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Global CIO: IBM's Brilliant Trojan-Horse Strategy Transcends Technology

IBM makes mainframes and microprocessors and middleware—can it also predict business conditions in totally unrelated industries? The answer seems to be yes.
For the past couple of years, IBM has made it unmistakably clear that it intends to be a world leader in advanced analytics and predictive analytics because it believes the related technologies that it has developed or acquired and assimilated can be harnessed by customers to provide unprecedented levels of foresight into future behaviors, probabilities, and outcomes, which thereby let those IBM customers make better business decisions about that not-so-unknown future.

Whether or not IBM considers Haydock's quarterly retail forecasts a formal business, the fact is that those predictions are now being presented to and consumed by huge portions of the U.S. economy and very likely regarded as key indicators of what actions big and small companies need to take to be able to wring maximum advantage out of that future.

In so doing, IBM is extended its brand and its value proposition way beyond "the computer industry" and into the more-valuable realms mentioned above: speed, knowledge, insight, opportunism, and more. IBM is showing that the real power behind IT companies today is not what they sell but what they know, and what they can share with customers, and how they can link elbows with customers to apply not only technology but also technology-driven wisdom in their businesses.

Lots of technology companies can help makers of home appliances tally up how many units they sold last month or last week, and how many are in inventory, and how many are under assembly, and what the cost of raw materials was for last quarter. That's all great, and the IT business needs to continue to get better and better at that.

But these days, the demands of the high-velocity, high-volume global economy require that CIOs be able to master not only that types of historical record-keeping about how much of what has already happened, but also the more-demanding and even more-valuable challenges of looking around the corners to anticipate with considerable accuracy what is about to happen.

By moving aggressively into that technology space with its huge commitment to advanced analytics and predictive analytics, and by moving subtly into that interrelated business space with Michael Haydock's retail-sales forecasting, IBM has elegantly extended its considerable market position from the vital business of technology products and services to the unfolding world of helping customers understand—and take full advantage of—the future.

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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].