Looking back to 2012, there were a number of initiatives that showcased brilliance in technology companies. Some were just simply brilliant, others warmed my heart, and all made me proud to work with the companies that launched and nurtured them.
Let’s go down a list of my 2013 favorites and talk about why I think every company should emulate these moves.
The initiative that stands out as number one is Jim Bampos’ massive effort to instrument customers and partners so that EMC could measure and promote advocacy. In a world where companies are taking personal information and selling it to advertisers, EMC is using information about its customers to create better services, products and relationships for them. And it is the only analytics vendor I know of that is using analytics to create loyalty.
This program has been so successful that EMC customers are screaming for EMC to give them the technology so they too can do this. Partners, once reticent in sharing their own customer data with a company like EMC, are instead demanding EMC take it in exchange for giving them back the same analyzed data so these partners can be more competitive.
We see company after company pushing technology promising massive ROI but not really demonstrating that ROI themselves. EMC first created this for itself and the ROI was so massive that once customers learned of it, they demanded EMC sell it to them. I don’t recall that ever happening before. This has been so powerful that Jim Bampos was flipped to actually be the product owner and his mission has moved from implementation in EMC to helping EMC customers gain the same benefits.
Truly legendary work.
To me, this was one of those initiatives that seemed so obvious after the fact that I’m kind of stunned that IBM was the first to come up with this — that is, until I recall that IBM’s old tag line was “Think.”
From Watson to their work on Neural Networking, IBM has for some time been a leader in creating intelligent systems, but it never really productized it until the branded the effort “Smarter Computing.” This effort applies as much to the customer as it does to the hardware, software and services because it implies that the people who buy into the solution are smarter themselves.
The concept is simply brilliant in that it drives intelligence into the systems so they, based on data acquired from other sites, self-adjust to become optimized over time and increasingly become less of a part of the problem to solve and more of an active part of the ongoing solutions.
Applied to major efforts like improving the cost effectiveness and responsiveness of government organizations, it is having a massive effect on these IBM customers’ effectiveness and perceived competence. I’m ex-IBM myself and think that the Watsons who founded IBM would be very pleased with IBM’s Smarter Computing efforts.
Dell stands out in two areas in my mind. First, because I ran an acquisition clean-up team in IBM while there and discovered during that time that few companies do this well. I lived through disastrous acquisitions more than once (the last was the Forrester acquisition of Giga) and it astounds me how firms repetitively destroy the value of what they have acquired.
Dell’s process of identifying the critical assets and protecting them during the acquisition process, and the result where each acquisition grows in value, stands out not only as brilliant, but a counterpoint to folks who argue that an acquired company must go through a cycle where it is first blown up before it can be integrated. Preserving jobs and value isn’t just economically wise, it is people-friendly because folks don’t get laid off during the holidays.
The other practice is its Entrepreneur in Residence Ingrid Vanderveldt. Her efforts to identify and help young startups, particularly those led by women, stand out in my mind like seed corn, assuring both Dell’s image and future Dell business customers. Women have traditionally been undervalued in the technology market yet women run IBM, HP and Yahoo today.
However, it is a company run by a man, Michael Dell, that appears to be doing the most to support women in business. This not only makes me proud to know Michael Dell, it makes me proud to be a man and there aren’t a lot of times in this industry I’ve been able to say that. This effort is what truly warmed my heart this year.
There is an interesting connection here because I think it was the failure of the Dell partnership that helped EMC realize it needed to get serious about measuring and protecting customer and partner loyalty. But each company in very different ways stepped up in 2012 to create something amazing: EMC, by uniquely using its technology first to fix its own problems in such a powerful way that customers demanded a similar external offering; IBM for taking its Think DNA and turning it into the brilliant Smarter Computing initiative; and Dell for showcasing how to do acquisitions right and especially for finding a way to make up for decades of ignoring women as an equally powerful force in the technology world.
Thank you all for being bring lights in an otherwise pretty dark year.