IBM Needs To Open Its Garage Doors A Bit Wider
IBM shared updates and insights on its IBM Garage digital transformation program this week with industry analysts. It was a useful update, and clarified much about a program that has not gained the recognition – and promotion – that it deserves.
I believe that the program is solid, well-managed, and provides excellent value to customers and partners. It’s a strong offering that enables rapid development and delivery of solutions for digital business transformation. I also believe that it is not nearly as differentiated as IBM believes – and that IBM Garage deserves more and better promotion and positioning by IBM.
Building on the Silicon Valley “Garage” Legend
The “Garage” approach rolled out in 2014 in San Francisco, as IBM began adapting to faster, more agile enterprise IT development needs via its Technology and Business Services teams. Over time, IBM has adapted and expanded the program. It has applied increasing rigor and more capability, expanding to include more market conditions and more of IBM’s technologies and services. And, of course, the focus has shifted to emphasize digital business transformation as the marketplace adopted that approach.
The resulting, current Garage incarnation is a dynamic, updated innovation program that emphasizes collaborative ideation, design thinking, and cooperative development focused on measurable outcomes. IBM customers and partners report excellent results from their experiences with the Garage experience.
IBM’s digital transformation theme is important to current market expectations. And the emphasis on measurable outcomes is something that the marketplace increasingly expects. But IBM’s promotion borders on hype, stressing vague concepts like “fundamental transformation” and promoting Garage as a totally unique type of program. And their examples of “measurable outcomes” fall short of the type of core business improvements that enterprises demand today.
An Idea Whose Time Has Been Here For A While
From my point of view, IBM is promoting something that it should have been pushing harder since it began in 2014. Big Blue could have led the market as enterprises and partners began their transitions toward digital transformation focus. But while IBM has delivered repeatedly and capably on digital transformation, public visibility of the Garage program has been much less than that of similar customer and partner programs from such IT providers as HCL, DXC, Mindtree, and even Microsoft.
The Garage program represents a continuing and somewhat unique issue for IBM. As markets demand more leading-edge business and IT concepts and changes, IBM finds itself in a challenging position. It already offers what’s being demanded – but lacks critical market awareness of its relevant offering(s).
IBM Has The Soda, But Lacks The Pop
I’ve said for more than a decade that no IT provider is better positioned and more capable of delivering cloud- and digital-era capabilities than IBM. But the company continues to be challenged in its ability to anticipate and lead markets visibly. With its current Garage positioning, IBM is again showing that it has the required table stakes. But it’s not establishing, or leading, markets as it once could. And what IBM considers to be “differentiation” is mostly meeting expectations that other providers also satisfy. What IBM needs is better demonstration of its abilities to improve customer and partner business where other providers fall short.
IBM’s Garage program offers significant value through a strong, agile, and cooperative approach to solution development. It is a solid option for re-imaging and pursuing a range of digital business transformation initiatives. Enterprise IT and business leaders seeking a cooperative business/process solution development approach that includes design thinking and outcome-driven metrics should certainly consider IBM Garage. But be aware that alternatives exist with other providers.