‘It’s not the technology. It’s the culture’

IBM pushes the idea of change at Pulse conference
By Bob Vavra, Editor February 24, 2009

The technology works. The challenge now is to get the people to work the technology.

As IBM rolled out its “Dynamic Infrastructure” framework at the company’s Pulse conference in Las Vegas Feb. 9-11, the talk was not about transforming the tools of manufacturing, but transforming the manufacturers themselves. Or as Tom Hawk, IBM’s general manager for its global industrial sector put it, “It’s not the technology. It’s the culture.”

IBM’s big message at Pulse was about transforming the culture through connecting operations and IT. That’s a connection that isn’t easy for some organizations, and one of the major challenges facing manufacturers, Hawk said. “It’s getting departments to collaborate, to think differently,” he said. “We’ve been hearing about strategy and change management for a long time, but it’s fascinating that when a company has its back against the wall, the idea of hunkering down is a scary idea. What this (economic) crisis creates is a platform for change.”

Change, Hawk added, is a critical message for manufacturers at this time. “The notion of being in the middle is a bad place to be.”

Al Zollar, general manager of Tivoli Software , talked about IBM’s larger message %%MDASSML%% A Smarter Planet %%MDASSML%% and how it applies to manufacturing. “This is really about operation and IT convergence,” Zollar said. “This is software that is in our hands today. We’re working on how we can help clients begin that journey. You have to have a pretty good strategy to get the most out of these tools. You get so focused on the infrastructure, and it’s really about the service.”

Zollar echoed Hawk’s view of the problems with delkivering change within an organization. “The technology si ahead of the culture,” he said. “People get veryu comfortable in their silos. It is a change for an organization to get out of their silos.”

While IBM is looking to break down silos, Zollar said they are not interested in breaking down an organization’s infrastructure. “We really want to be able to work with our business partners to bring solutions to mid-market companies by being able to take the software and use them with their own systems,” Zollar said. “Many of our partners have access to specific markets. Our partners have value of the expertise they have in a specific areas, and IBM has the value of expertise to mesh them up in a dynamic infrastructure.”

  • Globalization: “You have to have the ability to compete globally today. If you can’t play globally, don’t play.”

  • Collaboration: Creating end-to-end change management by breaking down cultural barriers.

  • Integration. “The customers we’re working with have no desire to rip and replace existing systems,” Hawk said. “Most large companies seem to have one of everything. They haven’t pout those tools together.

    • The change is driven throughout an organization. It begins with a clear top-down commitment within any group, but Hawk said it requires change throughout every level. That’s the way it was at IBM when its consolidated its global procurement operation. “In our company, it was very stovepiped,” Hawk said. “At the end, we wound up with common processes, disciplines and tools. And it was very hard, candidly.”

      That doesn’t mean that it isn’t critical, especially in challenging business and economic times. “The name of the game is speed and flexibility,: Hawk told the more the 3,500 Pulse attendees. “To have the ability to change, a dynamic infrastructure is needed to adapt to quickly changing business conditions.”