IBM: BPM and BI take place in "IT without boundaries"

IBM's Nancy Pearson explains how BPM, BI and analytics fit in to the new business IT paradigm.

Nancy Pearson is vice president of business process management (BPM), service-oriented architecture (SOA), WebSphere and cloud marketing at IBM. She has been delivering keynote addresses at the company’s Impact 2011 conferences this year, in Las Vegas and London.

Pearson launched IBM's Linux marketing effort and its governance and risk management programme. She created its first corporate constituent marketing campaigns and community site,sand headed the company’s e-business and “Smarter Planet” initiatives. caught up with her at the the London Impact event in the spring. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

How does BPM integrate with BI and analytics at IBM?

Nancy Pearson: What you will see over time is that BPM will be infused with analytics and collaboration. MDM [master data management] is also critical, underlying all of that. We take the best parts of the technology we acquire and infuse that with our other technologies. We do know that we tend to over-engineer things, so it is important that we demonstrate that we are combining technologies -- as with two things into one with Business Process Manager [WebSphere Lombardi Edition and WebSphere Process Server].

What is IBM aiming to achieve for customers with this Impact conference series?

Pearson: Our major message is transforming for growth, with real business results. So we have a Forbes business leadership track at the conferences. We are working to increase line-of-business attendance, and the broad picture is to enable business and IT to work better together. A lot of our senior IT audience is being expected to grow beyond their technical expertise to understand the business.

Coming out of the economic environment we’ve been in, people are looking to invest to grow, but they need to specific about where. So it’s about going from projects to departments to organisations.

It’s about customers telling their transformation stories. For example, with Caterpillar, there is an 83-year partnership with IBM. Caterpillar’s CIO John Heller said at the Las Vegas conference: “The relationship is priceless.” They gained $60 million savings in warranty and parts [in recent times]. But the impressive thing is that he talks about a journey. So it wasn’t about one implementation. It’s about mutual commitment. We have a similar relationship with Ford, who weathered the downhill in automotive well thanks to their technology investments.

Is there a flagship customer story in the UK?

Pearson: Barclays have a terrific story. Their IT department has built a utility model for different aspects of the infrastructure and services that they provide to the corporation*. In today’s environment, IT needs to make the mental switch to “We are a utility to enable this business to grow.”

This phraseology of agility, utility computing and so on has been around for quite some time. What’s new here?

Pearson: “IT without boundaries” has been one of my favourite ways to describe what IT needs to think about. When you talk about business agility and you think about the old IT application development model -- six months, a year to make a change -- it is counterintuitive. Developments like cloud computing are accelerating the capability to deliver IT without boundaries. It could be the cloud or a third-party service provider. Until recently, we have had too much development in silos and linearity in IT.

Between the economic environment and the changing economics of IT, with SaaS, cloud, pricing monthly -- we’ve got an inflexion point. You will see expectations change around speed and delivery. And if you don’t change where the market needs change, well, that is a fast way to go out of business.

There have been two camps [through the recession] -- those that went into survival mode and those who made tough decisions to invest and innovate. It’s been the latter who have come out with new vision and capability, redefining themselves or getting closer to requirements from their customers.

What has IBM done?

Pearson: We have reinvented ourselves. IBM is 100 this year. Among other things, there is a Day of Service, where IBMers give back to their communities. There’s a new book coming out about our transformation. We clearly had to do that. It was nearly the demise of our company when we took our eye off the ball in the PC era. We’ve gone back to being much more responsive and agile ourselves. All of our dev testing has been moved to the cloud. We are using Cognos to do better targeting and analytics. We now need analytics turnaround in terms of weeks rather than months.

And we acquired Unica to redo all of our marketing processes.

Is it an issue for IBM that your customers are greying? Are you having to reach out afresh to a younger, decision-maker demographic?

Pearson: I think in some markets, where there has not been an infusion of new skills, that would be a concern. We are seeing the retirement of people who understand the mainframe. There is some of that. But at the same time we are starting to see people entering the workforce who have studied BPM and SOA. It’s not a big concern. We are closely associated with universities -- for example, at Yale School of Management regarding analytics for MBA students. And software development for mobile devices is a whole new area that intrigues younger generations. A few years ago no layperson would have mentioned the word application!

You talk about transcending silos in IT, but isn’t that just impossible given the requirement to specialize?

Pearson: There is clearly specialization, but what is that evolving to? Think about cloud computing. That encompasses all the specialities that exist in a traditional infrastructure, but not in the same way. Dynamic provisioning that is automated does not require the skills needed 10 years ago. There needs to be specialization, because no one can know everything there is to know in IT. You still need people who know about data warehousing, DB2 and so on. But what do you call a cloud expert or a mobile expert?

* This is with reference to a presentation given by Kenny Marritt, Barclays global head of middleware, global infrastructure and service delivery, titled “Transforming Barclays Global Middleware” at IBM’s UK Impact 2011 conference in London, 19 May 2011. He said the “utility strategy with IBM was akin to an electricity provider” and was governed by a reusability principle. His team built Barclays’ first utility in 2009 and is currently building “four or five others -- workflow utilities, database utilities and so on.”

He has more than 250 staff across the UK, India, Singapore and the Philippines who provide middleware infrastructure to meet the application hosting and integration needs of the retail and commercial banking businesses of Barclays.

Read more on Business process management (BPM)