John Granger on IBM Consulting’s edge and the future of digital transformation

14 November 2022 8 min. read
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Just over a year ago IBM rebranded its Global Business Services as IBM Consulting. Leading IBM Consulting’s 160,000 staff across 150 countries is London-based John Granger – we connected with him to learn more about the IBM Consulting’s main developments and how the firm helps businesses realise their digital transformation ambitions.

First and foremost what’s different for today’s IBM Consulting and how does it fit into the broader IBM strategy?

Roughly a year ago we introduced our new brand – IBM Consulting – making the marketplace aware of what we do for clients through our differentiated capabilities, and how we do it.

Under our CEO, Arvind Krishna, today’s IBM is more simple, agile, and open. We have reoriented our strategy and portfolio around our two primary sources of client value: technology and business transformation.

John Granger, Senior Vice President, IBM Consulting

On top of that, we’ve refocused our company around the two most transformational technologies of our time: hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence.

A simplified company delivering transformation using hybrid cloud and AI, and a more open company leveraging the ecosystem: that's our IBM strategy in a nutshell. And in terms of where we fit in to that, IBM Consulting is tasked with the main mission of delivering the transformation.

Finally, to maximise our impact, our CEO has been very clear that if our technologies and consulting services are to be widely adopted and to be pervasive, then we need to embrace the ecosystem.

Expanding on your point about ‘embracing the ecosystem’, how do you work with your ecosystem of strategic partners?

Today’s IBM is much more open; open for partnering and collaboration. IBM Consulting’s strategy is that we are client first, but with a point of view.

We are expanding our partner ecosystem to meet clients where they are, embracing a partner, not competitor, philosophy. This approach is driving revenue for us, as we see our strategic partnerships with independent software vendors like Adobe, Salesforce, SAP, and hyperscalers like AWS and Microsoft Azure, growing in solid double digits.

Why should organizations partner with IBM Consulting?

I’d answer this in two ways. First, in terms of our differentiation – why clients choose us. And secondly, why partners wish to work with us  – of course, because of our client base and portfolio.

I see our differentiation in three buckets. First is that we are a part of IBM. When we're bidding for some of the most mission critical end-to-end process transformations on a global scale, being part of IBM, having IBM’s technical depth and world-class R&D behind us, is a really important part why clients want to choose us.

Second is the way in which we work. We embrace collaboration through our co-creation approach with the IBM Garage, taking innovation and transformation engagements from strategy to implementation, with the ability to scale across clients’ organizations.

For example, UK pharmacy Boots’ online business skyrocketed during the pandemic. They needed to quickly create a more seamless digital shopping experience. Applying the IBM Garage methodology, the Boots and iX teams used the Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud container platform to build, replicate and launch a modernized digital environment for e-commerce tools.

With the upgraded infrastructure, the site’s improved search and personalized features make it far easier for customers to discover products and paved the way for a new payment and checkout process, a newly designed mobile app, and other digital store initiatives.

Third is the depth of understanding of our clients. You’re not relevant to clients unless you really understand the issues they are facing from an industry perspective; which is why we’ve organized our entire business around industry.

Our industry expertise is in action at Heineken, whose goal is to be the world’s ‘best connected brewer.” To become ‘best connected’ the company needed a modern integration architecture that would be flexible, reusable and easier to manage.

IBM Consulting developed a set of integration capabilities that connect Heineken’s worldwide network of brewers, customers and business partners. This enables all of Heineken’s operating companies to communicate efficiently, regardless of whether their data resides in the cloud or on premises.

You mentioned that the two most transformational technologies of our time are hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence. How mature are companies in using these technologies?

Every organisation on the planet is looking to use technology to transform their customer and employee experiences, improve the efficiency and flexibility of their core processes, and compete. This is particularly evident in areas like supply chain, technology, and sustainability, where there is huge pressure for transformation.

However, less than 25 percent of workloads have moved to the cloud so far, so there is a huge growth opportunity there. We see more and more clients are turning to IBM Consulting to help them architect and implement cloud platforms and strategies, and for help migrating data to the cloud as they look to reduce costs, become more flexible, and move from single use to multi. We now have more than 4,000 clients using our hybrid cloud platform.

As for artificial intelligence, global adoption is growing steadily – according to IBM’s 2022 AI Adoption Index, 35% of companies are using AI in their business today, up 4 percentage points from 2021.

AI Adoption

But your AI is only as good as your data, so the question clients need to begin their AI journey with is, “Is your data house in order?” Simply put, there is no AI without an information architecture – a data fabric that enables sharing and use of data across a hybrid cloud environment. Connecting the right data with the right people at the right time.

Lastly, in your opinion what will it take for an organization to emerge stronger and succeed over the next decade?

Businesses around the world are trying to navigate in a new landscape. They are now not only focused on business imperatives like growth, productivity, and cost reductions – but there are external forces such as escalating cyber threats, evolving regulatory requirements and a growing digital skills shortage that are putting immense pressures on them and intrinsically shaping the nature of digital transformation.

In my opinion, there are some themes that set an enterprise apart and will drive success over the next decade:

1. Grow an ecosystem of partners
Successful organizations will build the ecosystems necessary to solve problems, enhance innovation and secure market opportunities in this increasingly inter-connected world. They will bring the right partners to the table and put the client’s success above their own self-interest.

We see successful organizations recognizing the power of combining platforms to seize new markets, as well as recognizing that the scale of the impact that is required demands this alignment with other substantive players.

2. Build a secure, open hybrid cloud architecture
Even with the best intentions, some still struggle with accelerating their cloud journeys and find themselves stalled, unclear on how to get the most value out of their investments.

Successful organizations need to move from mere adoption of hybrid cloud – which risks adding to cost and complexity by piling cloud on top of cloud – to mastering hybrid cloud, to better enable open innovation and achieving full business value. Achieving this mastery means adopting a hybrid cloud platform – a fabric that enables cloud services across a range of environments: on prem, private and multiple public clouds.

Then you can connect with partners and access the full potential of leading open technologies and ideas to drive innovation – so you can innovate anywhere with anyone's technology.

3. Expand intelligent workflows
Fueled by data, AI is transforming how businesses operate and deliver value – while improving efficiency, and compliance in regulated industries. Workflows become intelligent, with interactions personalized through access to consumable data for useful insights spanning the entire enterprise – in sales, marketing, HR, operations and so on.

Successful organizations will extend those intelligent workflows beyond the enterprise, across ecosystems, to break down siloes and gain even more insights and value.

4. Embrace the power of sustainability
We saw in our most recent global CEO study that sustainability is a higher priority than ever on corporate agendas.

Importance of sustainability

In fact, almost half said increasing sustainability is one of the highest priorities for their organization. It’s evident ESG is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s becoming the new social license to operate – as clients, employees, investors, society at large demand high standards of sustainability and ESG.

Put simply, the most successful businesses will embrace a competitive advantage delivered through digitalization, platforms, and partnerships.

About John Granger

John Granger joined IBM in 2002 as part of IBM’s acquisition of PwC Consulting. He has since held several leadership roles at IBM, including General Manager of the Global Business Services division in Europe. In the run-up to the launch of IBM Consulting, Granger was a lead architect of the positioning strategy, and currently leads the consulting business across 150 countries.