Post #41: Thinking – still in fashion

Any business with 108 years of history deserves listening to. Further, any business that has been the top recipient of patents in the US for the last 26 consecutive years deserves even more attention. The company in question? IBM. We were lucky enough to spend the morning at IBM’s ‘Think Summit’ a rolling global roadshow thathas now come to London. IBM describes the event as “an annual festival of innovation,” a chance to meet everyone from executives to developers. Our three key take-aways follow – 

1: The cloud opportunity remains significant: The keynote speech at the conference was given by the Head of IBM’s UK and Irish business, Bill Kelleher. He highlighted how just 20% of corporate workloads have been currently migrated to cloud environments. “Chapter 2”, as IBM calls it, relates to how the much bigger remaining bulk should be moved over. IBM believes that the paradigm which will drive further cloud growth is founded on ‘containerisation.’ What this means to the layperson is that developers need only build once and then they can deploy anywhere; with any cloud provider. Think of the analogy of a shipping container and its multi-modality. Such an approach matters since, per IBM, the average business currently works with between 5 and 15 cloud providers, utilising different capabilities for different applications. Trust and agility can help promote simplification and cloud growth.

2: Mind the buzz words: The message from everyone with whom we spoke was that terms such as AI (artificial intelligence), blockchain and IOT (the internet of things) were generally overused and hence misunderstood, particularly among businesses seeking to implement such solutions. As James Smith, Director of Digital at Nationwide, a large UK financial organisation and an IBM customer put it, advanced technological deployments are more about “augmenting” than “replacing” humans. We found it notable that while 83% of businesses view AI as a strategic opportunity, 81% of them do not understand which data are required to make this a reality (per IBM).

3: Technology can do good: Guest speaker at the Think Summit was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, an English celebrity chef and TV personality. He made an impassioned speech about food wastage, the negative impact of plastic pollution and the case for increased recycling – all topics which matter to us when we considering future trends. Importantly, however, he highlighted how “a big part of the solution lies in some very smart technological thinking.” Examples cited include better algorithms for managing fishing quotas, improved supermarket supply chain management and smart waste identification systems.


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