IBM Lab To Show Off Software Goodies to CEOs, CMOs, And CFOs
March 18, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
IT vendors are always trying to impress CEOs and their CIO and CMO underlings because in the world of industrial giants, deals get done at the top-level, not at the bottom-level. Forget for a second that most revolutions in technology were either the wholesale creation of a new market, or came from grassroots movements that were never aimed at toppling incumbent technologies but ended up doing so for organic, rather than central planning, reasons.
And thus, IBM‘s own marketeers are still stuck in this old world, where having advertisements and story placements in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal is far more important to the top brass than reaching out to a broader community. I agree that you have to get the CXOs on board, but in my recent experience, it is the chief marketing officer, if one exists, that has more power than the chief information officer, and from what I hear while chatting with analysts, people are starting to spend more money on the IT budget in the marketing operations than on the rest of the business. Where this all leads, heaven only knows, but there is a lot of money sloshing around for cloud and big data, and the only way to keep the party going is to get the CEO involved and for the CIO to buy into it.
Call me cynical, but that seems to be the real goal of the Customer Experience Lab, announced last week by Big Blue, which is aimed at helping these CXO executives understand mobile technologies, social media, big data, and cloud. They might do better to spend a little time with their kids or grandkids to see how technology is really used and then meet the IBM execs for a round of golf and serious pricing negotiations if they think IBM has the goods to do what Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google already does for people.
I am not for a second suggesting that IBM Research doesn’t have a lot of bright people. I’ve been there, and I didn’t want to leave. (I felt the same way about HP Labs, and while I am thinking about it, Lincoln Labs at MIT. This isn’t about IBM, but about how I feel about science and engineering research.)
To be fair, IBM has more researchers than most companies, and the fact that it is putting 100 researchers in with relevant expertise at the disposal of industry titans, backed by thousands of business consultants, is a lot more focused than the IBM of two decades ago. You know the one that almost died. I think the real reasons to care about the Customer Experience Lab is because it is located in Yorktown Heights and it is fun to wander around and talk to researchers. But this is an elite play, for sure. IBM is not bringing this capability to bear for SMBs or small towns. This special hand-holding is really aimed at the largest corporate and government clients, and in a proper world, even they would have their own people with expertise in these new technologies anyway. You don’t wait for IBM to figure out Hadoop is important and then consume it. You hear about Hadoop and get in on the front end before Big Blue has figured it out.
But maybe I am just being grumpy and cynical on a late Friday night. There’s just too much talk about big data and cloud and mobile and social and how important it is and not enough talk about how normal companies–those that make between $1 million and say $50 million a year–are going to even get IBM’s attention, much less its help.