Can IBM Build an Innovative Ecosystem?

At IBM's Partnerworld conference, Big Blue will announce plans to give its partners access to its researchers who are cooking up new technology. The big question is whether partners will go along for the ride.

Vassar Brothers Medical Center had to think less like a hospital and more like Home Depot. It was a matter of survival.

The Poughkeepsie, N.Y., facility, part of the Health Quest chain of hospitals, had to manage a revolving door of doctors and nurses who would cover 5 miles a day, move tons of biomedical equipment to the right place at the right time, and improve efficiency and quality to comply with soaring patient loads and regulatory requirements.

It was at a Home Depot store, where Health Quest CIO Nicholas Christiano and Vassar Brothers CEO Dan Aronzon saw how the retailer used bar codes and RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags to track pallets and trucks, that the idea struck.

To achieve a manageable process, Vassar Brothers called on IBM and InnerWireless, a Richardson, Texas, wireless platform builder, which led to InnerWireless deploying a system to track and manage the hospitals staff, patients, equipment and processes.

IBMs expertise in project management technology and the ability to integrate multiple applications to run on the wireless platform allowed Vassar Brothers to re-envision the way it operated and keep pace, Christiano said.

"We had to reconsider the way we looked at how we did things," said Christiano. "You dont have to spend more than an hour on a modern hospital floor to realize what youre looking at. We have 515,000 square feet, plus 130,000 [square feet] at an ambulatory care facility nearby. Everything is moving. Its running more like a factory floor."

Welcome to the new face of the channel, one where innovation is becoming increasingly important. On March 13 at its PartnerWorld conference in Las Vegas, IBM was slated to announce a series of programs and organizational changes to bring its partners into its research labs to cook up more innovative fixes to the challenges facing businesses daily.

If successful, InnerWireless work at Vassar Brothers can be replicated by hundreds of partners.

At PartnerWorld, IBM will announce two initiatives to drive innovation. A new business unit, Technology Collaborations Solutions, will lead collaboration on specific customer projects, and, beginning next quarter, IBM will grant partners access to researchers based on its PartnerWorld Industry Networks program to create what IBM is calling an ecosystem of "Innovation that Matters."

/zimages/4/28571.gifIBM enhances virtual innovation center. Click here to read more.

The 10,000-person-strong TCS unit brings together several IBM units to collaborate with VARs, ISVs and customers in an effort to solve business problems. Under TCS, IBMs former Microelectronics, Technology Development and Manufacturing, OEM Component Sales, OEM Systems Sales, STG Intellectual Property, Next Generation Telecommunications, and Engineering & Technology Services divisions will now answer to Adalio Sanchez, the former general manager of IBMs pSeries business unit.

Sources at IBM said the company hopes its focus on innovation will generate $10 billion in new business over the next three to five years as it opens the door for partners and customers to its 3,000 Ph.D.s and scientists, who created 2,941 patents last year alone.

Next Page: Innovation is the next big push.