One of the little known secrets at IBM, and no doubt part of the secret sauce behind its transformational shift to software and services, is its reusable asset initiative.
One of the little known secrets at IBM,
and no doubt part of the secret sauce behind its transformational shift to
software and services, is its reusable asset initiative.
IBM captures unique software assets that
have been used for decades in client engagements and makes them easily
accessible to more than 30,000 IBM software
developers and services consultants who are focused on developing client
solutions in every industry around the world. This approach has enabled IBM
to differentiate itself with industry clients.
"Clients require a customized approach but still benefit from the reuse
of high-quality, hardened assets. Developers have different experiences and
expectations about how they should develop code and therefore benefit from
community interaction," said Julie King, distinguished engineer at IBM
Over the last few years, IBM has quietly
created a global team of hundreds of software and services experts whose sole
mission is creating reusable pieces of code, which IBM
refers to as assets. IBM has marshaled its
legion of software developers and researchers around the world to create
software building blocks that help services practitioners assemble complete
industry client solutions. These developers have close relationships with other
IBMers in the field to ensure that the code meets actual customer needs.
But IBM's effort to build a reusable
software base for the services business involves a lot more than just writing
code. The initiative requires that services practitioners profoundly change the
way they operate-that they abandon the habit of doing everything from scratch
every time. This resulted in an extensive and ongoing companywide campaign that
has quite literally changed the culture of service delivery. IBM
built a portal-a kind of "iTunes" for assets-that allows practitioners to find
what they need fast and download it.
"Solutions that are created from existing assets have a significantly
higher gross profit than those built from scratch-meaning cost savings passed
on to the customer-and at the same time customers receive software with
hardened components that have already proven themselves in the real world,"
King said. "For example, code that enables bank customers to open new accounts
or allows telecommunications companies to process customer orders."
Today, more than 31,000 developers are accessing and reusing more than
35,000 software assets available in IBM's
portal with an average of 4,000 downloads of code per week. In addition, in the
last three years, there have been more than 3,000 instances of direct reuse of
shared code components coming from its internal repository.
Moving forward, IBM will be investing
even more in assets like those from the recent acquisitions of SPSS
and Cognos, with particular focus around analytics software that uses
algorithms to provide insight into a wide range of business processes.