technologies and solutions we were building that would help our customers adapt and benefit from that change.
That conversation continues today, although I would suggest that the opportunities of On Demand Business are even more immense (as are the challenges), and at the same time would acknowledge that we at IBM do not pretend to have it all figured it out. While we do work hard to make our own significant contribution -- and will certainly talk about some of those contributions here -- we learn from our customers, competitors, and partners every day. Because On Demand Business is, if nothing else, all about the web of ecosystems and partnerships and integration -- and ultimately the new business value -- that so many of us are collaboratively building together.
As I have often said to my own colleagues inside IBM, On Demand Business is like building a structure in the middle of an earthquake: The landscape is constantly shifting, so you had better stay on your game and keep an eye on the trembling horizon. You look away for too long, not only will it not look the same, but you might not even recognize where you are.
So here's to keeping our collective eye on that horizon together -- there's nothing like a good earthquake to sharpen one senses. I'm looking forward to learning more about what's going on out there in your own environment -- business large or small, educational institution, government office, or otherwise -- and also to sharing some insight as to what's going on inside IBM: in our labs, our various business units, and perhaps even down the hall.
As for the actual topics we'll be covering in this blog, I would like to start the conversation with you by sharing some data from IBM Research about the value of becoming an On Demand Business. A quick teaser from that research:
Did you know that a study conducted by our Watson Lab (alas, no relation) shows that when compared to others in their industry sectors, companies that have gone the farthest in developing their On Demand Business capabilities have on average experienced superior 3-year growth in key areas of business performance? On average, such companies enjoyed 1.3 points better gross profit margin than their peers. In the battle for growth, each point of GPM gain for a company with $5B in revenues would translate into an additional $50M in revenue growth.
More details on this report in a coming post, but in the meantime, I'm curious to learn if any of you out there have realized similar growth through the aggressive adoption of the fundamentals of On Demand Business?[Read More]
Todd "Turbo" Watson -- IBM Corporation
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I just returned from a recent vacation to Belize. I know, it's a rough life. But I am a certified (not certifiable) recreational scuba diver, and Ambergris Caye is one of those places nearly all divers put down as one of their checklist diving destinations. I won't bore you with all the details about my diving experience there (although I did get to swim around a shiver of about 13 nurse sharks, and also saw some huge, lumbering sea turtles, both of which were extremely cool), but on the plane trip southward I got to thinking about the role that information technology had played in getting me to Belize, and it dawned on me that I could not have planned and carried out this trip with such efficiency even just a few years ago.
First, there was the flight and hotel inquiry....I used Travelocity to search for and book the flight from Austin to Belize City (via Houston). It took me all of 10 minutes to investigate and lock in the flights. Then there was the hotel search. I already had a place in mind based on a friend's recommendation, but using the hotel Web site, was able to book and later confirm the room reservation and rate. I also used it as a connecting point to sites with pointers and information about the island. During my planning, I also needed to give the hotel a call to check in on a few details about the room reservation, and didn't want to spend a fortune doing so. So using Skype, I called the hotel with my ThinkPad and got the details I needed clarified, all for about .53 Euros.
While still landlocked, I Googled "Ambergris Caye diving" to learn more about the great dive sites in Belize, and unearthed more information than I could consume in one sitting. So in the spirit of on demand efficiency, I cut and pasted the info into a Word document, then synched it to my Palm Tungsten C using Documents-to-Go so that I could read more while traveling south on the plane.
Flash forward to the day before I am to leave: As mentioned, I had booked the flight to Belize City, and from Belize City to San Pedro, all online, the one via Travelocity and the other directly with the Belizian airline. Continental sends me an email the day before my flight leaves and asks if I want to go ahead and check in. Uh, yeah. So I book my seats and print the boarding passes before ever leaving home.
The next morning, I check in at the gate, check my bags and am on my way. It was the same day as the London bombings, so I was in a bit of a news blackout on the plane ride down. Fortunately, my hotel in San Pedro had wi-fi access on the premises and as soon as I landed was able to update my FeedDemon RSS reader and glance through the headlines to catch up on what had been going on (especially via many of the bloggers in London). I was also able to post a dispatch to my personal blog so that friends and family could find out what was going on with the trip thus far and to know that I had made it to Belize safe, and yes, even to quickly check my work email.
While on the island, I found several pieces of useful information from official and non-official Web sites about restaurants, background on the island and Belizian culture, dive operators, etc., all via Web sites. I was also able to call back to the U.S. using Skype to check in with family who were also traveling, and also to keep track of Hurricane Dennis, which we were concerned would blow our way.
After diving, there was plenty of time to sit around and sleep (or read), and being in a remote fishing village got me in the mood to read some Hemingway. I had started "The Sun Also Rises" many moons ago, but had never finished it and decided this would be a good time to get reacquainted. I figured finding a copy readily available on the island might be a stretch, and in any case knew that www.ereader.com was a URL away. In fact, it was "in stock" and I was able to purchase a digital copy to read on my Tungsten for $8.99. Problem solved.
My dive buddy and I were also able to produce a video of our underwater adventures in our hotel room and distribute it to friends and family before we ever even got back on the plane. This included shooting, editing, and distributing it in digital format. I also logged all my dives on a program on my Tungsten. And when my dive equipment was lost on the way home (it was inadvertently sent to Dallas instead of Austin), I was able to use the Continental Web site to track my bag as it made its way back to town. (And considering what I paid for that diving equipment, it was a most reassuring tracking tool to have access to!)
So you're probably saying, sure, so what, this isn't anything new. But rather than look at this story in individual piece parts, think about it more in the aggregate, because it is in the aggregate through which the power of on demand technology is revealed.
A personal vacation is not unlike a small business plan. It requires some strategic planning, some market research, some communication, some logistics and operations, and ultimately some execution. It the minimization of friction in all those transactions and the addition of non-commoditized, higher value interactions on top of each -- that distinguishes how pleasant (or profitable) one vacation (or small business) is from another. It is the very same kind of thing that distinguishes one on demand business from another.
Think about the vast span of information and systems to which I had access to across the span of this short journey: Access to the airline travel reservation system, the hotel Web site as virtual billboard and reservation desk, the eReader.com library and payment authorization engine, the optimization done for Google to make sure I could find the right site, the Continental luggage search online...each and every one of them were "friction busters." Every time each of those entities was able to streamline an information search or transaction on their end -- which ultimately saved them time and money by leveraging the unique capabilities of the Web to provide self-service for their customers -- the personal business plan (the vacation) was optimized on my end. I could probably even come up with a personal on demand equation. It would probably go something like this:
1 percentage point on demand intelligence / 1 percentage point of eliminated friction = 5 percentage points liberated free time for Todd.
Free time spent swimming with a shiver of really cool sharks. : )
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I stumbled across some interesting coverage of the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo that occurred in May that I thought worth relating. It was part of some coverage of a session by Gartner VP Mark McDonald entitled "Delivering IT's Contribution: The 2005 CIO Agenda."
According to the coverage in the eWeek article, MacDonald indicated that because IT budgets are growing again, CIOs are going to have focus on delivering the most innovative services that contribute to robust corporate business growth. This builds on the point I was trying to make in the last post...eliminating friction, adding value.
And yet in an environment where IT budgets are expected to grow only 2.5 to 3 percent this year, it is the companies which are expecting to grow faster than the market -- and hence, are willing to increase their IT spending even faster than operating budgets -- that will be best positioned to distinguish themselves in their respective industries. The end verdict being this: Let IT become an "active contributor" to your business success, rather than just a service or cost center.
One way to get started on such an endeavor is to step back and build what we call a "component map" of your business...a sort of x-ray that helps you understand which parts of your business are differentiating, where resources are being consumed, and how your business and IT strategies are currently aligned.
Our Business Consulting Services group has developed what they call the Component Business Modeling service, a methodical approach to helping our customers get a molecular view of their overall business in order to help them identify the sweet spots for such an optimization. I'm curious if any of you all have conducted such an analysis to better understand the differentiated (versus "commoditized") areas of your business, and if so, what steps you took to optimize that differentiation?[Read More]
My apologies on the radio silence, but I learned over the weekend of a good friend passing, and I figured it would be appropriate for me to take the opportunity to write a eulogy for my friend, seeing as we had known one another for some 14 years. I hope you'll indulge my sharing it with the wider world, as my friend passing really should not be allowed to have transpired without a few brief words:
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." Such were the words of inspirational author Richard Bach.
And such are the words I would choose to characterize the passing of my old and dear friend, OS/2. Born in 1987 out of the need to be able to do more than one thing on the personal computer at once, OS/2 -- more commonly known by his close friends as "Warp" -- was for many years the darling of our extended operating system family here at IBM. Known by friends and family alike to be capable of juggling dozens of complex, multithreaded applications with true preemptive multitasking, OS/2 had the unique ability to recover from the most severe application failures, at a time when so often in such circumstances the only real option was to hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE.
I remember with great fondness how so many of us within IBM worked to reintroduce our good buddy "Warp" to the wider world in 1994 at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. I'll never forget with beaming pride at seeing Warp's name spread across everything from large Jumbotron screens to coffee mugs, as those of us in IBM who had helped raise and nurture him from birth worked diligently to explain to the busy Comdex hoards why OS/2 was the only real industrial-strength 32-bit operating system, and why he could be counted on to help you run your business through thick and thin.
Although OS/2 had a warm, visually appealing exterior, those who knew him best recognize that beauty is only skin deep, and it was Warp's underlying interior and depth that really distinguished him from other, less sophisticated operating systems. His object-oriented composure and underlying System Object Model (SOM) made OS/2 one of those friends you knew you could depend on. With OS/2, if you dragged an object icon across the desktop, you knew SOM would track the movement and record the object's new position. In short, OS/2 always did what he said he was going to do. You could count on him like you couldn't count on anybody else.
OS/2 probably exerted his most significant influence behind the scenes, particularly in financial institutions. Chances are, if you ever used an automated teller machine, you encountered OS/2 firsthand -- whether you realized it or not. He also helped numerous other industries, and ultimately had a diverse career with global impact.
OS/2 is survived by several family members, including two brothers, Unix and Linux, with the latter expected to take over some of his older brother's former responsibilities.[Read More]
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I was watching one of the episodes of this fascinating documentary series on PBS about Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel recently. This particular episode focused on the story of how Spanish conquistador Pizzaro was able to -- with less than 180 fellow Spanish soldiers and about 27 horses -- crush an army of tens of thousands of Incans at Cajamarca on November 16, 1532.
How could this come to pass? Making no judgments about the sociological and/or cultural import, it was, in a word, innovation -- albeit the 16th century flavor. Diamond's theory suggests there were several factors that contributed to the Spaniards' ultimate competitive advantage; most notably, their adept use of steel, horses, cannons, and writing. The Inca were foot-bound, the Spaniards on horseback. The Inca had bronze weapons, the Spaniards carbon steel blades. The Spaniards had cannons, the Incas did not. All of this added up to 180 conquistadors defeating thousands of Incans. And in the process altering history.
Now, in a Crichton-like fashion, flash forward with me a few centuries...I had mentioned in a previous post the On Demand Business Adoption study, and that at some future date I would pass along a few details. Welcome to that future.
Just as the distinguishing factor between winning and losing on the part of the Spaniards was innovation, so was the case with the Fortune 1000 companies we analyzed. In our study, we worked to measure the business advantage of those enterprises that had successfully adopted On Demand business capabilities. Not unlike the Spaniards and the Incas, it was a thin line that separated the more successful companies from the rest. Of those companies who were on the leading frontier of On Demand business technology adoption, they:
Not bad for a few days' work. And those are certainly respectable enough metrics. But one might go on to ask, what was the bottom line impact of implementing these changes? I wrote previously that a company with $5B in revenues which gained a single point in gross profit margin (GPM) yields $50M. A two-point gain in GPM for a company with $40B in revenues yields $800M. Like I said, not bad for a few days' work.
Of course, that's the party line data. What the study doesn't really tell us much about are the derivative, more personal fruits gained by individual customers when smart companies enhance their on demand business experience by implementing such capabilities into the mainstream of their businesses. The UPS online package tracker, the American Airlines automatic flight update pager, e-Bay bid tracker...the list goes on.
If you remember my vacation trip to Belize from the earlier post (if not, see below...I can barely remember it myself at this point), there was a very slim chance that I would have stayed at a hotel in Ambergris Caye that did not have a presence on the Internet. I mean, there would have had to have been some serious, Tipping Point-ish word of mouth from a very good personal friend before I would have bought off the Internet grid, because I wanted to be able to see the pictures of the hotel and room, price it online, book it online (the fact that they had wi-fi access sealed the deal), etc. Ditto for the airline booking and planning, the dive trip planning, learning about restaurants -- pretty much every angle of the trip I covered off online.
These days, these types of features really fall under the heading of cost of doing business. We're far beyond the basics. Check out Google new Earth beta to get a taste of another example of next generation capabilities (and prepare to have your mind blown). In future posts, I'll elaborate on some of the key characteristics that characterize these "bleeding-edge" on demand businesses.[Read More]
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I was cruising through CIO.com, which I'm wont to do when I need to get better in touch with my inner IT, and stumbled across coverage of a report released by Juniper Networks which examined the relationship between companies' IT investments and their financial performance.
The net: Companies that view IT as a strategic asset experience on average 30 percent higher revenue growth than companies that view it as a back-office function, waste of time, etc. Check out the article here, which has links to the full study.
I've taken to running in recent times to get my blood pumping and heart moving and cholesterol adjusted and all that, but I must confess, running is about as mentally stimulating to me as watching really thick paint dry. So it was with much elation that earlier this year I was introduced to the power of the podcast (The power of the podcast is kind of like power to the people, except it requires the Internet.)
I don't remember how or why, but early on in my podcasting forays I stumbled across a great Web site for people interested in technology and business topics called IT Conversations. The programs from IT Conversations have turned my near-daily run into a pleasure instead of a struggle, because I am able to transform what had previously been a monotonous window of time into an entertaining and often educational experience.
The programs from IT Conversations feature thought leaders across the business and information technology spectrum, and are often captured at conferences and symposia that I don't get to attend in person. It's like going to a good conference seminar without the "getting on an airplane" part. Recently, I've listened to interviews and conference sessions from the likes of Clayton Christensen, Lawrence Lessig, and a host of other industry luminaries, speaking at major industry events: Web 2.0, Software 2005, JavaOne 2004, etc. Or, if you're into navel-gazing, there are plenty o' podcasts on podcasting, blogging, and other recently emerged Internet technologies.
Here's how it works: Using my FeedDemon RSS reader, I subscribed to the IT Conversations RSS feed, which automagically sends me notifications of new podcasts. If I see a program I like, I download the MP3 program to my hard drive and then, when ready to go jogging, I synch the MP3 player with my desktop.
Have Podcast, Will Jog.
If you don't feel like messing with all that, Apple just made podcasting more easily consumable with the addition of podcast support in iTunes. I downloaded the new version and was extremely surprised at how easy it was to scan and download podcasts. In case you missed the podcast bus, thousands of these things have recently sprouted up on the virtual landscape, so upon first glance, the real value of the new iTunes is just helping a mere mortal like myself navigate and make sense of them all by providing a sort of TV Guide for podcasts. And, I presume, it's very simple to download podcasts to the iPod.
I'll spare you the prognostications as to how podcasts are going to change everything, and save that for the pundits and hyperbolic soothsayers. However, if you do want to make your morning run zoom by or kill some time on that 12 hour flight to Shanghai, check in with IT Conversations or check out some of the podcasts on iTunes. And if you need help with any of this, just ask your teenager -- they can show you all the ropes.
Over the course of this year, I've stood back in utter astonishment at the number of corporate security violations and associated identity theft that have been revealed, most of them due to carelessness or ill preparedness. One wonders how many more might we not have heard about?
Ask any of my colleagues within IBM who know me well and they'll tell you I'm a privacy hawk. Because of my experiences working in information technology and the interactive marketing industry, I became especially sensitized to the opportunity for the constructive use, and potential abuse, of the emerging technologies that uniquely defined the interactive experience early on during the so-called "boom." Only recently have we witnessed the illogical end of such tactics in the form of widespread identity theft.
Although I find the Citibank identity theft TV commercials quite funny -- the ones where the identity thief literally takes on the persona of the individual whose information they stole -- I take their underlying messages very seriously. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 9.3 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft last year. IBM's own Global Business Security Index indicated this past June that the number of contaminated emails increased 70 percent, and one survey estimated the dollar impact of identity theft last year was $52.6 billion!
After watching all this, I decided I had to do something, anything to participate in the protection of my own personal information. So I went on the offensive and subscribed to a credit watch service. Now, anytime anyone tries to use my credit or even does a credit check, I immediately receive an automatic email alert. Although it irks me that I now pay $100/year to monitor what I consider to be my information, I figure it's a small price to pay for even a little piece of mind, especially after hearing the horror stories of how much trouble and personal cost that identity theft can cause an individual person in lost productivity as they try to restore the damage caused by the identity thief.
Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that IBM is also doing what it can to help customers who wish to better protect their own customers' information. Last week, we announced the new z9 mainframe, for which the additional processing power and new security technology for encrypting personal data can help companies better protect customer data on the mainframe and in offline storage media (several of the recent identity theft concerns arose over unencrypted customer data for such storage).
We also recently announced a new version of the Tivoli Identity Manager software, which helps companies automate the tedious, usually manual process for setting up new accounts and passwords and convey who has access to what information. Such features not only help better protect customers' personal data -- they also allow for increased responsiveness to internal audits and regulatory mandates.
If good fences makes for good neighbors, good locks make for better business. Ultimately, the more confidence your customers have in your company's security and privacy practices -- how you handle, protect, and use their personal information -- the more confidence they're going to have in your business, and the more business they're going to do with you.
And the less your company's name is going to appear above the fold in The New York Times with a headline you'd prefer never to have seen.[Read More]
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"When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I'm leaving." Comedian Steven Wright
Following is a short description of my breakthrough moment as to how information technology had the potential to change the driving experience:
I was driving on the outskirts of New Orleans with a good friend, who had just bought a GPS device that he could hook up to his laptop. He told me to put the GPS "module" next to the rear window, then watch the screen as the CD-ROM software synched up with the GPS signal. One...two...then three satellites synched up. Then, as if by magic, the little moving triangle appeared precisely on the map of our location. Whoa!
Mind you, this was long before GPS systems were pervasive in rental cars or any of that, so it was a revelatory moment as I watched our car tracking along the map on my friend's laptop as our car moved down the highway.
Turned out, that was just the beginning.
IBM Investor Relations just initiated a new podcast series on key business and technology topics. First off the line? IBM's own Jim Ruthven and Dr. Roberto Sicconi talk about how IT is changing the driving experience, using everything from telematics to voice-recognition technology to not only get you where you need to go, but get you the information and communications you need along the way.
Get your motor runnin...head out on the highway...lookin' for adventure...and whatever comes our way...[Read More]
I was both shocked and saddened to hear the news of Peter Jennings' passing earlier today. Having grown up watching all the evening news broadcasts, I often found myself switching the channel to ABC News, primarily because of Peter Jennings. His intelligence, seriousness, compassion and exhaustive dedication to finding the story -- wherever in the world it might be -- were surpassed only by his ability to communicate the story to the rest of us in a way that we could not only understand, but also by often putting it into a perspective that helped us better understand our world.
In 2001, I had an opportunity to meet and talk with Mr. Jennings at a business luncheon in New York City. He was as gracious and affable in person as he appeared on the television set, and he invited me to watch the World News Tonight broadcast live from the ABC News Studios, an offer I took him up on just before I left New York. Sitting in the control room where all the producers were putting the broadcast together was about the most nerve-wracking thing I had ever seen, but looking down over the studio where Peter Jennings's desk was, I couldn't help but notice how extremely calm, cool, and collected he was as he scribbled edits on the teleprompter sheet or answered emails from viewers before his next segment.
Four months later, it was that very same calm demeanor that helped myself and viewers around the globe as they wrestled with comprehending the day that was 9/11. Although I was some 1,500 miles away from NY, with Peter Jennings reporting, he was able to make that horrible day just a little bit better.
He will surely be missed, and for those of us who were his regular viewers, he already was.[Read More]