IBM's Systems & Technology Group (STG) represents, among other things, the hardware heritage of IBM, such as the mainframe, open systems servers and storage. But STG is deeply aligned with the company's software and services capabilities. IBM's annual STG analyst meeting is designed to bring industry (not financial) analysts up to speed on the group's strategy and direction.
The meeting is not a feed and speeds meeting where the latest IBM hardware products are announced. That is not to say that products were missing, as they are vital to the strategy, but rather the emphasis was on how they could aid in fulfilling the company’s overall strategy rather than emphasizing new features and functions. And knowing where IBM is and where it is going is important to all of the IT community.
Only a Rip Van Winkle IT professional would not be aware of the emphasis that IBM is placing on the concept that it calls “Smarter Computing,” which it considers the foundation for Smarter Planet. Although almost everyone in and out of the IT community would probably fail a quiz on clearly defining Smarter Planet, they have probably seen on TV, heard on radio, or seen printed advertisements that feature Smarter Planet.
In one session, one of my analyst compatriots made the statement to the effect that enterprises could care less about Smarter Computing and the Smarter Planet, essentially saying that it’s marketing hype. In essence, he was looking at Smarter Computing through the lens of an IT administrator whose life revolves around hardware and software components by whose performance he or she is measured. That misses a very big point. IBM is directing its “Smarter” message at a much higher level in the organizational hierarchy— CIOs who seek to align IT with the business to increase business value and C-level executives who desperately need the improved decision making capabilities which define the underlying premise for Smarter Computing.
The history of IT is made up of waves. An early big wave was the move to online transaction processing (OLTP) systems, which continue to be the foundation for operational business processes (using structured data). But we also added to it a wave of collaborative processing that initially emphasized e-mail and built from there with basically semi-structured information. Now we are moving to an era of “management information systems” (with the focus on managing the enterprise and not necessarily just for those with a managerial or executive title on their business card). These are systems designed to help business decision making processes and are typically based on the use of analytics.
At the STG event, IBM illustrated Smarter Computing through two focal points: Smarter Commerce and Smarter Cities. In the first instance, IBM was able to analyze large quantities of data to determine the rise in sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday very quickly. This is information that many people wanted to know, but more than that, the power of analytics to process big data in a timely fashion was demonstrated. IBM also demonstrated the value of Smarter Commerce through a company with a very large supply chain — namely itself. IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain (ISC) applies analytics to this data rich environment to drive effectiveness, in the sense of doing more with less. This is not only beneficial to IBM, but the lessons learned can be translated to clients with large supply chains as well.David Hill is principal of Mesabi Group LLC, which focuses on helping organizations make complex IT infrastructure decisions simpler and easier to understand. He is the author of the book "Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance." View Full Bio