What IBM Wants you to Know About the Next Digital Revolution

By: Stephanie Porfiris, April 26 2021

Watch the full conversation here 👇

Type “digital transformation” into Google, and you see 968,000,000 results. 

Large and small firms alike are working to modernize and embrace digital transformation, but with such an abundance of information available, how are companies supposed to know how to best utilize these disruptive new technologies?

With a million decisions to make, and a seemingly infinite well of resources to draw from, firms are constantly at risk of taking a wrong turn, and potentially reaping consequences for years to come. 

Choosing a faulty digital security system to house client information poses the risk of having sensitive data leaked which, as we know, can completely destroy consumer trust in a brand.

Understandably, that creates a sense of fear. But failure to adopt new digital solutions is just as scary. 

The stakes are high — but this is not a hopeless cause.

IBM president Jim Whitehurst sat down with Elevate CEO Razor Suleman to explore the delta between the digital status quo and the potential impact of the technology – where we are right now and where we can go in the future.

As the digital tidal wave gains momentum, IBM is helping companies make decisions today that will maximize prosperity in the future. 

And the first pro tip offered by the tech titan has to do with the most underutilized technology of modern times.

The promise of cloud computing has gone largely unfulfilled.

Cloud computing was supposed to change everything.

Providing both convenience and security (coveted characteristics in the digital space), it has the potential to benefit consumers and enterprises in big ways. 

But 80% of applications in data have yet to make the move to the cloud.

“Cloud architectures and the cloud’s way of working allows you to innovate faster. So why have 20% or less of workloads actually moved there?” says Whitehurst.

Here, Whitehurst elaborated further on the gap between the actual utilization and potential impact of cloud computing:

Digital transformation cannot be properly maximized if cloud computing continues to be overlooked and, in order for consumers to fully reap the benefits, enterprises must first clear the path.

Companies are under-utilizing cloud computing for two reasons.

Reason #1: Dollars

According to Whitehurst, firms can allocate their budget in one of two ways. 

Option 1: Take an existing application and tweak it to fit a cloud-based environment. 

Option 2: Build completely new applications with cloud computing front of mind, generating feature velocity and improving the digital elevation of the company as a whole.

Whitehurst, like IBM as a whole, is a staunch believer in the second method, as pivoting an existing solution can often leave to unsatisfying ends.

“You can spend money and add no business functionality,” he explains.

Reason #2: Partnerships

Enterprises are often intimidated to harness the power of the cloud on their own. They don’t believe they have the capacity, infrastructure, or knowledge to maximize the new opportunities presented. 

So, instead of attempting to unlock the digital transformation, many companies step away from the scene altogether.

But money and partnerships are just one half of the equation.

According to Whitehurst, IBM has two qualitative elements that set the company miles ahead of competitors: an extraordinary culture around client success, and reverence for incredible engineers. 

However, even an industry leader like IBM has to make adjustments to accommodate the new wave of digital transformation, due to an inherent catch-22:

Leading companies like IBM tend to be very solutions-oriented.

Solutions often require eliminating variance.

Variance is the key to innovation.

So how can companies navigate this contradictory equation? The answer, according to Whitehurst, is balance.

The company must ask itself, “how do we drive a faster pace of innovation where it makes sense?” he inquires. 

For example, approaching operating systems from the lens of stability and moderation, but allowing an acceptable margin of risk on the dev-ops platform. 

Whitehurst also acknowledges the power and influence of company culture.

“Culture’s an output, not an input. Culture is an output of your management systems and your leadership behaviours.”

Case Study: Who is doing this right?

When it comes to the gold standard of maximizing cloud computing, Whitehurst is a big fan of how CIBC is running the show. 

CIBC uses the power of IBM’s Watson AI assistant to help clients pay bills, transfer funds, pay credit cards, and connect to financial experts.

“The key with those technologies is to back up and say, ‘I have this set of core data, I have this set of customer pathways, how do I bring those pieces together in an effective way?’”

Through the power of cloud computing, CIBC has brought those pieces together in a meaningful and powerful way.

There are three things your team can do.

Analysis paralysis is a real thing, and the pressure of potentially making a wrong decision has stopped many firms from embracing these innovations altogether.

So instead of being intimated by all of the potential resources and solutions out there, here are a few things your team can do:

1. Embrace the hybrid cloud.

If the digital tidal wave has disrupted so much with only 20% enrollment, imagine how different the world will look when cloud computing becomes the default. Taking advantage of this revolutionary technology will change everything for you and your consumers. 

2. Don’t go it alone.

Connect with experts. If you’re hesitant to explore the new space on your own, embolden your team by partnering with organizations that have already embraced the power of the cloud.

3. Get culture right.

As Whitehurst said, tone starts at the top. Without leadership support, the spirit of innovation needed to foster large-scale disruption will be noticeably (and disastrously) absent.

For more information: 

– Subscribe to Jim’s blog on LinkedIn

– Register for THINK

– Check on the latest developments from IBM