Malcolm Gladwell

Insights from 2014 IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference – Part 4: Agility in Transition

This is the final report that also includes part one, part two and part three in the series of articles regarding my Insights from 2014 IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference.

The final day of PWLC included more compelling IT solutions news and updates from IBM speakers, but the highlight of the day was the speech by author Malcolm Gladwell (more on that in a bit).

BgXuh-9CAAERhgTThe closing general session was kicked off by Dan Pelino (GM Public Sector) whose “Smarter Cities” presentation included an interesting development/perspective: Cities are increasingly competing for people’s time, talents, and treasures. He went on to describe a very fascinating trend … City economies across the globe are in transition, and one-third of the monetary needs cities have will come from philanthropy.

Pelino added that an agile economy is driven by people and business value creation, leveraging technology. Furthermore, he indicated that taxing and consumption will no longer fuel the needs of citizens (this comment spurred loud applause from the back of the room!) but rather through citizen based services built on technology innovation.

BgXxdqZCMAAbWf4Next up was a panel discussion on IT channel transformation hosted by Mark Register (VP IBM Software Business Partners). During the discussion, Darren Bibby of IDC said that solution providers need a “Cloud first” strategy to meet customer needs and expectations. This point was driven home further in the subsequent panel discussion led by Claudia Munce (Managing Director IBM Venture Capital Group) on 2014 venture capital insights. Bibby participated in that discussion as well and made it clear that we don’t even talk about Cloud as a differentiator anymore … it’s all about Cloud now.

Malcolm Gladwell

PWLC officially wound down on a high note, a keynote speech by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers including The Tipping Point (also, he has been named one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine and one of the Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers). The theme of his speech was “The Surprising Sources of Advantage.”

Gladwell made an interesting comparison – a mystery versus a puzzle. He mentioned Gregory Treverton, who said that a mystery (too much information) is distinctly different than a puzzle (not enough information). He used the example of the Cuban Missile Crisis (a puzzle to solve; we did not have enough information about the Soviet Union’s intentions, so we want out and gathered more information) versus 9/11 (a mystery to solve; we were overwhelmed with information regarding the possible plans of terrorists and had difficulty making sense of the information).

The Surprising Sources of AdvantageGladwell made the assertion that the big problems we face today are, in fact, mysteries. He said that we need to embrace the world of mysteries and leave the world of puzzles behind. How we make sense of the information we have, the insights we garner through careful and thoughtful analysis, is key to solving the mysteries we face.

He emphasized that mysteries require us to look at systems rather than individual components. We don’t have to be smarter or have more resources, we just need a new worldview regarding decision making, which ties in nicely to one of the key themes of PWLC 2014.

Wrapping Up

Marc Dupaquier then officially closed out the final general session at PWLC, but he shared a very important comment with IBM Business Partners. He said that IBM’s goals are making IBM more nimble, delegating decision making, being more consistent, and doing it all with integrity. Music to this Business Partner’s ears! But I admit I think of Ronald Reagan’s famous quote – “Trust, but verify.” I have no doubt IBM will conduct itself with integrity, but we at Datatrend will join our fellow IBM Business Partners in holding them accountable to the other goals.

I concluded my time at PWLC by attending an Advanced Social Practitioner Workshop, conducted by Profitecture. The folks at Profitecture have been instrumental in my understanding of social business. Paul Gillin led the workshop, and I picked up many new tips to help me be more effective in engaging with customers and partners in the B2B social media realm. I encourage you to check out Paul’s website and blog.

Questions You Asked

We received some requests and questions from some of our customers and partners which they wanted us to address while at PWLC. We wanted to gather the right kind of information that would materially help our customers and partners in their business.

Q: What are the main insights you garnered from PWLC that are useful to our customers and partners?
A: The conference made it clear that both IBM and IBM Business Partners are accelerating the transformation to a more software and services centric model, centered on the big shifts that Ginni Rometty mentioned. IBM is making a significant bet on SoftLayer as a key player in the public and hybrid cloud space. We at Datatrend are working to continue to transform our Cloud practice from primarily a private cloud infrastructure builder to a more comprehensive private and hybrid cloud solutions provider. Our focus is on ensuring that our clients and partners see the benefits of this transformation and derive tangible value from what we provide for them.

Q: How can customers be assured that IBM/Lenovo x86 server technology should be their platform of choice for their mission critical applications?
A: Lenovo is focused on the Intel/x86 space exclusively, and it is clear from their public statements as well as in our conversations with Lenovo executives that they are committed to becoming the very best x86 server/solution provider in the world. Lenovo’s agreement with IBM to bring over all of the IBM intellectual capital – from the developers, to the labs, to the marketing and sales organization – augmented by Lenovo’s talent, adds up to the potential for Lenovo to be best of breed in this space. There is no doubt that customers can feel confident running their mission critical applications on this platform, as they do today with IBM System x and Flex.

Q: We are an ISR (Industry Solution Reseller) partner of Datatrend. How will the Lenovo announcement impact us (as well as other ISVs and MSPs seeking to partner with Datatrend as a provider of IBM/Lenovo solutions)? (NOTE: This question is relevant to our ISV and MSP partners)
A: Datatrend is one of IBM’s top Industry Solution Integrators, providing the IBM infrastructure to support ISV/MSP solutions, often in the form of a fully integrated “appliance.” Most of these type solutions are based upon x86 servers (Flex, System x). We therefore needed the assurance that this program will continue to be supported, and even enhanced, when Lenovo takes over the product lines. After several discussions with many of the top IBM executives (many of whom are planning to move over to Lenovo), the intention is that this program will continue, perhaps even be enhanced by the capabilities which Lenovo brings to the table. Datatrend helped pilot this program for IBM, and we are developing tight relationships with the Lenovo organization as well to ensure that there will be no gaps in the ability to support our ISR partners. We truly expect that ISVs and MSPs will welcome the Lenovo transition, plus we see it helping to increase our partnering opportunities in this space.

Q: The Cloud is changing the way customers buy IT, so why does providing infrastructure solutions still matter?
A: To state the obvious, the Cloud, whether it’s private, public or a hybrid, needs infrastructure to run. As businesses migrate more of their applications and workloads to the Cloud, it will actually make the infrastructure layer even more important. The forecasted growth of the x86 server market is directly linked to the growth of Cloud. We believe that as customers start to look at moving some of their large database and ERP applications/workloads, we will see demand for Power Systems solutions in this space as well. Also, as IDC and other key analysts have indicated, converged infrastructure solutions will play a critical role in delivering efficient Cloud environments in the future. Thus, infrastructure solutions are and will be alive and well going forward.

Q: How would you answer the skepticism from some in the marketplace who see IBM’s recent hardware revenue declines and wonder how long IBM is committed to staying in the hardware business?
A: IBM is pretty emphatic about their commitment to their mainframe, Power Systems, and Storage platforms. The real barometer will be seeing how it pans out over the next 12 to 24 months. IBM needs to see Power System sales stabilize or grow, and the Storage business must grow or it will be marginalized as a niche player. If anyone is positioned for this to occur, it is IBM. It will be enlightening to revisit this question a year from now.

Q: Does IBM plan to continue to advance Power Systems, AIX, and Linux on Power?
A: IBM is clearly and strongly committed to Power Systems and its transformation. While it is generally accepted that most new applications will be deployed on Linux, there is a tremendous install base of loyal AIX users. IBM’s AIX roadmap goes out beyond 2020, and they are putting together strong strategies and tactics to help Power Systems be a player in the Linux world going forward.

Q: What else can customers learn from IBM’s plans and direction?
A: Customers should take a hard look at IBM’s software portfolio which has grown to well over 2,000 applications. Specifically, the portfolio of best-in-class applications related to analytics, cloud and security are enormously relevant to today’s world. Many of these solutions are pinned in the upper right hand corner of their category’s Gartner Magic Quadrant. Datatrend will be focusing on the key software products in the portfolio and certainly will be exposing our customers to IT solutions that can help their businesses grow and be secure in the future.

I hope you found this four-part series on the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference helpful. We at Datatrend are committed to being the best we can be for our customers and partners. As one of IBM’s top partners, Datatrend is well positioned, in terms of our customer base, our ISV/MSP partnering practice, and strong relationships with key IBMers, to leverage the insights and new relationships which resulted from the conference, and put them into practical application.

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