IBM Amplify 2017: The Business of What’s Next

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IBM Amplify 2017: The Business of What’s Next

By Joe Skorupa - 04/06/2017

Since you can go to a retail tech conference every day of the year, the goal is to curate the options and attend events that enable you to remain current with fast-moving trends and ahead of emerging developments. IBM Amplify definitely falls into this category.  

I spent some at ShopTalk 2017 in Las Vegas a little more than a week ago (See my blog about ShopTalk here.) and also traveled down the casino-spangled Strip to IBM Amplify.

The two events were completely different. At ShopTalk the buzzy, upbeat mood is driven by an attendee mix of entrepreneurs, marketers and biz-dev dealmakers. At the IBM event, the excitement is based on being among an elite crowd of big-business leaders who are getting a peak at the way the world will unfold in the next few years.

The biggest news for retailers coming out of the event is that IBM has re-envisioned its retail software portfolio and relaunched it as the IBM Watson Customer Engagement platform. As the name implies this is a marriage between Watson Cognitive capabilities and deep expertise in such retail-specific areas as marketing, commerce and supply chain. The end result is an end-to-end digital experience platform.

Many of the retail capabilities were aggregated through acquisition of such companies as Cognos, Sterling Commerce, Coremetrics, Netezza, DemandTec, Tealeaf Technology, Silverpop Systems, Unica and others. What IBM has done now is organize and fully integrate these disparate technologies into a cohesive, interoperable platform built around IBM’s strength in cognitive computing.

Retailers are not justs getting the same-old, same-old from Sterling Commerce, for example, which may have been brushed up and polished to appear fresh. Instead, what retailers are getting are interoperability and such built-in capabilities as:

  • Predictive customer analytics that monitors behavioral and attribute data of customers to support creation of relevant strategic customer segmentation, tracking and prediction.
  • A predictive journey path that provides a holistic view of a customer’s journey individually and in aggregate that supports where retailer's should invest marketing resources to improve conversion rates and customer loyalty.
  • Struggle detection that identifies where customers are struggling based on cognitive behavior so that problems can be identified and fixed.
  • Intelligent sequencing to improve merchandise management effectiveness and productivity by reducing time spent on creating business rules to sequence products based on business objectives and customer personalization.
  • Anomaly detection, which alerts merchants to possible issues or opportunities through detection of metric outliers and identifying items that may be having issues of concern.
  • And, finally, super clean user interface that has eliminated any trace of business software of the past and is clearly a future-forward design that includes web-style graphics and intuitive navigation.

IBM is the big gun in the world of technology and everything it does or plans to do is newsworthy. Ginny Rometty, chairperson, president and CEO of the company, filled a massive arena for her keynote presentation, which combined the attendees of two IBM events held simultaneously in Las Vegas – IBM Amplify and IBM InterConnect. Here are some key takeaways from her presentation:

  • “Platforms are the key to the next era in business and enable you to do things that have never been done before. In addition, it will be the cloud that will be the key to changing business and society. You aren’t going to pick software or suites in the future. You are going to pick clouds.”
  • “There are going to be strong public clouds and industrialized hybrid clouds that not only connect public and private clouds but also connect the application and data layers.”
  • “Security will be enterprise strong and exist up and down the stack right from the chip.”
  • “Blockchain will do for trusted transactions what the internet did for information. IBM currently has 400 projects going on using Blockchain.”
  • “IBM Q is a project that is building quantum computers, a quantum system, that will deliver a new era of business. It uses the quantum states of subatomic particles to store information and operates 1000 degrees cooler than outer space.”
  • “You will become a cognitive enterprise and it is how well and how quickly you make this shift that will separate the winners and the losers.”
  • “Cognitive at the core is not a feature. It is a foundation. Your cloud has to have machine learning and artificial intelligence, and then it can be cognitive and allow you to see, to look at images, to hear and not miss anything, and ultimately to feel.”

One interesting comment Rometty made was, “IBM will not push forward democratizing of data and supports proprietary ownership of data and proprietary insight.” In many ways, this goes against the grain of open source standards, increasing transparency, and worldwide webification of business processes.

But I can see the point. If, as anticipated, IBM Watson becomes the repository of a significant chunk of the world’s business and consumer data, then it wants to assure its partners and clients that it will not use this massive amount of data to further its own goals or enrichment. These fears are sometimes lodged against Google, Facebook and Amazon. IBM clearly wants to head them off.

Among the stellar presenters at the event was Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, who was there to announce a partnership with IBM focusing on Salesforce Einstein and IBM Watson. Benioff zeroed in on why 15,000 people attended IBM's combined events in Las Vegas and why it is important to get ahead of the curve In the cognitive era.

“Companies no longer compete against each other,” said Benioff. ”They compete against speed.”

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