Whither, IBM?

In the weeks since I resigned from IBM, I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts on the future of the company. A few recent developments have helped crystallize the points I want to make: first, there’s been a spate of high-level departures from the company, some public (12) and many others which I’ve just heard about through the grapevine. Second, rumors about a major reorganization have surfaced in the tech press, reflecting widespread rumblings within IBM itself. These developments are related, but are only properly understood with a clear picture of what’s going on at IBM as a whole.


The Computing Tabulating Recording Company.

IBM is a company in transition – both by choice and not. Its sprawling size, century-old legacy and multitudes of business lines make this transition noisy, messy and very public. Changing strategies for IBM involves breaking a lot of conceptual models that a lot of people have held about the company for many years, perhaps no where more so than in the financial community. This is one of the reasons why much the mainstream coverage of IBM is highly simplistic, ill-informed, or flat-out wrong. (Indeed, that could describe a lot of what finance people write about tech.)

I remain a true believer in IBM. I have faith that the company will find its way again, and that IBM will still be selling to our grandchildren one day. But in the meantime, there’s a lot of soul-searching to be done. In the last several months (and particularly since the crappy Q3 results were released), there’s been something of a dogpile of criticism of the company, much of which is unfair. So here I’m going to try to offer some more thoughtful criticism on how the company can find its way again.

Edit, 11/23: I’ve added an update since the Q4/FY 2014 results were announced.

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The state of digital analytics in 2015

Thinking through the recent Andreessen-Horowitz investment in Mixpanel has got me thinking about the overall economics of the digital analytics industry over the past few days. (Plus, my wife and I finished all of The Americans, so unless I get back to re-watching Battlestar Galactica over the holiday before season 4 of GoT hits iTunes, there’s nothing good on TV.)

As I’ve said before, I believe that digital analytics is a foundational business tool for any modern enterprise, and what we’re seeing in almost every industry today is a divergence between those companies that have evolved to embed this technology into their strategy and execute on it, and those that have not. Digital analytics – web, mobile, and the like – enables and complements all sorts of marketing and ecommerce technologies that are now table stakes for a competitive business, which puts the analytics vendor itself in an incredibly valuable strategic position. No wonder, then, that competition is so heated.


I’m going to take stock of the digital analytics vendor landscape as it stands at the beginning of 2015, make a few predictions about where it’s heading, and then circle back to the a16z-Mixpanel thing, because it’s a real head-scratcher. And it makes sense to start by talking about the two biggest names in enterprise digital marketing – Adobe and Google. In that order.

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demandwareI resigned from IBM last week. My last day as a Big Blue employee will be in the next week or so, and in the new year, I’ll be moving into a senior role at Demandware leading the company’s large enterprise accounts initiative.

coreAs I told my colleagues internally this week, I’ve been very proud to be an IBMer, and to work on Coremetrics. My resignation was a little surreal, actually – I was in the Bay Area for a team meeting, and had “the talk” with my manager in the very same conference room where John Squire hired me years ago. So things have really come full circle.

I’ve been collecting my thoughts about IBM and its future, which I’ll probably wrap into a blog post at some point here soon. But for now, I don’t anticipate any big shift in the focus area for this blog – marketing tech, ecommerce, and how people buy stuff on the interwebs remains my interest area.

I’ll be staying here in North Carolina, but coming up to Boston fairly frequently. If you’re in the area, let’s hang out!


Marketing to normals

My wife and I held our annual holiday party last weekend for a few dozen close friends. As usual, it was awesome: Southern cocktails, homemade treats, a nice fire going, two dogs and a decked-out tree. Good times. Over some drinks, I took the opportunity to conduct a totally unscientific poll about something I was curious about – the mobile commerce behavior of our friends. Specifically, I wanted to know: do you actually buy stuff on your phone?

phoneThe reason I asked was because of a weird pattern I’d seen while trawling through the annual ecommerce reporting data from the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. According to IBM, on Cyber Monday, roughly 1 in 10 online sales was on a smartphone, with an average order value of approximately $100. ($100!) Nor was this an outlier – similar figures were cited by Adobe Digital Index and comScore.

The idea that some people are not only actually shopping for stuff on their iPhones (the percentage of sales on Android devices is far lower), but also spending quite a bit of money on them, honestly mystifies me. I don’t understand the use case at all. Yet – the data is there, and I’m not one to argue with hard evidence. This paradox has gotten me thinking quite a bit about the ongoing fragmentation of paths to purchase, and what it means for 2014’s emerging marketing buzzword: customer journeys.

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