• With more than $3 billion in revenue and 10,000 employees across the globe, IBM’s design consultancy, IBM iX, has quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with.
  • Business Insider recently caught up with Matt Candy, IBM iX’s global leader.
  • Brands need partners that help them think through business models and bring together an ecosystem of different partners, says Candy.
  • IBM iX is not just buying into creativity through acquisitions. It is also investing in design organically through hiring and training initiatives.

Management consulting and tech firms have been encroaching on ad agencies’ turf in recent years, combining their experience in business transformation with creative skills they’ve often developed through acquisitions.

With more than $3 billion in revenue and 10,000 employees across the globe, IBM iX is one among the pack that has quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with.

Business Insider recently caught up with Matt Candy, IBM iX’s global leader. Candy, who has spent his entire career at IBM, was appointed to the role in February, after helping build the unit for six years. Here’s an edited version of the conversation.

Dua: What’s the purpose behind IBM iX?

Candy: If you look at any industry, whether it’s retail, CPG, banking, automotive, and if keep on peeling back the layers on the onion of what those organizations need to do in today’s world, you reach this core right at the heart. And whether it’s a revenue growth challenge or a decline in certain markets, the core challenge most organizations have got is around around culture and ways of working.

For us, the focus is design and how design impacts business. We use the expression digital reinvention rather than transformation, because the viewpoint is that many organizations and most industries have got to fundamentally reinvent their business models, and experience needs to be at the heart of it.

It’s far broader than just spinning up some new websites and mobile apps. It comes down to the products that you’re looking to launch, the ecosystem of partnerships and relationships that you put in place, and how you use data. So there’s a much more holistic view that we would take to the reinvention of business and the role that design plays in the reinvention of business.

Dua: So do you think of yourselves as being different from agencies?

Candy: Yes. We don’t use the word agency because it’s very narrow and is associated very much with traditional advertising. And there’s a far broader set of problems that organizations have to deal with in today’s world.

Agencies have done amazing stuff over the years on advertising, brand, and helping organizations manage messaging and interfaces for their products and services. But now they’re trying to shift more into organizational change, process change, data and building technology platforms at scale because life starts to go beyond the campaigns and microsites and mobile apps. Today, it’s fundamentally about how technology and data play a role into actually driving and launching new products.

Dua: Why is IBM iX poised to better serve the needs of brands today?

Candy: If you’re a tobacco company, and you’re launching new electronic vape vape products, that’s a direct-to-consumer model, and very different than how they’ve operated in the past. The core of that business model is then driven by the technology platforms that they’ve got in place.

You need someone that can engineer those technology platforms, has system integration skills and the right backend systems. Agencies are trying to build up some of these capabilities, but they’ve always been the lifeblood and the DNA of an organization like ours.

We’re not arrogant enough to think that we’re the answer to every problem that they’ve got. But you need somebody who’s able to help you think through business models, apply creativity in problem-solving and the experiences that you’re building and also somebody who can bring together an ecosystem of different partners.

And it’s not just about the consumer angle, or supporting brands interacting with consumers. The tools that brands put in the hands of employees is as important, because most people will experience a brand through the people that we touch, whether that’s in call centers, physical stores, an airplane, a train, or in a taxi. So it’s also important to enable those people to deliver a better experience as well.

We see a huge opportunity in helping businesses reinvent and be more successful through actually applying technology, data and amazingly designed experiences to both the enterprise as well as the consumer base. And we have a very equal focus on both of these areas.

Dua: Can you share some examples of how you’re helping brands through challenges like these?

Candy: So we’ve been working with BP for about two and a half years now on a digital change program. We’re working with them on the ideation of new products and services but also new experiences that they want to put in the hands of their workshop staff and consumers. And we’re rapidly iterating on those ideas, by having the workshops and the end consumers involved in that design process all the way through.

At Vodafone, we’re helping them build an acceleration hub. The company has moved a bunch of their people into these agile squads, focused around different threats, use cases, problems that they want to solve for consumers or employees. We’re helping them drive new design thinking-based approaches, agile ways of working into these multidisciplinary teams and effectively coaching them in the new skills and new ways of working to drive those outcomes faster.

A lot of the work we’re doing with companies like BP, Orange and Vodafone is helping them not only take an idea through to execution, but also helping them scale it onto the enterprise level.

Dua: But creativity hasn’t traditionally been a focus for tech companies like IBM and other consultancies. Is going down the acquisition route the only way to go?

Candy: In certain markets where we’ve wanted to accelerate because of growth opportunities with clients or because of a cultural fit, we’ve made acquisitions. But actually building a creative and design culture in a company is far broader than just making a few acquisitions. We have built that foundation over the last five years within the company through several ways.

We have made a huge investment in organically building a design culture and the practices of design within the company. We have a corporate-wide design function and have invested in real estate, building studios to put in place methods and approaches. We’ve built out our design thinking practices. We’ve now trained over 140,000 people in the company around design thinking. We’ve also brought in a huge number of creatives and designers into the organization.

Dua: There are enough proclamations of the agency model being dead. What does the advertising model of the future look like?

Candy: The industry still has still got some evolving, growing to do. I look at some of those award categories and the type of work that gets awarded and I ask ‘really?’ What has actually changed? How has that delivered shareholder value for the company? How has it actually changed the lives of a customer or business partner? What sustainable impact has it had on society?

We have got to start thinking more about the role that digital experience and design and creative play in actually helping reinventing business models. We need to be looking at how tools make our lives a little bit easier, helps you get home a little bit earlier, takes friction out of your life. I don’t think the industry is quite there yet.

Dua: Do consultancies have conflicts of interest with multiple clients in the same industries?

Candy: It’s fascinating that in the agency world that’s always been the mindset. But that rule, that concept of if I work for one company and industry, I’m not going to work for any of the others has never been in the DNA of consulting organizations.

We may sign a contract with a client in a market where the commercial terms that they want us to adhere to are pretty strict. We have situations like that, especially in the intellectual property ownership space. But we lay it out in the commercial terms and contracts that we will be very careful around IP ownership and the Chinese walls, but not to the point where we just cut off an entire business line.

Dua: What is the one thing you’re doing that agencies aren’t?

Candy: There’s a whole bunch of stuff that agencies do that we don’t do, and things that we have no intention of doing because we don’t believe that’s where the world’s going. One thing we’re focusing on is how we apply emerging technology to solve problems.

We have a partnership with Apple, where we’re working with them to transform experiences for enterprise. Earlier this year for example, we launched something called Core ML with Apple, which is the ability to run AI services locally on the iOS device.

In terms of an application, think about an app for mechanics fixing bank ATM machines. You take off the cover of the machine and are looking inside, and are able to fireup your app. The camera is then able to basically diagnose problem using AR effectively and deliver advice back to the mechanic on what to do. So the technology can make jobs easier, improve productivity and improve experience.

Dua: What are some technologies that you’re bullish on?

For us, the application of emerging technology, blockchain, AI, and some of the stuff that we’re doing in the media space are things we’re excited about.

When you look at that programmatic media space, do we want to get into programmatic media buying? No we don’t. We actually think that whole space is ripe for reinvention and transformation and some of the technologies like blockchain combined with analytics and AI will actually transform the whole industry.

That is a more pressing problem that we need to help the world solve. It kind of goes back to purpose, and IBM’s single purpose to be essential, essential to how the world works. And so if we can be essential by helping brands and enterprises and industries reinvent for tomorrow, then we’ve done our job.

This is a subscriber-only story. To read the full article, simply click here to claim your deal and get access to all exclusive Business Insider PRIME content.

Get the latest IBM stock price here.

Source: Read Full Article