September 16 2014
It has been a busy three months since my new position as Vice President, IBM Social Business Transformation was announced. Immediately after starting my new role, I left for Taiwan for a three-week assignment on an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge project team. The philanthropic experience was everything I expected and then some. I returned to the US at a new address - my family had moved to a new home across town, just before my flight to Taipei. The next few weeks were an adjustment - new home, new job, and making up for the loss of several weeks of summer cycling.
When Tim Clark contacted me a short time later, and asked if I would like to be part of the agenda at the 2014 ICON UK user group meeting, it took me about ten seconds to say "yes." Deadlines are often important forcing functions, and I felt that if I was committed to delivering an external presentation on IBM's social business transformation six weeks into the new job, it would align all sorts of activities during that time.
The last five days in London have definitely been worth that effort. Tim, along with Tony Holder and a supporting cast, ran a great user group event which drew about 125 people to sunny IBM Southbank in London. Everything went extremely smoothly. It was impressive to see the delegates from all over Europe, along with speakers and sponsors who had literally come from all over the world.
The ICON keynote was presented by my friend and colleague Scott Souder, who spent the entire hour discussing IBM's "Mail Next" project. Mail Next is an incredible evolution of the collaboration and social user experience. Finally we are moving away from the inbox and folders metaphor for mail, while bringing mail and social tools together in a way that will be extremely relevant to my new responsibility of driving adoption of social inside of IBM. It's incredible to see the focus on user experience and IBM Design Thinking. This is the kind of product where people say "I want that" at first exposure, and I can't wait to get there myself as part of our internal rollout.
My own session, "IBM's Social Business Transformation," focused on our social business journey at IBM. As much as we invented the market space of groupware/collaboration/social software, and have been leading the market in social since its inception, our internal use is an ongoing evolution. We are in a stage now of moving beyond holding hands and sharing files to an environment where being social is having a material impact on the company's bottom line - through innovation, speed, efficiency, employee satisfaction/talent management, and increased customer satisfaction. This is what I have been focused on in my initial 45 days in role - learning what has been working (and of course, what hasn't) in our internal adoption, and identifying the opportunities to accelerate.
The slideshare below is what I presented at ICON UK. I had hoped to get into some of the specific examples in backup or do some demos of IBM apps from my iPhone, but I simply ran out of time.
This presentation was my first opportunity to discuss what I do with a community of people I've known for a long time. My intent was to garner feedback that will go into making this presentation more useful and focused - not just for me, of course, but for anyone looking to share the IBM social business story. A couple of points that emerged from the audience discussion - 1) the cultural change to support working in the open is really hard and 2) metrics, while clearly important to garnering organizational support, can drive the wrong behaviors. I'm very conscious of both of these - the first is why my new team is comprised primarily of change management consultants who have been producing coaching programs, reference blueprints, example use cases, and more foundational business tools; the second is why I am proceeding methodically through the process of determining what metrics matter in terms of internal adoption. You'll see a few slides in the presentation with examples of ways to measure social business success. We have some great stories internally, but many are not quantified nor even as well-documented as I would like; in the coming weeks I am adding staff to help with this aspect of our journey.
I expect that this presentation will evolve rapidly; I'm still meeting key people relevant to my new job and establishing our team activities for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015. I'll be presenting regular updates externally, leading up to IBM ConnectED 2015, which is not named after me, but is an event I will indeed be participating at. It's different not to be "selling" a product or service anymore, though obviously my entire mission is about "drinking our own champagne." In case it isn't clear, I'm very excited to be back in the social arena, back among people I've worked with and respected for a long time, and focused on a transformative part of IBM. Looking forward to getting back into external blogging as well - thank you to those this week who have encouraged me to find my way back here.
June 23 2014
Earlier today, it was announced internally at IBM that I have taken on a new role. I am moving into our corporate organization as Vice President, Social Business Transformation. In this position, my team and I are responsible for advancing IBM's maturity as a social business, and continuing the development of a culture of participation.
My predecessor in this role, Bethann Cregg, has left some pretty large shoes to fill. Several programs and tools are in place in IBM today to help our employees reach the right experts, engage more directly with our clients, and convert knowledge into action. IBM is viewed by many as a benchmark for organizational change, presenting an exciting yet challenging opportunity. My goal is to move us ahead quickly on the maturity curve--from social business foundations to an environment where use of social business principles and tools becomes part of the daily fabric of the company, at all levels and job functions.
The last 18 months have been a period of fantastic growth and development as marketing director for IBM MobileFirst. Building IBM's position in the mobile enterprise market from a small collection of products and services into an integrated, market-leading solutions portfolio has been successful for the company, and also personally rewarding. I am eternally grateful to Kristen Lauria for bringing me into the marketing organization and having the confidence that my previous experience would translate into this success. Moving on today is the first time in 20 years at IBM that I feel like I am leaving a job in some ways unfinished -- having just hired the last addition to my team. While we have accomplished much together, there is still more to be done around creating mindshare for IBM, integrated solution portfolios, and developing an ecosystem around IBM's mobile technologies. I am very proud of the team that I am leaving behind, many of them friends as well as colleagues, and hope that they will continue on the road to market dominance.
Though I am just getting started, several aspects of my new role are particularly exciting. Clearly, I am coming back to my roots, in a job that is all about helping people collaborate. My calendar is already filling up with external speaking engagements, opportunities to demonstrate that a social business is about more than canned tweets and having a Facebook page. This is also my first role that has company-wide responsibility within IBM, and I am looking forward to learning more about the various divisions, functions, and geographies I've never encountered before. Many of the people I will be working with in this position have likewise been pioneers or early adopters of social business tools -- some of them coming out of Lotus heritage like me. It is good to have a team with shared ideals and objectives from the start.
Unsurprisingly, I expect to increase activity here on my blog and other social channels. I'm not sure you'll see me donning a yellow sweater, but the uniform seems familiar. I won't be pitching a product or service, but clearly it is important for IBM's own story to continue to surface externally. I expect to be connecting/reconnecting with many of the IBM social thought leaders out here in the open, as well as many of you as clients or partners. I look forward to your participation, and thank you for your support.
One other point to note: Timing is everything. Just a few weeks from now, I will be part of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team in Tainan, Taiwan. This three week assignment is an exciting opportunity to contribute to a real-world municipal problem as part of a volunteer team of IBM experts. It's going to be a busy summer, and I hope you'll stay tuned in here, on Twitter, the Smarter Cities Challenge blog, and for IBMers on my internal profile and blog as well.
In my last blog entry, I covered the announcement of the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge. The Watson Mobile Developer Challenge is designed to catalyze mobile developers to explore the opportunity around mobile cognitive computing - bringing the power of Watson to a smartphone or other mobile device. Entrants submit proposals for mobile apps, and the finalists - to be announced at IBM Impact 2014 - will receive access to IBM Interactive Studios experts and Watson APIs in order to bring their vision to reality.
In the 30 days since the Challenge was announced, there has been tremendous interest. The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge website has had over 90,000 visits, leading to over 5000 clickthroughs to submit a proposal. Because of this level of interest, submissions are still coming in - with two weeks to the (revised) deadline of April 14.
What makes a good entry for the Challenge? Here are some ideas on the WatsonDev blog:
A good interaction pattern with Watson will exploit the volume, veracity and variety of content to leverage evidence based insights with weighted confidence. A strong use case will take advantage of deep natural language processing and benefit from a continuously learning system, while providing transparency into the source of information. Applications can transform the user experience with contextual relevance and active dialoging.
Submissions so far have come from everywhere - all over the world, and from a range of entities - individual developers, system integrators, venture capitalists, IBMers, and even corporations. But I only recognize one name in the whole list, which means regular blog readers haven't yet jumped on this opportunity. Hope you'll take a look and brainstorm some ideas - it would be great to have some familiar faces among the finalists.
Link: The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge >
March 3 2014
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty delivered the Wednesday keynote last week at Mobile World Congress. The speech was wide-ranging and covered a number of key thoughts around data, cloud, and engagement as the three major trends in enterprise technology that will change the way we work. At the conclusion of her speech, Rometty announced the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, and nominations are now open.
What is the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge?
The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge will encourage developers around the world to build sophisticated cognitive apps that can change the way consumers and businesses interact with data on their mobile devices. Through this initiative, mobile developers can take advantage of Watson’s ability to understand the complexities of human language, "read" millions of pages of data in seconds and improve its own performance by learning.Between now and March 31, developers and organizations that wish to compete can submit their proposals. In late April at IBM Impact 2014, we'll name finalists, and over the subsequent three weeks those finalists will get busy coding. The winner will be announced May 31.
Over the next three months, the global challenge invites mobile developers and entrepreneurs to share their best ideas to build and develop mobile apps into prototypes. Three winners will join the Watson Ecosystem Program. The winners will work with IBM's recently launched global consulting practice, IBM Interactive Experience to receive design consulting and support from IBM experts to develop a viable commercial app.
Rometty's announcement received tons of press coverage around the world, recognizing the importance of her presence at Mobile World Congress 2014 and IBM's leadership in enterprise mobility:
BBC: IBM seeks app developers to harness Watson: "To date, more than 1,500 individuals and organisations have been in touch to suggest apps. Three intend to go to market this year, including an app to transform how consumers shop and one to help hospitals better procure devices. .... Other potential Watson-powered mobile apps could include medical ones to help doctors and patients sift through vast amounts of data. ... Already Watson is being used by doctors and nurses at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, to help make decisions about lung cancer treatment at the hospital."
V3.co.uk, MWC: IBM pushes Watson to mobile developers: "Rometty said companies will need the advanced analytics tools offered by Watson to deal with the disruptive effects of mobile, cloud and big data technologies. "We're currently going through an exciting but disruptive period within the enterprise and there are key shifts that are changing and reshaping the technology industry. To me data is the world's next natural resource. We will look back on this time and we will look at data as the resource that powered the twenty-first century," she said. "We at IBM look forward and see data will be the basis of competitive advantage for every company. It will decide the winners and the losers. Everyone can say they're a data business, but what will decide the future is how companies use data.""
Mobile World Congress 2014 was an exciting and successful week for IBM MobileFirst. We announced a mobile cloud platform, Codename: Bluemix; acquisition of Cloudant; the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, and several client testimonials. Our events and activities at the conference were well-received and we met a lot of quality clients and prospects. You can find highlights on our YouTube channel and website news page. Thanks to all of you who stopped by the IBM booth or our mini-conference to connect while in Barcelona. A very useful event indeed.
Today is a busy day for IBM MobileFirst.
We started the day here in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, a conference with 80,000 attendees from all over the world. IBM's presence at Mobile World Congress (#IBMMWC) starts with a magnificent trade show booth, continues with hundreds of meetings, accelerates with a 1/2 day mini-conference Tuesday afternoon, and culminates with a keynote from CEO and Chairman Ginni Rometty on Wednesday evening.
I've heard all the stories about MWC, which is 2nd only to CeBIT in terms of size of a European technology show, but being here is a whole different thing. The Fira Barcelona is almost a mile long, and the show continues throughout every one of eight buildings. I logged nearly 20,000 FitBit steps yesterday without any workout, or even really any sightseeing. There appear to be over 200 IBMers here, plus some recent acquisitions like The Now Factory and MaaS360 by Fiberlink, and we have several speakers throughout the week including Andrew Grill and those in our own 1/2 day conference - IBM GM Marie Wieck, IBM GM Rich Esposito, IBM Global Business Services partner Kevin Custis, and Fiberlink CEO Jim Sheward.
Meanwhile half a world away, in Las Vegas, IBM is holding the annual Pulse conference, which has become our premier cloud event. And today at Pulse, we are announcing the public beta of Codename "Bluemix", the new IBM cloud developer platform. From the individual developer to the VP of apps, aBluemix is an ideal cloud platform-as-a-service environment for building, deploying, and managing web and mobile apps. Both IBM and our partners are delivering modular cloud services for typical app use cases of today: integration, data management, DevOps, analytics, and more.
If you're a developer, you will now have a hand in creating the future. Codename: BlueMix offers you all the instant services, runtimes, and infrastructure you need to push your ideas into the present.
"Bluemix" is one of the key remaining pieces of the equation for IBM's mobile enterprise story. In the year that I have been part of this organization, what I've heard is that IBM Worklight is the best Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) in the industry. That's ideal if you are in a position to be adopting a platform. But say you are a power user in line-of-business - can you adopt and deploy the Worklight environment? It's a bigger thing. This is where mobile cloud services come into play; a developer of one can get started in a matter of minutes with building an app, from predefined capabilities through to straight coding.
Our intent with "Bluemix" is to compete and win in the mobile app platform market in the broadest possible way. You'll see us do things different for "Bluemix" - very different - than the way IBM usually has approached developers. We anticipate you'll find out about "Bluemix" on StackOverflow or GitHub or meetups or atypical (e.g. non-IBM) conferences. Delivery is integrated into the service, hosted on IBM Softlayer, so local market hybrid cloud deployment is straightforward. And of course, it's an infinitely flexible environment, so new capabilities, services, and partners will continually be added.
There's lots more news from IBM Mobile coming this week; I'll be blogging and Tweeting along as additional announcements make their way into public visibility. There's something for everyone, so stay tuned :-)
January 30 2014
I'm on my way home from my 18th trip to Orlando in January, leaving behind friends and memories from IBM Connect 2014. This was my first time at the event outside of the brand/division running it, and it definitely felt a little bit different. I didn't know what was being announced or previewed in the general sessions, had no dog of my own in the hunt. Of course, I continue to be enthusiastic about IBM's Collaboration Solutions, but I watched from the perspective more of an alumnus with far less of the emotional attachment. Thank you to those of you on Twitter and in hallways who wished for our collective prior experience, where I would blog about those announcements with summary and clarity. It's just not my expertise anymore. IBM "Mail next" looks pretty exciting, and I am pleased to see that what started in a small conference room in our labs back many months ago has taken shape rather nicely into a compelling design and user experience.
What I did do at this conference was speak, exhibit, and meet. IBM MobileFirst had a significant presence in the product showcase, with our product managers, marketing, and sales team staffing a quadrant of the social/mobile/cloud/big data strategic center of the show floor. Those that visited had the opportunity to speak to us about Worklight, Fiberlink MaaS360, Tealeaf CX Mobile, IBM Interactive, our Global Technology Services mobility offerings, and several other offerings. Right in the middle of the show floor was a Range Rover demonstrating the concept of the "Connected Car," featuring IBM MessageSight technology to provide instantaneous response to mobile device-based control of heating, entertainment, and other in-car features. Cool stuff.
David Marshak and I spoke yesterday at the conference, providing an overview of the IBM MobileFirst portfolio and solutions. I was pleased that I knew very few people in the room. The whole point of taking mobile to Connect was to reach new audiences, and it appears we were successful at that. There was also a Worklight + Domino/Notes session going on at the same time from Mat Newman, so attendees could get the strategic or tactical point of view.
Offline from the session and exhibition, my team and I participated in about a dozen meetings with clients and partners. These were good discussions that validated where we are at in the market with products like Worklight, and opportunities to continue to expand their reach in 2014 and beyond. We also seem to be progressing in awareness and consideration in the market, though the question "what does IBM do in mobile" is still fairly common. During 2014 we will continue to push MobileFirst in places where we aren't anticipated, growing overall awareness of our solutions on both the software and services side. We'll have some new announcements next month to help expand the reach of the technology, too.
Of course Connect is a conference on familiar turf, so it was great to spend time catching up with so many clients, partners, and IBMers who have been part of my journey. I made a few more Fitbit friends, and received so many kind words about what a difference a year makes. Thank you all for continuing to connect on the human level. That's what makes this conference unique.
I get to go home for about ten days then on to Las Vegas for IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2014, then another short break before Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. From there, I am hoping to get to Japan and help accelerate our mobile story in that market. Impact 2014 is around the corner at the end of April, too, and that conference will be heavily focused on IBM's mobile enterprise solutions. Good thing we have them - because I'm going to be mobile a lot in the next three months :-)
What a difference a year makes.
It's just over a week away from the start of IBM Connect 2014. Though this will be my 18th time in Orlando in January, my agenda is a bit different this time. My friend David Marshak and I are presenting SB303: The Mobile Enterprise: Business In Motion with IBM MobileFirst on Wednesday, January 29, at 3 PM in Dolphin S. Hemisphere III. It'll be a great session; our goal is to give an overview of all the mobile enterprise tools and capabilities available in the IBM portfolio. Basically, a peek into what I've been working on since I left Connect 2013's Ask the Product Managers session. Other than that, no sessions for me. I'll be in the product showcase at the MobileFirst stand from time to time; I have about a dozen partner meetings lined up as well and at this point my calendar is surprisingly full! Still, I am hopeful this Connect will be an opportunity for a different pace, some hallway conversations, and perhaps more than one round of sushi at Kimono's.
Two weeks after Connect is IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2014, February 10-13 in Las Vegas. My boss, some of my team and I will be there to talk MobileFirst with channel partners and prospects. If you are attending, please let me know so we can get together.
Then to round out an intense early year conference circuit, two weeks after that is the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona. This is the second-biggest technology trade show in Europe, and a very important event for IBM MobileFirst. IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty is a keynote speaker, and we will be sponsoring a half-day mini-conference during the week as well. Just starting to work on meeting plans for this event now.
I look forward to seeing many of my long-time contacts, colleagues, and friends at these events. IBM MobileFirst has established leadership in several segments of the mobile enterprise market, and at these events we will be discussing plans to continue this momentum in 2014. I hope to see you there, at least at one of these :-)
At this week's National Retail Federation, IBM is showcasing Presence Zones, a new solution for bringing together in-store and mobile marketing. Combined with our recent acquisition of Xtify, IBM now is offering an extensive set of capabilities for integrated, immersive retail shopping expereinces -- benefitting both consumer and retailer. Mobile and retail has some pretty compelling use cases, basically the mass customization that Lotus CTO John Landry talked about two decades ago is really coming to the fore. Presence Zones and Xtify bring that together by providing offers and information in the context of the shopper's physical location, as well as their buying history and loyalty.
Craig Hayman, IBM's General Manager of Industry Solutions and Smarter Workforce, offers some thoughts on the IBM Smarter Commerce blog, "Mobile Shopping: The new digital concierge":
Developed in our research labs, IBM Presence Zones use an intelligent location-based technology to engage shoppers with personalized offers and promotions as they move through a physical store. Just as my smartphone can get me out of a traffic jam in an unfamiliar city, it can now help me discover a one-day jewelry sale, or snap up the last next gen gaming console from a sister store 20 miles away.He is also interviewed in Forbes, "IBM's New 'Presence Zones' Help Retailers Transform In-Store Experience":
One is ensuring the customer is willing to participate. Without consent, no personal data is exchanged and the customer goes about their day. Another is the ability to reward loyalty by delivering a tailored and connected shopping experience through a mutual exchange of information. The retailer understands more about the customer, and in turn, the customer receives a much more personalized and targeted promotion. In addition, and enabled by that deeper understanding of in-store traffic, the retailer is able to direct sales associates for better face-to-face service or optimize the physical location of new in-store promotions.There is also a video outlining Presence Zones on YouTube, well worth 2 minutes and 6 seconds >
November 13 2013
This morning, IBM announced its intent to acquire Fiberlink, a market-leading provider of enterprise mobile management capabilities. Fiberlink's MaaS360 is one of the leading mobile device management solutions, and demonstrates the power of software-as-a-service in scaling down to the smallest organizations while scaling up to large enterprises. Fiberlink is a critical addition to the IBM MobileFirst portfolio, and this move is recognition that enterprise mobility management (EMM) is rapidly becoming the natural progression from mobile device management (MDM) and BYOD strategies as well as mobile application management (MAM).
Fiberlink provides a strong set of core capabilities: MDM, MAM, containerization, and content and document management. Bringing Fiberlink into IBM furthers our belief, endorsed by clients and analysts alike, that organizations are looking for a single management offering for all endpoints - desktops, laptops, mobile devices, servers, etc. Fiberlink, combined with existing IBM solutions, will provide that all-encompassing solution, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
Adding Fiberlink to the IBM stable is designed to help organizations optimize the mobile enterprise infrastructure. Fiberlink furthers the most comprehensive set of mobile management and security technologies and services in the market today. On the software side, IBM offers management and security at the device, network, application, and transaction layers, through technologies like Trusteer, AppScan, Security Access Manager, and integration with 3rd parties like Arxan for application protection. The IBM services organizations offer a broad range of capabilities and approaches to delivering all of mobile solutions, and now adds a true SaaS offering in Fiberlink.
From the press release, "IBM to acquire Fiberlink Communications":
This announcement is another milestone in IBM’s strategy to build the industry’s most comprehensive set of mobile capabilities while eliminating barriers to adoption and accelerating the productivity benefits of mobility. At the same time, IBM is expanding the vision for enterprise mobility management to also include secure transactions between businesses, partners and customers.
“In a mobile first world, clients require a comprehensive mobile management and security offering. Often times they integrate solutions on their own and take on unnecessary risk,” said Robert LeBlanc, IBM senior vice president, Middleware Software. “To protect and enhance the complete mobile experience, it’s crucial to secure the app, user, content, data and the transaction. The acquisition of Fiberlink will enable us to offer these expanded capabilities to our clients, making it simple and quick to unlock the full potential of mobility.”
For more information on the planned acquisition of Fiberlink, see these additional resources:
asmarterplanet.com: Kristen Lauria's Mobile Business Insights blog >
Security Intelligence Blog: IBM to acquire Fiberlink - What it means for mobile security >
YouTube: Caleb Barlow and Phil Buckellew on the IBM and Fiberlink story >
November 6 2013
Nominations are open until November 15, 2013 for the IBM 2014 Beacon Award for Outstanding mobile enterprise solution:
This award recognizes an IBM Business Partner who has helped customers become a mobile enterprise, by providing business-to-employee (B2E) or business-to-consumer/business (B2C/B2B) solutions designed for mobile, first.Obviously there are other IBM Beacon Awards for solutions built with various other IBM tools, this particular one is focused on the tools that are exclusively mobile.
Nominated solutions will be comprised of IBM MobileFirst solutions, with a primary focus on the MobileFirst platform. IBM offerings that are considered as the primary basis for this award include IBM Worklight, IBM MessageSight and IBM Tealeaf CX Mobile.
Looking forward to your nominations!
Link: ibm.com: 2014 Beacon Awards >
October 28 2013
October has been an incredibly busy month. I am headed to Europe now for the third time in a 75-day period; the intervening time has also featured trips to Austin and Toronto. Additionally, I had the opportunity to be part of IBM InterConnect 2013 in Singapore earlier this month, my first time over to Asia this year. As such, I was determined to make the best of it.
The InterConnect conference was excellent. Our IBM MobileFirst sessions went well, drawing several hundred attendees to learn about IBM's leadership and expertise. The conference was held at Marina Bay Sands, an amazing hotel with great service and facilities. A workout room of glass 55 stories up in the air, so high up that my cell phone switched service providers to another country, made for fantastic experiences and memories. And Singapore, well, my favorite eating city in the world retained that title with visits to Maxwell Hawker Center, Din Tai Fung for amazing dumplings, and a helping of required chilli crab.
Friends and long-time readers know that I have a thing for Southeast Asia: the diverse people, the culture and historical artefacts, the scenery, the food, and most of all, the intensity. As such, it was imperative for me to find someplace to get away for a few days after Singapore, somewhere new and unexplored.
Those pieces all fell into place as I searched for nonstop Saturday morning departures, and found myself looking at Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar. Yangon had all the right ingredients: the fact that the country had only been really to normal tourism for a few years, after such a challenging recent history; the images of saffron-robed monks tending to golden pagodas; the mix-of-everything-good cuisine; and a one-stop flight through Tokyo to get me out of there after a long weekend.
There was only one challenge: getting a visa to enter the country. Americans are supposed to use the Myanmar embassy in Washington, but they offer no guaranteed turnaround time for issuing visas. The thought of sending my passport away and waiting potentially three weeks or more for it to come back, in a busy travel season, just wasn't going to work. After some searching, it appeared that a good alternative would be waiting until arrival in Singapore, then visiting Myanmar's embassy there. While they do have an amazing one-day turnaround for issuing visas, it turned out that the service is only available for Singaporeans.
It was almost time to give up, when more googling came up with myanmarvisa.com. They promised to facilitate - and expedite if needed - the paperwork for a visa upon arrival (VOA), rather than having to have it issued in advance. It seemed too good to be true, and reports on the Internet were unclear as to whether they delivered as promised. I decided to gamble and see what happened. Five days after sending paypal to someone in Myanmar, an email with some scanned documents came along, and it looked like I was good to go. It turned out they forgot the most important document in the initial packet - the letter that tells your airline that you have a visa waiting on arrival - but a few more emails and it came through the night before departure.
I write these paragraphs in some detail in part because the search engine information on myanmarvisa.com is so limited. If you follow their process, they will deliver as promised. The VOA counter was a little chaotic in Yangon Airport, with some 40 people on two flights approaching simultaneously, but they had my paperwork and issued the visa in about 20 minutes. Myanmarvisa.com had someone waiting for me after immigration at baggage claim, and she helped facilitate getting a taxi (US$10) into town. She wouldn't even take a tip. For those looking to use myanmarvisa.com, I recommend them, just be sure to receive three documents from them - the English-language letter that tells your airline to let you on board, the manifest copy for your flight, and the Burmese document that is your official invitation.
Yangon was an amazing place to spend three days.
The people were friendly, English was more-widely spoken than I expected, and the hotel (Chatrium) was great. Taxis were cheap (US$1.50 or $2 to get around the city were common, $10 to/from the airport) and plentiful, though the traffic on Monday was brutal versus Saturday and Sunday. Restaurants are not plentiful, but TripAdvisor was a huge help and we had some great meals for no more than US$5 each. (I wasn't willing to brave any street food other than a donut, the hygiene just didn't look like it would agree with me). Tripadvisor was also on the money for tourist attractions, including the three pagodas I visited, the national museum, the Jewish synagogue (yes really), and the markets and downtown core. A real highlight was the circular train, which I almost laughed off initially. For US$1 (tourist rate, locals pay 20 cents), you can ride a train that goes through city and suburbs in a loop that takes about three hours. Every stop is a different world, with some in high-class neighborhoods, some in slums, some in the middle of markets and others in the middle of rice fields. There is a tourist-class car on the train with slightly better seating, but my buddy Matt and I sat in "ordinary class," basically a plastic bench over a wooden floor in a train car without window panes or doors. Like our time in the Buddhist temples, it was a very zen experience in the middle of the chaotic city of 5 million+ people. Highly recommended.
The most-frequently asked question, a natural given the country's recent past, is whether I felt safe. Absolutely yes. We never saw any military presence, though police were on many street corners and at some key tourist sites. We were never taken advantage of, and other than a few people offering to change money or sell post cards, never even bothered walking the streets. Even the times I felt instinctively I needed to keep a hand on my wallet, nothing happened. The country has so recently opened up that they haven't figured out how to take advantage of tourists yet. I hope it stays that way.
While there is still plenty more southeast Asia to explore, I don't look at this visit to Yangon and feel like I checked it off a list. I would love to go back, and get out to Mandalay, Bagan, or some of the other historical cities. I feel some urgency...the friendliness of the people and the uncorrupted nature of the experience won't last forever. If you're thinking about it, go. Now.
Link: Yangon on flickr (only a small subset of my photos...more as I get through them) >
When it rains, it pours.
This week has been a busy one in the IBM MobileFirst arena, with two acquisitions plus a new market study out today. All of these are wind in the sails of activity heading into two key core events next week: IBM InterConnect in Singapore (where I will be), and Gartner IT Symposium.
The first acquisition, announced Tuesday, is The Now Factory of Dublin, Ireland. The Now Factory offers analytics tools for Communications Service Providers (CSPs, or typically, telecom companies), to understand the usage patterns of subscribers on mobile devices. CSPs can enhance the quality of service through these insights, driving actions that reduce network outages or performance issues. The technology may be specific to telecoms, but the concept is universal in the mobile space - how to use big data insights to drive a better experience. Our Tealeaf CX Mobile solution does that, too, in terms of end-user experiences on the device itself.
The second acquisition, announced today, is Xtify, Inc. Xtify's solution is clearly in the sweet spot of the IBM MobileFirst portfolio - a set of mobile messaging capabilities targeted at commerce and customer satisfaction. Xtify's cloud-based campaign management platform notifies mobile consumers when new content and promotions are available, leading to improved customer loyalty. Sephora, Disney Stores, The Tribune Group and 20th Century Fox among other clients are using Xtify’s push notifications delivered via mobile apps or sites to increase sales opportunities while fostering brand loyalty. My colleagues and I have taken to calling this kind of interaction "engaging the customer at the moment of awareness."
Published today, new research that IBM's Institute for Business Value endorses the importance of using mobile enterprise solutions for engaging the customer. After interviewing 630 organizations worldwide, the IBV study - “The 'Upwardly Mobile' Enterprise: Setting the strategic agenda” - found distinctions among mobile adoption leaders:
- Leaders build apps that unlock core business knowledge for mobile uses: They excel nearly 2:1 at integrating existing systems with mobile, and are more effective with app security than non-leaders (82% vs 51% of others)
- Leaders secure and manage the mobile enterprise to optimize performance: They are more than twice as likely to adopt BYOD programs, as well as establishing data security (90% leaders vs 55% others), and at ensuring network capacity (80% leaders vs 48% others).
- Leaders use insights to engage their customers wherever they are: They are twice as effective at taking action based on mobile data
- Leaders are using mobile to fundamentally transform the way they do business: Leaders are twice as likely to realize ROI from mobile initiatives
The IBV study was notable for couple of reasons: 1) the willingness of organizations to self-identify as "leading" or otherwise, and 2) the involvement of the line-of-business executives in defining and executing a mobile strategy. In fact the IBV study shows that the CMO, CEO, and CIO are the three most likely roles to define, sponsor, and implement mobile solutions. That's why when we do IBM Mobile Agenda Workshops, we try to bring together IT and line-of-business for the exercise.
It's been a busy but good week. Now I'm looking forward to being back in Asia for my first time this year, at an exciting event that brings together the best of IBM. I'll be tweeting using the #IBMInterConnect hashtag and you can follow all the conference news @IBMInterConnect. If you will be in Singapore, be sure to see our Mobile Enterprise keynote on Thursday the 10th, or my session on Friday morning the 11th. I'll be there between chili crabs, hopefully :-)
October 2 2013
Bruce Elgort has been a friend of mine for nearly fifteen years. He has been a mentor, an advocate, a sounding board, a cheerleader, and even a therapist. :-) Today, Bruce is stepping down as chairman of the IBM Notes-related open source community called OpenNTF.org. Bruce and Nathan Freeman conceived of OpenNTF a dozen years ago. I didn't quite know what to make of the guy and the idea, and at the time wasn't in a position where I could put any of IBM's energy into the effort (other than having the lawyers warn against "NotesOSS" as a name...probably the right call though I realize many still remember that with some angst).
I can't imagine where I would be today without Bruce. He contributed to my book, he and I chat online almost every day. I know he's definitely humbled by all this attention today, but Bruce, if anyone deserves it, you do. THANK YOU for everything, and best for your continued success in your newfound academic career.
September 10 2013
This morning, at the Frankfurt IAA International Auto Show, Continental AG and IBM announced a collaboration agreement to jointly develop fully-connected mobile vehicle solutions for car manufacturers around the world.
From the press release:
Dirk Wollschläger, General Manager Global Automotive Industry, IBM said: "Realization of the fully connected vehicle requires technology expertise across Big Data, embedded intelligence and the ability to deliver services over a highly scalable cloud platform. As innovators in our respective fields, Continental and IBM will accelerate the convergence of automotive and IT industries, enabling car manufacturers to integrate multimedia mobile services personalized in-car experience, infotainment and traffic flow management to the realization of a truly connected car.”
“Today’s car owners are completely rethinking their mobility needs and expect their vehicles to deliver the same capabilities and conveniences as other smart devices. This means drivers are not only looking for quality, safe, reliable performance, but also see the motor car as a highly personalized extension of their daily and digitally connected lives” stated Wollschläger.
This is IBM's second announcement around connected cars in the last couple of months; it's a key area of focus for us as part of the MobileFirst initiative. When I think about what "mobile" means in the future, it's not just smartphones and tablets, but the whole realm of machine-to-machine activity in what is quickly becoming a mainstream thought around the "Internet of Things."
Analysts tell us that the connected car is expected to be the largest market driving apps for the Internet of Things through 2020. This is the result of two trends coming together in the marketplace. First, the number of sensors and complex software inside connected cars is increasing dramatically, resulting in vehicles producing more data than ever before. At the same time, connectivity is becoming a common feature for newly launched vehicles. Now, consumers expect mobility to seamlessly translate to all of their daily tasks: from home, to their automobiles, office, etc.
Working with Continental, we envision a whole range of innovations in the connected car arena. It's too soon to get into specifics, but I can tell you from the IBM side that this is a project backed by the commitment of several general managers and senior engineering staff, and Continental is an expert partner in networked automobile communication.
Looking for some of this in action? We have set up a demo website which you can check out for details.
I've, uh, tweeted some info about this, but thought it might be useful for those of you watching the blog to know about this upcoming Tweetchat. I've never actually hosted a Tweetchat before, so I'm excited to be the emcee for a People for a Smarter Planet Tweetchat this Thursday, 12 September, at 12:00 noon US EDT (6 PM CEDT).
The Tweetchat is, as you might expect, about the future of enterprise mobility. Specifically, the questions we will examine include:
- What's your definition of a mobile enterprise?
- What's the biggest challenge to getting started with a mobile strategy?
- What industries are doing a good job taking advantage of second screen opportunities?
- How does app development need to change in the second wave of mobile?
- Give examples of how mobile + social or mobile + cloud are working together.
Find more details in this storify page:
Link: Tweetchat: Catching the Mobile Wave: Thinking Beyond the Device >