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There’s only one IBM November 9, 2009

Posted by jonathanpenn in trends & futures.

Last week, I spent a day at IBM for an analyst event focusing on security. This was only the second year IBM held such an event, but it was well run and quite informative. It was clear that in the past year, IBM has made a lot of progress in integrating security across the company. IBM is no longer just Tivoli, or even Tivoli-plus-ISS. How IBM has transformed and positioned Rational in the wake of the Watchfire and recent Ounce Labs acquisitions is one obvious example of this integrated view, and that IBM has multiple vehicles in delivering security to its customers. And with Tivoli and ISS, there are clear indications of coordination and cooperation rather than siloed development, marketing and sales. This extends not just to X-Force research or ISS delivering Tivoli products as a hosted or managed service, but also in how product capabilities shape strategic security consulting offerings, and how that in turn feeds back into product development. I expect the security tendrils to extend further as IBM’s cloud and SaaS solutions develop and broaden: as IBM has the opportunity to make security a significant differentiator here.

Many other large companies seek to build some combination of products, integration services, managed services, and strategic consulting.  I believe this is a necessary transformation for the security industry. But these companies are wrong in thinking that replicating IBM’s model and capabilities is easy. Most eventually run into political infighting, channel conflict, or simple failures to acquire or effectively sell certain competencies.

While IBM’s progress in weaving security together was noticeable on many fronts, less clear is the degree to which IBM GBS is participating in this unified and permeating security vision. IBM says this is happening, though feedback from our clients indicate that it doesn’t seem to be widely achieved from an execution standpoint.

It’s my thesis that vertical specialization – from a solution perspective, not just go-to-market – will become more important during the next two to three years. IBM security solutions such as SecureStore for retail that it announced last year, or what it’s doing in energy around Smart Grid, or the needs in healthcare with electronic records or in government with critical infrastructure protection and cyber-security —  all of these are examples of tremendous opportunities for which IBM is uniquely suited to capture. IBM is one of the few companies that has the potential to bring security in within the context of transformative business initiatives.

There’s only one IBM: this is something competitors must recognize and adapt to as they strive to evolve into multi-faceted solution providers: emulate, don’t imitate. But, to twist the phrase, when IBM finally operates as if there’s only one IBM, and not silos of business units, we’ll see an even more formidable player emerge.



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