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IBM InterConnect 2017 Keynote with Ginni Rometty


Ginni Rometty kicked off day two of the IBM Interconnect conference, with a pitch that cloud is changing IT, business and indeed society. Cloud, and the IBM Cloud in particular, she says will allow a new generation of business and change the world. Cloud is already 17% of IBM’s business and clearly Ginni sees this growing rapidly. Three elements drive this:

  • IBM Cloud is Enterprise Strong
    Strong public infrastructure, industrialized hybrid, enterprise strong, choices and consistency, secure etc etc. Plus an industry focus to support specific regulatory frameworks, APIs etc. Need a pipeline of innovation too – IBM’s investing in blockchain, quantum and more to ensure their cloud continues to have innovative capabilities.
  • IBM Cloud is Data First
    The value of data, she says, is in the insights it generates for you – not democratizing and sharing your data, but letting you use your own data to drive your own insights. This relies on data diversity (to make sure that public, private and licensed data of various types can be used togather) and data control (to protect the IP represented by your data).
  • IBM Cloud is Cognitive to the core
    Ginni feels that cognitive is going to drive the future and only companies adopting it will survive and thrive. Watson she says ranges from Machine Learning to AI to Cognitive. This has to be embedded in the cloud platform. And it needs new “senses” like an ability process images, listen to audio. Plus motion, sensors to provide “touch”. And Watson is being specialized and trained with data from industry leading sources.

AT&T came up next to talk about the impact of broadband, pervasive mobile connections and how this enables access to the kind of cloud IBM is developing. AT&T also think content matters, especially in mobile as more and more content is being consumed on the mobile device. The work IBM and AT&T is doing essentially allows a BYOD mobile device to connect to IBM Cloud assets as effectively and securely as an on-premise network. Plus they are doing a ton of work around IoT etc.

Mark Benioff of Salesforce.com came up next to talk about how IBM is integrating Watson with Salesforce. 5,000 companies are both IBM and Salesforce customers. The integration is between Salesforce’s Einstein and IBM’s Watson. Critically of course this is about data – bringing the data Watson can access like the Weather Company with the CRM data that Einstein works on. This ability to pull “back office” data and combine it with customer-facing data in the CRM environment allows for new customer-centric decisioning. Mark said that initially customers are focused on things like prioritization of calls or service issues, next best action. But he sees the potential for these AI technologies to really change how people work – enhancing the way people work – but this requires companies use these technologies appropriately.

H&R Block came up next to talk about how they are using Watson and cognitive to change the way they provide tax advice to customers. The Watson component drives a natural language interview, is trained on the tax code to spot deductions and then makes additional suggestions for future changes that will help. A second screen engages the client directly, enabling an integrated conversation around the data being gathered. Interestingly the staff using the software have found it engaging and feel like they are on the cutting edge, especially since they branded it with Watson. Watson, of course, is continuing to learn what works and what does not. They are looking into how to extend it from the in person interviews to the online business and to customer support.

Royal Bank of Canada came on stage to discuss the move to mobile – to a digital experience -in banking. All this requires a focus on the cloud, on building new capabilities on the cloud, to deliver the agility and pervasiveness that are needed. A microservices architecture creates “lego blocks” that can be easily integrated and deployed rapidly. This speeds development but it also changes the way things are built. And this takes more than just training, it requires certification, experiences that move them up the curve, ongoing commitment. This matters because mobile is on the verge of overtaking online banking as an interaction. Online banking used to be one release a year, now it (and the mobile apps) do at least 6.

Ginni wrapped up with a great conversation with Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, and how IBM is helping them train a million girls to code. Very cool program and some great opportunities and ideas being generated. Lovely to hear some teens talking working with cloud, AI, APIs and all the rest. And very funny that they had to explain who IBM was to their friends 🙂


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