Shark Tank @ IBM

IBM is holding televized internal “shark tank” shows to speed up innovation in its marketing and commerce product suites. Winning pitches get money, developer time, and executive mentors to build out a proof of concept.

The result?

300 new ideas in just a few weeks.

IBM recently started overhauling its marketing cloud presence, led by new general manager Deepak Advani, a veteran of IBM cloud roles and former Lenovo CMO. Despite very strong point solutions such as Unica, CoreMetrics, and Tealeaf, the company had not fully integrated everything into a single functional, interoperable, and purchasable solution.

Marketing clouds by market penetration

The result, as we said in our marketing clouds report, was chaos — martech spaghetti. There were 20+ Tealeaf-branded products. 12 different IBM-branded digital marketing products. Nine products for omnichannel, including two for mobile and two for email. 11 products with the DemandTec brand, including two for pricing and three for promotions.

What IBM needed was a martech dictator to come in, cut its product list, and focus on building more features into fewer, broader solutions. The company may have found that individual in Advani.

“We re-organized our unit around customer engagement and partner engagement,” he told me recently at our MobileBeat conference in San Francisco. “Each is focused on just three areas: marketing, e-commerce, and customer analytics.”

he result, recently launched, is a more integrated view of IBM’s marketing offerings, minus the myriad of brand names, and packaged to take advantage of IBM’s strengths across the enterprise, which enables customers to potentially use Big Blue for marketing, for analytics, e-commerce, payments, and more.

That’s a big step.

The reality, of course, is that integrating big enterprise-scale software packages doesn’t happen overnight, and Advani acknowledges that. “We had so many brands from a lot of acquisitions,” he says. “The team had started some integrations, but it wasn’t coming out.”

That’s starting to change, as IBM has integrated CoreMetrics and Tealeaf, for instance, into a single product offering — Journey Analytics — while retaining the strengths of each in quantitative and qualitative analytics. Journey Analytics will work hand-in-hand with a newly named product, Journey Designer, which is based on the Silverpop marketing automation acquisition from a year ago.

“Marketers will use Journey Analytics,” Advani says. “Behind the scenes it’s using CoreMetrics or Tealeaf, but the practitioner doesn’t see that.”

In addition, IBM will integrate more and more solutions over time at deeper and deeper levels, albeit with a federated approach to data that is integrated, translated across different domains, and mapped to various systems, but not necessarily located in one single database.

Some of those ideas have come out of IBM’s shark tank competitions.

IBM's Unica and Silverpop products have significant B2B penetration

“I think you’ll see rapid innovation,” Advani says. “We generated 300 ideas in a few weeks. Eight of them are finalized, three are now part of our organic development roadmap, and others … we’ll put some money behind them.”

The interesting part is that Big Blue is not just focused on the enterprise anymore.

In fact, there’s more and more of a midmarket tinge to what the company is doing, and a very refreshing focus on startups as well:

“There’s a common DNA in all of the companies we’ve acquired,” Advani says. “They have a low point of entry, they’re low risk, and they’re midmarket. This is what you will see more and more from IBM … a bifurcated strategy.”

That’s smart, since into today’s economy, startups can become enterprises almost overnight. It remains to be seen, though, how the market will react to IBM’s newly-packaged offerings … and how IBM will fare against top category contenders such as Adobe, Salesforce, and others.

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