‘Cloud Has Become a Central Part of the Discussion with Customers’

IBM wants to leverage its vast experience with enterprise customers and integrate all parts of its business to offer cloud services to another segment – the small and medium businesses. Vikas Arora, Country Manager, Cloud Business, IBM India & South Asia tells BW CIO his go-to-market strategy to achieve this goal. He also speaks about the potential of IoT and AI and how some of IBM’s customers are using these technologies on the IBM Watson platform.

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Photo Credit : IBM,

Vikas Arora, Country Manager, Cloud Business, IBM India & South Asia

IBM has years of experience working with large enterprises around the world and providing solutions, services and consulting. It now wants to leverage its experience and integrate all parts of its business to offer cloud services to another segment – the small and medium businesses.

Vikas Arora, Country Manager, Cloud Business, IBM India & South Asia tells BW CIO World his go-to-market strategy to achieve this goal. He also speaks about the potential of IoT and AI and how some of IBM’s customers are using these technologies on the IBM Watson platform.

BW: What are the tenets of your Cloud strategy?

Vikas Arora: It is important that customers understand the IBM Cloud and the differentiation it offers. We believe we have a set of distinctive capabilities in the IBM Cloud. In fact, it is enterprise grade. It takes a unique approach on data first as its architecture. And it has cognitive capabilities.

The advantage we have is that we are already inside our large accounts with services, software or hardware. My charter is to ensure that, through whichever way we are addressing a customer requirement, or whatever we are delivering to our customer, in whichever part of our business, cloud becomes a very important and central part of that discussion. Customers are talking about cloud.

We also want to reach out to our ecosystem of developers and ISVs. We also want to reach out directly to certain customers.

There is a unique part of the customer pyramid, which is the lower end -- the small and medium businesses. It is different from the traditional route to market that IBM has historically seen. We want to ensure that through our digital selling motion and scale selling motion, we reach out to the middle to low-end of the enterprise pyramid or the commercial pyramid.

We have worked with large enterprises and in the last few months we have worked to set up this digital space, to help us do business and go to market at scale. To (sell) to a set of customers that are extremely important from a cloud standpoint.

So, we want to make sure that every part of our business internalises and takes the cloud to market.

BW: What is your strategy for engaging the key enterprise accounts?

Vikas Arora: It is important that we align different parts of our business, especially services and consulting, who have been working with enterprises for a long time. How do we make sure we use the strength that we have, and this participation that we have historically had with those customers? (We want) to take this into participating in cloud discussions.

Enterprises are already convinced about cloud. But how do we take our partnerships, whether internal partnerships with services organisations or external partnerships with the likes of SAP and VMware? Partnerships are one area where we are unique, and we are not trying to do it all alone. It is very important for us to work closely with partners like VMware, Red Hat and SAP. Customers are using pieces of their infrastructure and they would like us to come with them. I cannot stitch this all together myself, and that's why global partnerships make a difference.

We are delivering these partnerships (with VMware and others) to the Indian customer through the Centre of Excellence. The CoE allows us to go together in a structured manner, in a context of a defined use case.

BW: What potential do you see in IoT and AI? Where are the use cases?

Vikas Arora: IoT is a great example especially in the automobile sector. (Honda Motors is an IBM customer for IoT). The Connected Car is a visible use case. Hilal (Khan, VP & Operating Head-IT at Honda Motors) spoke about how they are using all that data captured on the IBM IoT Watson platform, to bring in insights through data. This data is about usage and the experience of the users (drivers).

Healthcare is another great example.

Take retail, where we have Aditya Birla Online Fashion (ABOF) using analytics on the Watson platform to enhance the customer experience, through NLP that the platform provides.

A lot of the applications of AI are happening in the customer interface area. It is all about enriching the experience. You are (using AI) to make the touchpoint more seamless, with more visual and natural speech. That takes it to the next level.

We believe the real big use cases will be in decision making and insights. Take security for instance. We have Watson drive the security of our cloud infrastructure. We don't see why AI should not be an integral part of securing an IT infrastructure with a customer.

AI is a great way for systems to learn and constantly improve. That's the cognitive part.

Right now, we are seeing peripheral use cases of artificial intelligence. But this will evolve into deeper use cases of AI, which are going to drive more processes with the intent of making them better and more robust by constantly learning.

BW: What's the approach you are taking to make cloud services simpler for developers?

Vikas Arora: The BlueMix platform and the Watson APIs will be an important part of this. Developers have shown interest in our capabilities and APIs. Microservices is the standard construct for building cloud native applications. They ask how the microservices that I build using IBM cloud are richer or more robust. It is not just developers but also ISVs who are showing a lot of interest. They ask about cognitive capabilities and about the APIs that can make their applications more intelligent and aware.

This calls for a lot of training, webinars and community work.



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