IBM Insight 2015, day 3: Final thoughts and transformative announcements

Big Data Evangelist, IBM

Wednesday is essentially the close of the Insight conference each year, even though sessions do continue into Thursday. And Wednesday is certainly my last day, as I can’t wait to wing my exhausted way back home bright and early Thursday morning.

What I love about the general sessions on Wednesday mornings every year is that they are usually devoted to taking a philosophical breather after the intensely news-packed previous two days. And the Wednesday general sessions always feature celebrity keynoters, who come out and tell us about their lives, careers and special insights. 

Celebrity cause IBM Insight 2015, Hollywood creative duo Ron Howard and Brian Grazer shared their perspectives on a collaborative partnership that stretches back more than 30 years—slightly longer than I’ve been in the IT industry. My takeaway from their talk wasn’t anything in particular. In fact, I tend to tune out most entertainment-industry shoptalk most of the time as irrelevant to my interests as a consumer of their products. In other words, industry insiders such as Howard and Grazer tend to mull over the metanarrative surrounding how their projects come to life. Whereas, the rest of us only care about the narrative, such as story, script and so on, around which those projects coalesce.

Instead, what I took away from Howard and Grazer’s talk was that many creative people tend to thrive on challenges and constraints, and that uncertainty and anxiety stalks their projects at every stage. Even these Oscar winners know full well that their next project may fall far short of their creative vision, or may never get made at all. Even when a project comes to fruition and the critics agree that it is a Citizen Kane–grade masterpiece, it may ultimately fail because of a marketing campaign that pitches the wrong message to the wrong target demographic.

The reason why this perspective resonated with me is that I’ve been staring down the business end of several IBM Analytics product launches and marketing campaigns these past few months in the buildup to Insight 2015. As the technical marketing sector lead on IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub, my core job involves helping the portfolio teams to ensure that their projects target messages. Specifically, the messages need to target the right customer cohorts, craft the right content assets to frame the right go-to-market narrative and publish all of that at the right schedule cadence out through the right social channels. Please excuse the surfeit of italics, but these terms are the shoptalk jargon that frames our working lives as practitioners in the new arts of social media marketing. A big part of this process is to ensure that any partners engaged in these campaigns—such as The Weather Company and Twitter—are also fully onboard with whatever campaigns they’ve involved in.

Script departure

From the point of view of IBM employees, the anxiety surrounding the prime Insight 2015 announcements—Cognos Analytics, IBM Analytics for Apache Spark, Insight Cloud Services, and so on—began to ease up on day one. IBM announced them and disseminated their respective go-to-market messages live at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and worldwide through social and all other appropriate channels. And the anxiety eased up further on day two as successfully striking the right chords in the intended target audiences became clear. Just as important, engagement with The Weather Company and other partners in these announcements was clearly moving smoothly and according to plan.

As a result, I assumed that day three would be just a process of watching as the market assimilated the news even further, and we engaged customers and partners in the essential ensuing activities that follow these sorts of announcements. And I assumed there would be no significant new news on Wednesday.

Boy, was I wrong! Practically the moment I woke up Wednesday morning, one of the news apps on my iPhone announced that IBM had confirmed acquisition of The Weather Company’s digital and data assets. Clearly, this acquisition was major news that had been in the works for a while—but of which I’d been previously unaware for the usual need-to-know reasons associated with a strategic acquisition of this significance. Clearly, right then and there in my hotel room—before attending the day three general session—I knew this news would be the lead story in the Insight Cloud Services (ICS)–related recap blog that I was still working on. I was far too exhausted on Tuesday night to complete it. the circumstances surrounding the timing of the The Weather Company acquisition announcement, I think this bit of news was perfect to splash on day three at Insight 2015. From a self-centered point of view, this news gave me the perfect bit of narrative that would tie together the diverse details related to The Weather Company in the recap blog posts for day one, day two and ICS. I could breathe easier—even though I still needed to write the ICS recap later in the day—and enjoy the Tinsel Town nerd artistes’ talk that morning.

Vital information

Thanks for indulging me this metanarrative of my week at Insight 2015, as I type this post on my exhausted way home.

Be sure to take a look at these on-ramps for each of the new solutions: 

And engage with data scientists exploring the use of Spark, machine learning and cognitive computing by connecting live and direct at Datapalooza, 10–12 November 2015, in San Francisco, California.