It's rare to last 100 years in a business, but to last 100 years in the technology business is next to impossible. Well, IBM will officially pull off the impossible in mid-June when the company celebrates 100 years in business.
When the company was formed as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R) in 1911, its founders probably never dreamed that it would last 100 years. Yet, when the company was merely 13 years old, its leadership sought a name that signaled a global presence, so C-T-R became International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924.
And IBM has done more than survive-it has thrived. As IBM Senior Vice President and Group Executive for Software and Systems Steve Mills told eWEEK, IBM is still standing while former industry darlings-including Digital Equipment Corp., Wang, Prime and Data General-have vanished.
IBM has managed this seemingly impossible feat by adapting to the demands of the times and adopting new technologies and new approaches to the marketplace. Even more important, IBM has focused on its customers, Mills said.
"IBM's great achievement from my perspective is that it has been able to morph and change based on understanding its customers and partnering with those customers," said Judith Hurwitz, CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, who has watched IBM for decades. "When IBM had its near death experience, that was the period of time when it lost touch with customers."
To ensure that it never again takes its eye off its customers, IBM has made them an integral part of its strategies, including its 2015 road map. That plan for the future includes four primary areas: growth markets, analytics, next-generation data centers and the cloud, and the IBM Smarter Planet strategy.
Sharon Nunes, vice president of Smarter Cities Strategy & Solutions,at IBM, said the Smarter Planet initiatives-particularly the Smarter Cities-draw buy-in because the results impact people where they live and work.
That's certainly true of Roy Buol, mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, who told eWEEK: "In 2009, we chose IBM as our partner to develop the tools our residents need to make better decisions about how they use resources like water, electricity and natural gas. The goal of -Smarter Sustainable Dubuque' is to create policies and programs that address environmental and ecological integrity, economic prosperity, and social and cultural vibrancy to create a community that is viable, livable and equitable. "The individual building blocks of this strategy relate to energy, water, mobility, air, resources, nature, green economy, eco-literacy, food and shelter."
IBM addressed these building blocks in September 2009, when the company and Dubuque announced a new collaboration aimed at making the city of 60,000 one of the first "smarter" sustainable cities in the United States.
The partnership is already paying off. Buol said the IBM analytics and cloud computing technology his city deployed in 2010 helped reduce water utilization by 6.6 percent and increased leak detection and response eightfold.
IBM's formidable push into business analytics seems prescient given the recent performance of the Watson system on Jeopardy! IBM is currently looking for additional applications for the system's DeepQA technology, and health care seems to be the next logical step. Dr. Eliot Siegel, professor and vice chairman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's diagnostic radiology department, said he hopes to see Watson-powered physician's assistants in the near future.