By Jason Bloomberg
Under CEO Ginni Rometty’s leadership, IBM has been undergoing its riskiest transformation since the Gerstner era. With massive bets on artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing, Big Blue is essentially using its massive inertia and deep pockets as the bluest chip in tech to drive innovation forward.
After a few years questioning IBM’s ability to execute on this world-changing vision, I trekked to the IBM Think 2018 conference – the company’s largest conference ever, now that it has rolled its InterConnect, Edge, World of Watson, and PartnerWorld conferences into one massive Las Vegas shindig.
The central lesson of the show: while IBM’s bets are both massive and risky, it has chosen its bets wisely – hoping to get into the ground floor of world-changing trends that each promise to follow Moore’s Law patterns of exponential growth.
True, IBM still carries the baggage of legacy products and business models, and the Big Blue battleship is slow to turn, but if any of its bets pay off, IBM will once again be at the top of its game.
Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM
According to Ginni Rometty, the business and technology worlds are both at inflection points. “It happens every 25 years,” she says. “It has the potential to change everything.”
The greatest challenge at such times: whether a company will be disrupted or become the disruptor. As a large company, IBM realizes that being on the disrupted side of this equation is par for the course – a pattern it cannot afford to follow.
Rometty’s strategy, therefore, is to reshape IBM into what she calls “the incumbent disruptor.”
This catchphrase is more than simple marketing hype – it’s a challenge, for IBM personnel as well as its customers. After all, ‘incumbent’ and ‘disruptor’ are often at odds, as new, smaller firms disrupt the older, larger incumbents.
IBM seeks to change this equation – and the key is AI, in the form of IBM Watson. “In this era, many can win. If you ask why, the answer is the data,” Rometty explains. “When you learn exponentially, you become the disruptor, instead of the disrupted.”
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