This week at IBM InterConnect 2017, IBM repeatedly stressed the way it wants to differentiate the IBM Cloud from competitors’ cloud platforms: through cognitive and data management services.
Given the amount of time, money and people IBM’s put into transforming Watson from a gameshow-playing computer into a toolkit of component learning-system services, it’s probably no surprise that IBM is stewing the secret sauce for its cloud platform from Watson’s blood.
This is about far more than just seeing investments through, though. As I’ve said many times over the past couple of years, a Digital strategy is a data strategy. It’s easy to get fixated, when thinking about digital transformation, on the technology elements you might employ: cloud platforms, mobile technologies, social networks, etc etc. It’s also easy to get fixated on a shift in software development approach to one based on agile, devops and lean startup thinking as being the central plank of your transformation. You ignore the value of data in all of this at your peril. As the above article says: a real digital strategy has to examine the role of data intensely.
IBM is choosing solid ground – not just in terms of how it differentiates from cloud platform competitors, but also in how it meets the requirements of organisations as they start to properly embrace the opportunities, challenges and risks that digital transformation brings.
Yet there is also a danger here. As I also made clear in that 2014 article, focusing only on how to wrangle data and extract insights from it is to only focus on one part of a larger picture.
Organisations at the leading edge of driving value from digital transformation are building platforms that enable them to create a tight feedback loop between three kinds of activities: build new business-technology capabilities quickly and iteratively; get insights into those capabilities in operation – to understand what’s working and where there are opportunities to improve; and use those insights to change quickly and with confidence.
So even though Watson is perhaps the linchpin in IBM’s cloud platform play, IBM mustn’t overplay its hand. Other assets also getting significant airtime at IBM InterConnect – including Bluemix and IBM’s hybrid integration portfolio – need to be clearly highlighted as key elements of IBM’s strategic platform, as are ‘heritage’ technologies like IBM Business Process Manager (BPM) and Operational Decision Management (ODM).