IBM's Not-So-Secret Weapon: Big Data Marketing

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-02-26 Print this article Print

Working with one of IBM's analytics centers of excellence, Horan's team is helping IBMers determine what questions they should ask about the rivers of data that come in every day. "The answer is in there somewhere, but if you don't know what question to ask, you're not necessarily going to get the most use out of the data," she said.

Take sales, for instance.

"We certainly are looking at historical information and trends around sales performance and how salespeople are assigned to different geographic territories or to different clients," Horan said.

Based on the big data analysis, the team has recommended targeted changes to its assignment of salespeople, as the data showed that the territories that embraced the big data analytics strategies showed a 10 percent improvement in sales over those that did not—at least in 2011, she said. A breakdown of 2012 numbers is still being compiled.

The team at 590 Madison is a collaboration between marketing and the CIO that works in two-week sprints. They are the very definition of agile, Horan says, as they are using a lot of the concepts from agile software development.

"So the projects to either bring some new content to or change some elements of the infrastructure or some elements of the look and feel for, the projects are all designed as two-week projects to be deployed," Horan said. "And that tight partnership is what enabled us to move much more rapidly with respect to deploying new capability and functionality."

Big data is the term increasingly used to describe the process of applying serious computing power—the latest in machine learning and artificial intelligence—to seriously massive and often highly complex sets of information.

As the focus on the customer increases, so does the focus on marketing and getting targeted information out to customers—thus the emergence of the role of chief marketing officer (CMO) in companies. The CMO is on par with and often works closely with the CIO in many companies.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty recognized this and her first major customer-facing event as CEO last year was an event for both CIOs and CMOs. With that elevation in status, CMOs are looking at the same issues as CIOs, particularly big data and analytics.  

IBM has been keen on this trend. Jim Corgel, IBM's general manager of entrepreneurs and ecosystem, told eWEEK IBM's former CEO Sam Palmisano, identified analytics as the number one opportunity Big Blue had ahead of it prior to his leaving the post last year.

Big data and analytics are transforming marketing at IBM, enabling faster, highly targeted interactions with clients that are helping create new markets. This capability has evolved over the last decade as IBM has worked to become a globally integrated enterprise.

In the process, every part of IBM—from development and manufacturing to sales, customer support, and now marketing—has been transformed to run more quickly, efficiently and smarter.

Indeed Linda Sanford, IBM's senior vice president of enterprise transformation, told eWEEK that her initiatives have delivered $8 billion back to the business since 2005 through such moves as reducing IBM's data centers from 155 to five, trimming total applications from 16,000 to 4,500, and consolidating approximately 6,500 servers.


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