Now that the dust has settled on IBM's Smarter Commerce Summit in Madrid, analysts are beginning to offer insight into what some of Big Blue's announcements really mean for cloud computing and the enterprises that are rolling forward with the technology.
IBM announced new software, dubbed IBM Commerce on Cloud, designed to improve data sharing and automate complex marketing and supply chain processes in the cloud. The idea is to help marketers improve customer service, increase marketing effectiveness and reduce operational costs.
IBM is in a unique position to provide value as it manages massive amounts of data and client transactions in cloud environments, including more than $100 billion in commerce transactions a year and 4.5 million daily client transactions. But is the story too complex to sell to its target audience?
A Multi-Platform Cloud Strategy
IBM Commerce on Cloud promises the benefits of cloud economies, such as low upfront capital investment, pay-for-use models, and instant and ongoing scalability. While purchase motivations are different for B2B and B2C companies, IBM noted, their sales and marketing programs are becoming virtually identical.
IBM also improved several of its on-cloud collaboration networks in a move to accelerate collaboration and digital information sharing across demand and supply processes to offset the unpredictable nature of commerce. Big Blue also announced new pricing and trade promotion collaboration capabilities for DemandTec.
Finally, IBM is offering a new certified Digital Data Exchange Partner program that works to allow marketers to manage their marketing, promotions and customer behavioral analytics. The exchange also includes a "gold tag" approach designed to assure enterprises that analytics and marketing partners are all operating off the same, relevant data.
SmartCloud: A Smart Bet
We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT who attended the Smarter Commerce Summit, to get his thoughts on the event and what it means for the competitive landscape. He told us IBM is quite vocal about the value of its multi-platform cloud strategy approach that is, by definition, a significantly more complex, harder-to-tell story than narratives that focus on a single commodity hardware platform.
"It could be argued that SmartCloud constitutes the first truly cross-brand IBM solution," King said. "That means shaping effective customer-facing communications around these products and services will be logistically challenging."
But at same time, he advised, since no similar effort has been attempted before, getting company employee buy-in may be problematic. In other words, along with inherent complexities around SmartCloud solutions and communications, IBM may face thorny cultural issues along the way.
"These concerns do not make SmartCloud a non-starter or suggest that difficulties will be impossible to overcome. It is likely to boil down to a matter of effective managerial persuasion -- leadership, in other words -- from both the senior executives, whose fingerprints are all over IBM's SmartCloud strategy, and the VPs and GMs who will be leading the charge into the marketplace," King said.
"That group had its feet solidly on the ground at last week's Cloud Innovation Analyst Forum in Chicago, and from the looks of things so far, IBM's SmartCloud is a smart bet."