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Why IBM will be saved by analytics and Steven Mills

Rob Enderle | Oct. 28, 2013
It's easy to tell executives exactly what they want to hear, even if it makes you like the violin player on the Titanic. Luckily, today's analytics technology gives executives real-time insight into how their firms are performing. At IBM, leaders such as Steven Mills are making sure Big Blue eats its own dog food and continues to reinvent itself in an ever-dynamic market.

I also spoke to an aide to CEO John Akers after he'd been fired. The aide knew Akers was being fed false information on purpose to make it seem like the company was in better shape than it was. (This, by the way, is what caused Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to fail, I believe.)

What seemed particularly interesting at the time was seeing these executives leave IBM and fail spectacularly at smaller firms where they couldn't game the system like they did at IBM. Over the years I lobbied for an internal auditing group to go through a company, find executives like this and get rid of them before they cause irreparable harm. They are, in my view, a cancer on the company. As an auditor, I did have some success doing this, but it wasn't nearly large or fast enough to prevent what eventually happened, largely because the most powerful problem executives were too well protected.

But analytics, applied correctly, will change make these gaming executives extinct.

Analytics Assures That Executives Know What's Going On
Analytics done right is sourced in real numbers that flow into dashboards that executives can use to see how things are really going. At IBM Enterprise2013, the U.S. Open presented a dashboard on its Web property that uses analytics to not only properly provision the service, but to report back real-time loading and money saved.

At a glance, and assuming someone isn't corrupting the data, an executive could see if his subordinates are doing their job. No amount of BS would be able to cover up problems. Seeing this, I was struck with how a similar system, applied to the Obamacare website, could have either prevented the embarrassing failure of that site or pointed solidly to the problem(s) that created it.

One thing that drove me crazy at IBM was that the firm didn't deploy its own technology, based on the screwy argument that doing so pulled resources from customers. That isn't true today, though, and IBM regularly has its CIOs talk about how they use IBM tools to ensure IBM's success. Analytics - applied correctly with current IBM tools - should assure that IBM never again has the kind of problems that eventually drove me away and nearly caused the company to fail.

It's a pleasure to meet down-to-earth executives who make it to senior positions on merit rather than gaming the system. Mills not only knows technology; he's motivated to make sure it's used properly inside of IBM ensure that the company survives and succeeds. With folks such as Mills at the helm, and with tools that advance analytics into decision engines such as Watson, IBM is in a position to make its customers successful while assuring its own future. Never forget that analytics can save your firm from the executives who might game your company into oblivion.


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