Ask Ginni Rometty, Chairman and CEO of IBM, about her lessons learned turning a ship the size of IBM in the midst of digital disruption and her initial response will sound familiar to many CEOs.
“It has clearly been the time of the most rapid change,” she told the audience of over 9,000 CIOs in the Mastermind Keynote at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2018 in Orlando, FL. “It used to be one change at a time but now they are all at the same time. The pace is unabated.”
Responding to a series of questions from Gartner’s Dennis Gaughan, VP Analyst, and Daryl Plummer, Distinguished VP Analyst, Ms. Rometty affirmed that IBM will remain focused on the enterprise market versus broadening into consumer products. From this grounding, Ms. Rometty discussed how the company continues to focus on helping organizations plot and execute their journeys to the cloud, developments with artificial intelligence (AI) and experiments with blockchain and quantum computing.
“We are very clear it’s a multi-cloud world,” Ms. Rometty said, noting that IBM’s clients have an average of six clouds (public, private, hybrid) and 1,000 apps in those clouds.
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She then discussed her biggest lessons at the helm of IBM.
Lessons learned from digital disruption
After seeing the market changing quickly, Ms. Rometty said her inclination was to push the organization to work and change faster. But after two years of “faster, faster”, she realized people were exhausted. This led the leadership to change how work was being done by examining how startups approach change and speed.
She became an advocate of design thinking.
The leadership team focused on hiring as many designers (15,000) as they could to help deploy design thinking for all development. This prioritizes an outside-in, empathetic approach which she acknowledged is not always a focus for an engineering-driven company.
There was also a push towards agile development by launching minimum viable products and enabling co-location, and multidisciplinary teams. The enterprise made an investment in real-estate to create open workspaces, more tools, and a move to net promoter score for better feedback from clients.