What happens in Vegas…

Posted on 13 Apr 2011 by The Manufacturer

IBM’s Impact 2011 is a place where IT inspires and challenges firms. Roberto Priolo shares the latest news from Las Vegas.

There is no doubt Americans know how to put on a show, and IBM is no different. Celebrating its 100th birthday, the IT giant has invited over 8,000 delegates to its Impact 2011 event in Las Vegas, held this week.

A bit of the city’s razzle-dazzle was brought on stage at the opening session of Impact on Monday morning, hosted by comedian Larry Miller and used to launch some of IBM’s most important new offerings.

The company’s message is that we are living in a world where customers have more power than ever before. They expect easy and quick access to information, and an efficient service. They want to be able, for example, to place an order using their smartphones and then be able to track it at any given time.

Technology led to an empowered customer, and businesses need to respond to this new challenge by re-inventing themselves.

IBM knows a thing or two about re-invention. Over the past century, the company has invented the bar code, helped creating the airline ticketing system, contributed to the US space programme, built PCs. Now, it develops IT solutions for companies that want to stay competitive in an increasingly complex marketplace.

If manufacturers want to survive in this new business environment, they are going to have to change the way they interact with their customers and with their suppliers.

Craig Hayman, general manager, Industry Solutions, said: “It is very easy to go online and get a review of the latest mobile phone or pair of shoes. It is not as easy to find customers’ feedback on a generator, for example. The most detailed description one such product in most cases is an EDI listing its characteristics. Manufacturers need to orientate themselves around the customer.”

Among the solutions unvelied at Impact, the one that most interests manufacturers is probably Smarter Commerce, dedicated to helping businesses swiftly adapt to rising customer demand in today’s digitally transformed B2B and B2C marketplaces.

Last year, IBM invested in bringing in new capabilities, and acquired a number of companies. Sterling Commerce was one of them: its contribution was fundamental in the development of Smarter Commerce, a new market that IBM estimates will grow to $20bn in software alone by 2015.

“Customers use social networks, mobile devices, websites and influencers to make buying decisions today,” said Hayman. “These businesses must connect to these customers where and how they prefer to buy to be successful. At the same time, they need to make sure they have the means of effectively managing their supplier and trading partner network to ensure they have the products at the right time and place to meet this new customer demand.”

Other Smarter Commerce software offerings include advanced analytics, cloud computing, cross-channel commerce, social business and supply chain optimisation and execution.

Success stories of companies are being showcased at Impact, day after day. IBM’s clients are, not surprisingly, at the centre of attention, and the event is proving to be a perfect place for them to share experiences and learn from peers.

Las Vegas and its tacky, over-luxurious hotels may still be outside of The Palazzo’s conference centre, and yet the only thing reminding me of where I am is the casino I have to cross every morning to reach the Conference. Come to think of it, though, it may just be that I have my head in the Cloud… er, clouds.