March 2017 - #Canada150? How about #IBM100

They’ve come a long way since scales and punch-cards.

Historically, hardware has been International Business Machines – better known as IBM’s – bread and butter. These days, they’re looking a little… well, softer.

“Our organization has gone through so many transformations over the years,” says Loren Cisyk, General Manager, Prairies for IBM. “But despite that, it’s fairly easy to boil down what we’re all about.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, if you asked anyone what IBM was, the answer would have been PCs, hardware, that kind of thing. These days it’s all about cognitive and cloud computing.”

A recent speech to stakeholders saw IBM’s CEO declare that by 2018, 40 per cent of their global business would be in either cognitive or cloud computing. For an organization of over 400,000 employees that’s been around for almost 140 years, that’s a big shift.

But according to Cisyk, a transformation like this isn’t unprecedented for IBM – it’s part of their business model.

“Over the century, we’ve undergone significant transformations many times over,” said Cisyk. “Whether it’s hardware, Intel technologies, point-of-sale systems, hardware, software – IBM’s really in many different businesses at once.

“We’re constantly diversifying and expanding our reach through either transforming the work we do or through acquisitions.”

For all its diversification, IBM has kept client industries at heart. According to Cisyk, one of the ways IBM fulfills this mandate is with its hybrid cloud technologies.

“You think of cloud, and you think of a book store or a search engine company,” said Cisyk. “Those are public cloud companies. We’re focused on business – we help large enterprises with hybrid cloud solutions that allow them to integrate data and application software in the right places at the right times depending on their need.”

While IBM’s hybrid cloud solutions help its clients streamline business processes and data allocations around the world, its cognitive computing programs help them process that data to make strategic and informed decisions based on all available information.

“Cognitive computing helps humans make the right choices,” said Cisyk. “It helps clients make not just any decisions – it helps them make the right decisions.”

A recent segment on 60 Minutes saw IBM’s flagship cognitive computing system, Watson, go up against a huge panel of oncologists, coming up with accurate diagnoses and, in some cases, discovering findings the humans had missed.

While Watson – named after one of the company’s founders – is flashier and grabs headlines, Cisyk says IBM isn’t just about AI or cognitive computing for the sake of it.

For its clients, IBM’s proficiency in both cognitive and cloud computing combined with its wide breadth of subject matter expertise means it can pass along the perfect solution for any situation. According to Cisyk, it’s that huge scope and scale that allows IBM to elevate its clients’ businesses around the world, and in Canada’s prairies.

“The prairies are a microcosm of the global ecosystem,” said Cisyk. “Though we’re not as deeply specialized here as some other areas of the world, we have a good representation of the global economy. My team in the prairies represents IBM and the way it serves clients around the world, but on a local level – we bring IBM’s experience, technology and skill to bear on our clients in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

“The prairies team creates a local relationship with IBM. We bring the strength of a global company with a storied history and hundreds of thousands of employees to businesses throughout the region.”

What kinds of businesses are IBM clients? Take your pick, Cisyk says.

“Almost every large and medium enterprise in Manitoba uses IBM,” said Cisyk. “When clients are looking for innovation, we’re there for them.”