Recently, I read an article in Fortune about IBM CEO Sam Palmisano that stressed his role in getting IBM’s Smarter Planet project underway, an initiative that aims to change the way the world solves its problems. About the same time, I received a press release from IBM regarding its new Smarter Commerce program.
Subsequently, I interviewed two IBMers, Paul Papas, who is the global leader for Smarter Commerce at IBM Global Business Services, and Bruce Anderson, who is general manager for IBM Global Electronics Industry.
You may recognize Anderson’s name since he recently wrote a piece for us on Watson and showed how this computing system might be used, not just to crush former Jeopardy! champions, but also to help out the electronics industry (see “Watson, The Jeopardy! Champion Computer, Can Help You Too” at www.electronicdesign.com).
The Smarter Commerce Initiative
IBM has announced both new software and the creation of the industry’s first consulting practice—1200 consultants to start with—dedicated to the emerging category of smarter commerce. This initiative draws on IBM’s WebSphere Commerce platform and a $2.5 billion investment in on-premise and cloud-based software from its acquisitions of Sterling Commerce, Unica, and Coremetrics.
Papas said Smarter Commerce is 100% a part of Smarter Planet. Smarter Commerce services and software offerings include four major pieces. First, a global business services consulting practice will offer IBM’s deep insights into smarter commerce.
Next, cloud analytics software will enable companies to monitor their brand’s presence in real time through social media channels to better assess the effectiveness of new services and product offerings, fine-tune marketing campaigns, and create sales initiatives in real-time.
Third is software that automates a company’s ability to design and deliver a personalized shopping experience as well as campaigns and promotions for new services and products online or through mobile devices. Finally, IBM University will provide educational resources for sellers and partners to build the job skills required of the smarter commerce marketplace.
IBM sees its clients needing help in three areas: customer value strategy, customer insight, and customer partner engagement. Papas called these areas the three pillars of Smarter Commerce.
Customer value strategy is the strategic consulting work IBM provides to help clients figure out all the changes going on today with respect to technology, the rapid digitization of information, and the explosion of social media and mobile devices, as well as mobile commerce—basically, all the consulting services needed to navigate a rapidly evolving landscape.
Advanced customer insights focuses on advanced analytics, predictive analytics, and mathematical models to drive customer insight and customer segmentation to a different level.
“Most of our clients in electronics have been one layer removed from their end customer. With the fact that many products are now IP-enabled, companies now have a daily relationship with the end user,” Anderson said.
“In other words, there’s an awful lot of information available now that companies have been dying to get for quite some time,” he said. “But what do you do with all that data? How do you use it to up-sell? How do you use it to maintain a service relationship? Essentially, how do you use the data to improve your relationship with the consumer?”
The third pillar of customer partner engagement means putting strategies into action via IBM’s software portfolio. Papas mentioned applications like Sterling Commerce, Coremetrics and WebSphere Commerce and Portal technologies.
A New Paradigm for Design
Customer critiques are key to the design process, Anderson noted, especially in consumer electronics. Taking in all of that feedback—which can be direct to the manufacturer, but more likely to exist on social media sites, in the blogosphere, or other places—is an awesome undertaking.
People want to collaborate, not necessarily on what’s wrong, but on what they want. Companies that can capture that data and act on it can change the way they do their future designs. This really helps to kick off the requirements process for the next version of the software or hardware or even make adjustments mid-stream.