Live @ IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit Madrid: IBM’s Mike Rhodin On Insight-Driven Computing


IBM vice president Mike Rhodin hit the stage this morning at the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit, with presenter emcee Jon Briggs introducing Mike as “the man who eats analytics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.’

IBM senior vice president Mike Rhodin explains to the gathered audience in Madrid how the Smarter Commerce initiative was a logical and inevitable offshoot of IBM’s smarter planet campaign, one driven by the need for more insight- and action-driven analytics.

Rhodin’s talk was entitled “Transform Your Business Around the Customer,” again with the central theme of the Summit that if more businesses wanted to keep theirs, they would increasingly have to pivot their business around customer needs.

Thanks to Turbotodd

Rhodin indicated that he wanted to take a step backward from yesterday’s more outcome-driven discussion, and instead talk about “some of the foundational ideas that led us to Smarter Commerce.”

He explained that four years ago, IBM started a conversation about having a “smarter planet,” one increasingly instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent, and that since that time, “analytics emerged as a centerpiece across our entire portfolio.”

Rhodin joked that the financial crisis’ onslaught wasn’t the best time to launch a new marketing campaign, but then explained smarter planet wasn’t that, that it was a signal call heralding a new age of computing. That it was, in fact, the beginning of a movement that was going to happen “no matter what else happened in the world.”

The change this movement would bring was startling. We saw the social media embraced in both the social, political, and, increasingly business realms, and we saw that the physical world was about to become digitized…to some degree, because of the crisis.

Ergo, the world, and organizations, needed to better understand systemic risk in advance of its rearing its ugly head. Hence, the need to instrument the world around us.

“Information was flowing around the planet at a breakneck speed,” Rhodin articulated, “and so there was another form of input to make business decisions that became apparent.”

“We also instrumented the virtual world,” he went on, “whereby understanding the sentiment of your employees, your partners, and other constituents was critical.”

Yet all this new data was overwhelming many. “It was growing at such a speed that people couldn’t read or process it with traditional means, and so that’s where analytics started to play a key role, and served as a foundation for Smarter Commerce.”

“This began what we’re classifying as the next generation of computing,” Rhodin went on to explain. “We went through the age of ‘tabulating’ — we’re now entering the age of “information-based” computing.”

In this age, business outcomes are increasingly insight-driven, solutions are more intelligent, and technology is designed to be more and more cognitive.

“It’s not about understanding what happens, but rather, what you do about it, what actions you take,” Rhodin concluded.

With this explosion of data from a hyper-connected society of empowered consumers, we “must extract insight from our most important assets – employees and customers – through smarter analytics,” and the challenge, then, is to address the need for “volume, velocity, and veracity” to help find the right data amidst all those needles amidst all those haystacks.

And it’s a big series of haystacks and needles. The data generated between the dawn of civilization and 2003 is now created every two days! Rhodin explained.

He went on: “These next gen systems are creating opportunities in IT we haven’t seen in 50 years. But now, with all this information and analytics, and the march of globalization, we can start to automate areas of business we could never automate before. We can start to automate and make more intelligent the front-office areas of our business. Chief Financial Officers, CMOs, head of sales, HR…we can turn HR from a reactive to proactive process.”

“We’ve identified a new pattern of automation across industries, one whereby we can instrument, interconnect, and analyze more and more data about the world, and in the process unlock more and more valuable insight,” he explained. “We are infusing intelligent into the fabric of organizational processes. This shift is as profound as the last evolution was to transaction processing and back office automation.”

The shift being, of course, a continual transition whereby today’s analytics evolves into tomorrow’s cognitive computing capability, where Watson-style technologies utilizing natural language processing and hypothesis-generating and adaptation and learning systems virtually reinvent the IT future.

“We can remake parts of industries that have been untouched by IT in the past,” Rhodin concluded.

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