Moreover, said Mills, “I think one of the important things that occurred was that Lou Gerstner came into the company, and although not a technologist, it was fairly obvious to him that if you wanted to have a software business, you were going to have to have a lot of specialization in the marketplace beyond your developers to be successful. It was sort of an applied technology. You just don't buy it and plug it in; you've got to put it to use. It requires skill and expertise to sell it and implement it. So there was a real need for field structure in support of a growing software business. And Lou saw the economic benefits of a growing software business, so he bought into the idea of having one.”
Though he was a consummate salesman, Mills also had a sense of vision. Early on in IBM’s push to the cloud he saw a need for a Platform as a Service solution and IBM came up with Bluemix. Last year, Mills told eWEEK he viewed Bluemix as a great place to go to do application prototyping and build applications.
“The importance of that initiative [Bluemix] is to make it easy for people to build applications, provide a broad range of componentry, open tooling, an open environment with the kind of fit, finish and fidelity that I think they often attribute to Microsoft,” he said. “They don’t attribute that to AWS. AWS does have its collection of stuff. It’s heavily steered toward a set of unique Amazon-based structures, which is where they want to take you.”
In addition, Mills said IBM’s recent attention to design in its offering is “huge” for the company. “We’ve always had a user-centered design initiative in IBM, so it’s not new,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is invigorate the design community in IBM so that for a lot of the work we’re doing we want to start with the user experience and work our way back.”
Mills noted that design orientation is critical for IBM products.
“And as we try to extend into more line-of-business people, people who have less and less traditional IT experience, they’re less tolerant of UIs and obscure workflows that make sense to somebody with a degree in computer science but makes no sense to them,” he said. “Because they’re not thinking like computer scientists. So we’re putting all the development teams through the knothole of forcing design up front, design verification. You want to get the design right before you code, as opposed to you code and then think about how a customer is going to use this thing.”