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‘Helping clients avoid becoming corporate dodos’: IBM’s Chris Howard

Jennifer O'Brien | July 3, 2017
Howard talks disruption and industry transformation.


What are some of your main work achievements and milestones? 

CH: I have had an opportunity to work on some really innovative projects over the last decade - acoustic analysis of dolphins, hyper-spectral imaging for defence, multi language social listening, spatiotemporal analytics for customer behaviour and a real-time analytics implementation of a highly visible Internet of Things analytics platform for a major European cycling event. It is the diversity of problem, and the unique solutions we bring, that keep this interesting for me.


Why are you excited about being CTO of digital strategy for IBM?

CH: As part of our worldwide Digital Strategy team, I am focused on some of the hairy digital challenges that large scale enterprises are faced with today - how to remain relevant, how to avoid disruption or be disruptive, how to innovate and create new-markets, and how to do this with agility and at scale. Throw in emerging tech and what is not to like about working across this space.


What are your biggest challenges in this space?

CH: I guess there are three that are top of mind and fuel much of the work we are engaged in across the Digital Strategy space. Disruption - whether this be low-end (good enough) offerings to disrupt the current industry incumbents or new-market disruption (new offerings, new customers).

Digital technologies allow disruptive business models to emerge and expand almost overnight. We are helping our clients avoid becoming corporate dodos and going the same way as Blockbuster or Kodak.

Courage - for some organisation they need to question if they have the courage to change and is their strategy ambition enough to stay relevant. Agility - beyond that do they have the ability to flex/transform (people, capabilities, offerings) and can they do this at speed - are they agile enough?

What does digital mean to you?

CH: Opportunity. We have seen organisations approach digitisation to enable their existing business with ones and zeros - essentially exposing/measuring what they do today. IoT based sensing is a great example, giving an enterprise a pulse on their business - their digital dashboard.

Beyond this we are seeing organisations that take this concept to the next level and actually transform based on these ones and zeros - essentially doing what they do, just better. They are using analytics to drive process improvements, efficiency, predicting outages, understanding cause and effect.

Finally we are looking at re-invention through digital - this is all about new opportunity, new business models and tapping into new value streams that we may not have even considered today. Telco based data monetisation is a great example here where whole new markets are being opened up fusing mobility data with retailers, insurers etc.

What are some of the interesting tech projects you’ve implemented during your career?

CH: Some of my most interesting projects have revolved around IoT, things that move and analytics - everything from acoustic analysis of dolphins to drones, ferries and bicycles. Emerging technology is a great playground, a space that constantly presents new opportunity and routes to new business value.


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