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Opening keynotes at IBM IMPACT 2011


Nancy Pearson and David Farrell kicked off the main event. 8,000 people at IBM IMPACT apparently and Nancy introduced the key themes – helping companies optimize for growth and focus on delivering results. The topics are based on a continued focus on getting business and IT to work together (a key theme of Decision Management of course), a growing industry focus and introducing new and emerging business and technology models. IBM IMPACT, Nancy says, is about how to transform your company for growth. This involves

  • Business agility
  • Operational dexterity
  • Process integrity

All drivers for Decision Management.

After a great “100 years of IBM in 100 seconds” video, John Iwata came on to talk about the centennial. Starting with punch cards, talking about innovations like 80 column punch cards, moving to magnetic tape and then the introduction of System 360 mainframe which, as he said, completely cannibalized all existing IBM products! But as with many innovations, customers did not know what to do with it and IBM had to work on ideas like Online Transaction Processing systems. And this pattern has repeated – technology innovation needing business innovation to take advantage of it. This path ends, at least for now, with the Smarter Planet initiatives of recent years.

The challenge is that people must believe they can change and act on what they see. They start with instrumenting to manage, integrate to innovate and then optimize to transform. This is interesting as it shows why BI and performance management are where people start, then they start hooking together various systems before applying analytics, business rules and decision management (for instance) to transform their business.

Children’s Hospital Boston came up next. The chief of critical medical care came on to talk about the importance of information and better access to it in improving healthcare. He started with a story of a girl his team saved but he wanted to talk not about the success, but about the fact that what they learned about curing her is locked up and hard to share or act on. Talking to other doctors with a video link works but it is a little low tech… and it does not help the rest of the kids, the ones who don’t have a video link to those who know. And right now the way medical knowledge is transferred to doctors is the same is it was 100 years ago – lectures, rounds, random knowledge acquisition based on attendance. Time for a smarter approach.

Changes are coming, with a focus on simulation for example, as well as a variety of different approaches to make sure that different adult learning styles are addressed with videos, simulation, lectures, notes. This works but it does not scale well – how to get this transferred to people all over the world. Inspired by watching his teenage son play a video game as a team with kids all over the world and by an IBM powered site for the Masters Golf tournament that combined videos, expert commentary and simulations, he went to IBM.

IBM built what they called a PICU without walls. This works offline and online and contains videos, advice, protocols, simulators and calculators for child care. It uses the cloud to update itself but does not require an internet connection. It creates a “social network” between the users of it so they can share. It teaches how to handle key childhood diseases. And it is not one-way, it is a many to many network that allows those with expertise anywhere to teach everyone else.

Change and uncertainty were the next topic. CIOs and CEOs see lots of change and uncertainty but don’t know what is going to drive this change and don’t feel comfortable that they will be able to change to respond. Business agility, and business agility across your extended enterprise, is essential to succeed and survive in the future. Transformation to deal with this and to respond to it is no longer optional.

IBM’s WebSphere is a big stack these days. At the bottom is the application infrastructure. Using SOA as a core approach and adding connectivity and integration to SOA brings more integrated systems. These systems can be coordinated and managed using Business Process Management and Decision Management technologies.

This stack supports the new business strategies required by business agility and uncertainty. This transformation requires new growth with faster time to value while reducing cost. Do more with less. So, can you change your processes quickly and effectively to handle uncertainty and change? And I would add, can you change the decisions in your processes so that you can keep your processes stable while still responding to change? IBM has launched a new Business Process Manager product that combines technology from Process Server, ILOG, Lombardi et al by the sounds of things. More on this tomorrow I guess.

Next up Caterpillar who like to say that all over the world there is dirt or a commodity that is in the wrong place – creating an opportunity to move it to where it should be! Caterpillar has been around since 1925 and has faced several critical strategic breakpoints – World War II when they kept focused on earth moving equipment or 1980s when they spent $2B on modernizing factories. Now they are a $42B company with 225,000 employees in 50 countries? For the last 83 years IBM has been a partner of Caterpillar where IBM focuses on Caterpillar’s digital infrastructure. With tools like ILOG’s business rules management system and SPSS’ analytic platform, Caterpillar can manage its business and its ongoing transformation. And their CEO describes this as involving two problems – cannot move fast enough and cannot make enough money!

Warranty Management for instance is a critical problem and have used ILOG and SPSS to build a warranty claim decision management application that saves over $60M plus (check out this white paper on smarter warranty chain management using rules and analytics). “Smart” trucks are also part of the solution – the huge off-road trucks carry vast amounts of material but they also carry a lot of electronics and “smarts” because people just want a ton of material moved, they don’t want to pay for the $5M truck. Smart monitoring and diagnostics are critical to keeping these trucks operating and working effectively.

More to come.