IBM is back! – My perspective on IBM Amplify 2016

As a consultant you sometimes get the feeling that a company has missed the boat, missed an opportunity. To be specific it was in early 2014 when I advised a company on what marketing software they could use to fulfill their 1:1 marketing dreams. At that time Adobe and Salesforce entered the marketing automation arena with a crisp & sound Customer Experience vision. During the vendor pitches IBM had the best cards but a techy approach and a non-consistent UX to show for it.

The verdict of the management: IBM looks like it has all functionalities but was fragmented and not presented from a business perspective. At that time, I thought IBM had a real problem. What IBM needed was a culture change, a more integrated development approach, new stories to tell and a focus on customer experience… With >400k of employees this can take a while …

In my perspective, the first positive signs of change arrived with the introduction of the Marketing Cloud in 2014. The marketing cloud as a replacement of Unica eMessage, after that I was introduced to Watson Analytics and several other tools. Our clients, colleagues and myself were really happy with the use of the marketing cloud, IT’s SAAS offer, the UX and moreover its inbound capabilities.

IBM Amplify 2016

In May 2016 I visited IBM Amplify, the yearly IBM event in Tampa, and experienced a real culture shock. Nothing of that old techy approach anymore. Instead IBM presented a clear business vision, user journeys and omni-channel challenges. After 3 days of workshops I was quite positive about their future potential in the MarTech space. The main reasons for this are:

  • IBM is focusing on integration
  • Cognitive is the answer to increasing MarTech complexity
  • Focus on client success

IBM is focussing on integration

Customer expectations are high nowadays. The new consumer wants you to be their friend, to converse with you, to get surprised by your service, to receive a discount when needed. They also want to be remembered, to have faster delivery etc. For a motivated hairdresser with a client base of several hundred customers you can deliver this personal approach. For a corporate organization this is a different story. Your processes, data, people and technology should be aligned to have a well-oiled, sense & response system (capability framework) to facilitate the omni-channel user journey. When this is not available off the shelf you need to build it yourself. As this is a tough and long journey, it helps when IBM is already part of the core infrastructure. IBM is putting a lot of effort in UX alignment and integration of its various solutions to make this a little easier (e.g. website, social, analytics, campaigning, channel execution, commerce, fulfilment etc.). This can be a real advantage towards the competition. With UBX (low technical tool for integration of data from various sources) the marketing engine (campaign or marketing cloud) can become the steering wheel of the omni-channel customer journey.

Cognitive will be the answer to increasing MarTech complexity

Tibm investing cognitiveo tailor the above mentioned customer journeys with a personal touch, you will need to implement a massive amount of logic. From customer facing logic (like the colour or position of a button), offers, campaign logic (who gets what, when and through which channel) and back-end data exchange logic (what kind of data was expected when from what system) and much more….

When your company is ready for this, this logic will be reviewed and changed continuously. It will never be a static situation. With the many interdependencies between systems it becomes really complex and labour intensive to maintain and use. In such a capability landscape the cognitive power of Watson can help to assist users with day to day decisions. A great example of cognitive power for the IBM marketing cloud user can be found here (skip to 1:25).

Another example. Imagine that you are a marketer and want to know which visual performs the best in what context? Within the boundaries of a pilot, a system or a department (call it a silo) this is quite common and maintainable. Imagine that you want to perform this analysis across the company, across channels. The scale of maintenance (tagging, version control etc.) will probably undermine its potential. Via the shown concept of IBM content analyser, a picture is consistently tagged with many new emotional, visual and various analysable metadata.

Focus on client successes

Although IBM wants to sell their own software, it is well aware of the need to cooperate with (competing) vendors to achieve client successes. With their new CX/UX service offering (named: IBM iX) they are able to influence customer expectations and assure the quality of its MarTech transformations from a creative, consulting and implementation perspective. This including competitive toolsets like e.g. Salesforce.


Visiting Amplify 2016, the scepticism I had a few years ago has turned into optimism. Somehow they managed to show me a fresh and up-to-date IBM. The event in three points: more integration, better UX and new cognitive powers. For IBM’s (future) clients this enables: omnichannel experiences, 360 profiles, omnichannel execution, (realtime) analytics and shared creatives. This all with the assistance of Watson’s cognitive powers.

Please keep an eye on IBM’s release schedule to see if/when everything will be released. If you want more details or advice regarding MarTech solutions please drop me a line.

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