Re-imagine IBM

IBM Cognitive Cooking truck

Last December, when I started telling friends that I would be joining IBM as a  full-time employee, I received some mixed responses. Of course, all were well-wishing but some came with quizzical looks and the question “IBM? I couldn’t imagine you at IBM!”

It turns out that the question was based on a view about me as a communicator, and about IBM and what the company does that was out of date. That view was based on what IBM largely was in the late 20th century and turn of the 21st whose business embraced hardware (think of mainframe computers, bringing personal computing into the modern era with the invention of the IBM PC, and the venerable IBM ThinkPad laptop), software (think of Lotus Notes in particular) and a lot of other services.

That was also a time when nearly everyone in business (especially enterprise business) wore a suit (and tie for men). Especially IBM.

Wind forward to where we are now in the 21st century and the IBM of today is a very different enterprise. No longer just a hardware, software, services business, IBM is on a journey of significant re-invention, now emerging as a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company. Watson – the technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data – is the apogee of this re-invention.

It’s still a big company – over 377,000 direct employees, operations in more than 175 countries, and worldwide annual revenues of almost $82 billion according to the 2015 annual report. But today, it’s far from the monolithic enterprise it was.

So, what does IBM do today? Well, check the photo at the top of this page. “Cognitive cooking” is one thing. Seriously. Chef Watson can give you recipes. You can buy the book.

This is but one example of what CEO Ginni Rometty often speaks of as cognitive business. From her state-of-the-business summary in the 2015 annual report:

As important as “becoming digital” is to our clients, it has become clear that it is not the destination. Rather, digital business is converging with a new kind of digital intelligence – what you will recognize as Watson. We call this Cognitive Business. Cognitive Business simultaneously speaks to clients about the coming era and explains the IBM that is now emerging.

And the IBM that is now emerging is very well presented in this excellent new video IBM’s communicators produced, uploaded to YouTube last week:

This video addresses one of the more common questions many of us receive every day from people outside of the company: You used to sell PCs, hard drives… what do you do now? In less than 2 minutes, the video effectively shifts the focus from where we’ve been to the new IBM emerging — how our cognitive solutions and cloud platform technologies are transforming industries from healthcare, education, and retail to fashion, travel, and weather.

Turn up the volume, hit the full-screen button and learn:

Dear friends, this is why I joined IBM.


Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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