IBM Delivers Research as a Service With New Lab

IBM's new IBM Customer Experience Lab takes IBM's vaunted researchers further out of the lab and into the front office of the enterprise.

In a move to spur greater innovation in the front office of the enterprise, IBM is letting its researchers loose to collaborate with its consultants to deliver unique, leading-edge solutions to customers.

IBM recently announced the creation of its new IBM Customer Experience Lab, dedicated to helping business leaders transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands through the use of mobile, social, cloud and advanced analytics technologies.

That IBM researchers are actually working on client engagements is not new. IBM's researchers have long been working with Big Blue's customers on projects to share their expertise as well as to gain some practical experience out in the field away from the lab. As far back as 2004, Paul Horn, then director of IBM Research and predecessor to John E. Kelly III, the current director, was talking about service science and how IBM researchers were getting out of the lab to work with clients.

When asked in a 2004 interview with eWEEK whether IBM researchers were working with customers, Horn said:

Absolutely. And if I want to think about my tenure here and the areas that I'm proud of, that's therein one of the biggest things. I'm proud of the change in the culture in Research and that we think about innovation in the marketplace with our customers. That's a powerful way to innovate. Because you're basically working with your customers; you're using their deep insights into their business problems. It wasn't a trivial transformation. Even this latest one in consulting. Some even wondered, 'Are we that poor that we have to supplement our salary by going out and getting consulting dollars?' And there was a little resistance because this was something that was new. But once they got into it, they really were excited about it.

Now IBM scientists and business consultants will co-create with clients to deliver systems that learn and personalize the experiences of each individual customer, identify patterns and preferences, create context from big data and drive scale economics. The IBM Customer Experience Lab will provide CEOs, chief marketing officers (CMOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), heads of sales and other C-suite executives direct access to a virtual team of 100 researchers, supported by the deep industry and domain expertise of thousands of IBM business consultants addressing the opportunities of the digital front office.

In a recent briefing for financial analysts, Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services (GBS), called "front office transformation"—of sales, marketing or customer service functions—the most important wave of business change since the advent of enterprise resource planning in the 1990s.

"Business leaders realize they need to continuously transform their customer experience in order to be relevant and competitive—from the perception of innovation and value, to the quality of the interaction, to the economics of delivery," Mahmoud Naghshineh, vice president of Services Research at IBM, said in a statement. "What made them successful over the last decade, or even last year, may not be competitive in the future. We will help clients explore the possibilities presented by new assets, technologies and innovation models based on our engagement experiences with thousands of organizations across every industry."

IBM researchers have participated in more than 1,000 IT business process and consulting client services engagements; 9,000 business analytics consultants have completed more than 30,000 client engagements in the last several years alone.