VDC had the opportunity to attend IBM’s Impact event in Las Vegas last week ― the event was well attended (~9,000 attendees) and featured hundreds of breakout sessions that spanned a broad range of technologies. A key theme at the event was what the company described as its ability to help companies become “composable businesses”.
The company's keynote speakers were very much in sync with this message and articulated how IBM was positioned to provide its customers with a path to transform their business and help them embrace the “ecosystem of everything.” Throughout Impact, IBM showcased how it had expanded its portfolio of cloud-oriented solutions with analytics, big data and mobile solutions and how customers could benefit from the ecosystem of innovation it has assembled. The company's message: it can provide the flexibility and speed that are required to overcome the challenges which every business will ultimately face as the shift to digital services impacts their IT infrastructure. This building block approach will enable customers to piece together what’s needed quickly and effectively to solve rapidly changing business problems. IBM identifies four service types in this environment:
- Infrastructure services such as those from Softlayer
- Business services in the more general SaaS portfolio
- Defined pattern services such as its PureApplication services
- Composable services (PaaS) such as BlueMix
MobileFirst and Customers Front and Center
IBM's MobileFirst GM Marie Wieck talked about design thinking, and the need to train development teams to think first about engaging with mobile. She identified several success factors for mobile enablement that were on point:
- Mobile interactions will increasingly transition to mobile transactions
- Must support secure, effective, real-time transactions not just interactions
- Not just mobile analytics, also customer analytics
- Use mobile analytics to improve outcomes whenever possible
- Must be iterative and rapidly evolve applications
- Business rules are required to iterate business logic
There were some great examples of mobile enablement scenarios which featured prominent customers and partners that tied well to Wieck’s success factors. Tangerine Bank discussed how they use technology to redefine and simplify banking for their customers. Tangerine shared details on how it has raised the bar in mobile banking and has transformed into a mobile-first bank (key product enhancements mentioned were voice activation and offline access). In working with IBM, the company was able to shorten its mobile development cycle using IBM's PureApplication System. Tangerine was able to quickly develop, test and deploy repeatable patterns, access the Worklight programming environment, use Bluemix for testing and QA, and take advantage of the API catalog to manage their internal services.
IBM's SVP of Software and Cloud Solutions Robert LeBlanc cited Tangerine as an example of the shift to a completely digital economy where companies are increasingly using mobile and cloud for computing, unbundling their business offerings and where new “killer apps” have the potential to disrupt any industry.
In this vein, IBM made sure that the most visible announcement out of Impact was its marketplace. The company has curated a site that is designed to pull IBM and third party services into solutions to help customers easily find them. Solutions range from standard business, development and operational services (new SaaS and composable services on BlueMix and Softlayer will be a focus going forward). This capability was required when considering the new style of purchasing that many companies are starting to engage in, and gives IBM a mechanism to help its partners gain influence.
Still a Long Road for Many to True Mobile Enablement
IBM was also intent on demonstrating that its products can work well together, and how it can transition organizations from legacy data centers to a modern IT architecture. The company spoke about how it is beginning to see evidence within its larger customers that mobility is becoming more strategic with more senior sponsors getting involved (something that we’ve all been waiting to see). In response, IBM has taken a managed services approach to best position themselves to help quickly (a wise move given the company's Global Services capabilities). The company has also been focused on training its business process consultants and partners on its MobileFirst solution portfolio to make sure that process solutions are being mobilized if and when the opportunity presents itself. IBM's industry specific Ready Apps were also showcased ― these starter kits will be useful and can definitely help customers accelerate their mobile enablement initiatives.
While many organizations are certainly striving to modernize their infrastructure and are in the process of iterating and re-architecting their business processes the reality is that logistics networks, supplier relationships, product and service design and customer service have and will continue to be in a state of flux. Any path to sustainable competitive advantage will require a high degree of operational adaptability. IBM certainly has assembled a portfolio of products and services that can help, but engraining mobile solutions into their workflows and business processes will take time, and getting key stakeholders within lines of business, IT leaders and developers to collaborate is difficult.
IBM has enhanced its opportunity in the enterprise with its MobileFirst initiative, with key acquisitions (Cloudant, Fiberlink, SoftLayer, and Worklight) figuring prominantly; however, significant integration work remains. IBM must demonstrate to its customers that it can help to simplify and streamline app development by mobilizing existing apps (backend integration) and help to build next generation apps.