Design-thinking at IBM

The Sunday New York Times published this article on IBM’s new way of thinking that is worth reading.

The article states – The company is well on its way to hiring more than 1,000 professional designers, and much of its management work force is being trained in design thinking. “I’ve never seen any company implement it on the scale of IBM,” said William Burnett, executive director of the design program at Stanford University. “To try to change a culture in a company that size is a daunting task.”

If you ask people inside IBM for a design-thinking success story, they are likely to mention Bluemix, a software tool kit for making cloud applications. In just one year, Bluemix went from an idea to a software platform that has attracted many developers, who are making apps used in industries as varied as consumer banking and wine retailing. In the past, building that kind of technology ecosystem would have taken years.

Software developers are just as important as customers to IBM, since both groups create markets. “We wanted to redefine IBM for developers,” said Damion Heredia, an IBM vice president who leads the Bluemix operation. When a free test version of Bluemix was offered in February 2014, Mr. Heredia figured it might attract 2,000 developers in the first few months. It reached that number within a week, and a commercial version was introduced that July. Today, Bluemix is signing up 10,000 new users a week.

The new mantra at IBM is speed, speed and speed. The design-oriented approach is promised to yield the agility they need in re-inventing themselves. Being 104 years old, IBM has changed course and re-invented itself may times. Now the focus seems to be cloud computing, analytics, and big data. The emphasis from hardware has waned shifting more into software and service. They are also being successful in recruiting young graduates from top schools like Stanford, when these kids often think Google is an old company (and IBM is a historic relic). Design leadership from people like Phil Gilbert is bringing fundamental changes in this metamorphosis.

It’s worth watching how fast IBM switches its culture!

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2 responses to “Design-thinking at IBM

  1. John and I were some of those IBM wild ducks during the early 1980’s during the evolution of relational technology in IBM. IBM opened the architecture of its z/OS DB2 database management system to 300 third party application vendors. Many of those third party vendors such as Cognos, Candle (Omegamon), etc. are vital components of IBM’s current software inventory. So opening Bluemix to developers is not surprising to me. Think about Watson application development opportunities. TJ Watson Jr. always encourage Wild Ducks to fly in IBM and Bluemix proves they are still flying.

    Nate Murphy

  2. Nate, nice comment buddy…brings back fond memories of our days at IBM while creating a new market for DB2….as I see all the buzz around Big Data, many are old ideas such as key-value store (30 years old)…its all Back to the Future…

    Jnan Dash

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