A New Year, A New Leader

Ginni RomettyTwo days ago, Ginni Rometty took over the reins of the leadership of IBM. I’ve met her and heard her speak several times in the past, and I’ve always been impressed with her folksy style and her ability to tell a story. So I jumped at the chance to attend the town hall meeting she scheduled at our Littleton campus. Who wouldn’t want to hear the plans of their new leader.

She didn’t disappoint. She had that same approachable, conversational style that I’ve always liked, and she also laid out a set of organizational beliefs that will drive us over the coming year. I’ll do my best to summarize these down as best as I can:

  1. We are entering into a shift in how people and businesses use technology, and we are only just at the verge of it. This new era of computing is more cognitive, insight-driven, mobile, and real-time. Of course, IBM has been talking about this for some time with the Smarter Planet message, but it is more than just applying old thinking to new ideas. It is really about a shift in how organizations view their IT landscape.
  2. The IBM client is changing. You can look at this one is several ways. First of all, this new era of computing is forcing our clients to change the way they approach IT along with the tools they use. Second, much of IBM’s growth is in smaller organizations in growth markets and major markets. This is a change from the traditional large enterprise focus. And third, much of our growth has been attributed to our embracing of the business side of our customers in addition to the IT side. This growth into vertically-aligned business solutions has brought us to a new client within the organizations we work with, and closer to the forefront of the new computing requirements.
  3. The IBMer will need to evolve. A couple of years ago I attended a workshop on the brand of IBM. One of the interesting things I learned was that the true brand identity of IBM is the IBMer. As we progress in this new era of computing, and as our clients change, the IBMer needs to change with it. In my corporate service corps assignment in Poland, I think I internalized this change – my real value in that assignment, working in an environment where I had little or no experience or knowledge, was to be able to call on the power of IBM. During that assignment, my team reached out to a network of IBMers who could help us with ideas and experience that made an impact in Katowice. I think this is what Ginni meant by evolve – we need to become better at networking and collaborating in order to have the biggest impact on our customers.

One of the things that struck me in Ginni’s presentation was a reference she made to something that Fareed Zakaria had said to her after an interview. He said, “What Apple is doing for the consumer, IBM is doing for business leaders.” I think this is very insightful, particularly in his choice of “business leaders” rather than just “businesses”. If we continue to drive toward that goal, I think IBM will pull away from the perception of being just one of the interchangeable tech giants, toward being something more essential to our customers.

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