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THINK 2018 Keynote: Putting Smart To Work


Ginni Rometty kicks off the main event with her opening keynote focusing on putting smart to work. Her premise is that everything could be changing now because business and technology architectures are changing at the same time – something that does not happen very often. The opportunity is for exponential change across all businesses thanks to the combination of data and AI. And she further argues that the fact that so much of the data that is needed is INSIDE companies makes it possible for established companies to compete – to disrupt and not just be disrupted.

Digital Platforms are the key to this. She emphasized that multiple platforms are going to matter -no-one is going to use just one. These platforms will allow you to embed intelligence in every process across the organization.  She feels that AI is going to be in combination with people when it is used most effectively. And she encourages companies to go on offense – to use this intelligence to  not just fix things but to really grow exponentially. Plus IBM’s business model is not to monetize their clients data but to help their clients do so.

Social disruption is possible too – everyone needs to focus on trust, jobs/skills and inclusion. If AI is a complement to human intelligence then IBM thinks that all jobs will be disrupted – some will be eliminated, some will be created, all will be changed.

Lots of announcements coming she says around cloud, especially making it easy to integrate private cloud into public ones, around strategic partners, and around Watson, especially around making it easier to use Watson and embed it in work.

Customers up next to help reinforce Ginny’s points. Verizon CEO first talking about 5G, about strategic partners in the API economy. In particular they want to build better ecosystems around their core transmission capability. He also emphasized the importance of data management and trust, especially for a network. Key point – building a platform but partnering to build things on top of it.

Maersk – one of the world’s largest container companies – came up next to talk about how they worked with IBM to use blockchain to disrupt the way shipping works. Shipping companies are coming on board to digitize the way they share information about containers and vessels/vehicles. Using blockchain to make it easier to share and update information in a trusted way. And the organizations participating include government agencies, insurance, ports and much more. A good example of the value of making an open platform not just a company one.

RBC – Royal Bank of Canada – came up next. One of the biggest changes, the CEO says, is the way people look for the financial services they need – they go online where before they would have come to a bank branch. Mobile and internet payment platforms mean that people don’t see the brand any more – they set the card up in an app once. And mobile is changing the way they run their back office systems. All of this puts pressure on their ability to develop everything – especially AI – so they are partnering and moving to cloud. And of course because its money you can’t just push something out there and see if it works – people want it fast but they want it secure and reliable too. In particular, RBC sees using AI to really improve customer service and customer engagement.

Ginny came back to re-emphasize that this an inflection point as simultaneous business architecture and technology architecture changes create a once in a lifetime opportunity to become “an incumbent disrupter”.