IBM IOD 2012: The Big Data Buzz Continues to Amaze

Big Data Evangelist, IBM

Information On Demand 2012 (IOD) was a sensational event from start to finish. This was my sixth consecutive IOD, and my first as an IBMer. Long before I joined IBM, I always looked forward to IOD. This annual confab is always a great opportunity to drill deeper into the myriad information management, business analytics and enterprise content management announcements that IBM makes here. It’s also one of the best forums for tasting the buzz of customer, partner and industry activity that surrounds a diversified solution provider such as Big Blue.

This year’s IOD lived up to those expectations, and then some. My prior blog from IOD2012 was on the primary information management announcements we made on the first day of the conference, so I won’t retread the same ground in this post. What I will do is share some of my thoughts on the buzz of things I’ve seen and heard, and the conversations I’ve had, that have made the greatest impact on me.

It’s good that I tweet my experiences on the fly, otherwise it would have taken me longer to unpack them from recent memory. What follows are some selected tweets I put out here from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. For each one, I have jotted a few additional words about why each was so significant to me (and, dare I say, to IBM as a whole, plus our ecosystem of partners and to customers all over the world):

JK: That’s a fact. I’m especially impressed by the brilliance of the young people that IBM – as well as partners and customers – have brought onto our teams. These are people who’ve never known any world other than one in which the Internet is central to all culture, all business, all life. It totally rocks my world to see that, not only do they get everything I’m saying immediately, but they’re thinking well outside my box. These are the transformative millennials, and they’re powering Smarter Planet.

JK: Deepak Advani said something so disruptive that I tweeted it before I had fully parsed its true significance. Marketing has historically focused on branding, positioning, messaging and demand generation – in other words, on building the value halo that represents any business’ most fundamental competitive asset. But halos are like rainbows: beautiful but ephemeral, likely to vanish in the full glaring light of day. In an experience-centric online economy, marketing professionals must continue to ensure that they’re maintaining that halo – in other words, the full satisfying customer experience in expectation, in the moment, and in retrospect – if they wish to keep their businesses alive and thriving. Data, analytics, monitoring, next best action, decision automation and many other big-data technologies and practices are critical to this new marketing world order.

JK: Jeff Jonas’ discussion of “G2,” the new “context accumulation” engine, is both a conceptual and practical breakthrough in entity and predictive analytics. How do you boost predictive quality of your models when the data used to build, score and iterate these models continues to change so fast – or remain so vague, inconsistent and incomplete – that you can’t have any confidence that you understand the full evolving context of the business application domain that you’re modeling? We all sat transfixed as he discussed how he had architected a scalable data-preparation engine to ensure that you can have the most complete, current, conflict-tolerant and self-correcting context possible with existing data, while improving it incrementally as you ingest fresh new data.

JK: This observation by Steve Mills goes to the heart of why, for example, Jeff Jonas’ development of “G2” is so fundamental to big data in business. As Steve also said in this session (video), “the overwhelming majority of all projects that one would characterize today as big data projects are really logical extensions of things that businesses were doing before or trying to do before as a way to ingest more information and do a better job of analyzing, a better job of predicting, and a better job of improving their business results.” Building a better data-preparation engine to handle entity analytics on unstructured big data – which is Jonas’ innovation – enables the incremental improvements in predictive model quality and productivity that could make all the difference in returns on investment in these technologies.

JK: Von McConnell of Sprint hit on the fundamental importance of geospatial analytics for wireless communication service providers. Rather than focus on the well-established need for geospatial data to drive continuous network optimization, he stressed the primacy of great customer experience. Here’s the video of him speaking. What was cool about his discussion is Sprint’s attention to optimizing the customer’s experience continuously across the physical terrain, but also across the temporal journey – where we were before, where we are now, where we are likely to be soon--that each of us lives in our own personal way. Coincidentally, this ties into the notion of “720-degree customer view” that I sketched out in today’s big-data quick-hit on LinkedIn (yes, indeed, sleep-deprived me is continuing to do those from IOD).

JK: Arvind Krishna articulated the core value of the entire IBM PureSystems product family: it puts analytics, middleware and infrastructure functionality into the affordability and simplicity comfort zone of the whole business market, not just large companies with deep pockets and IT expertise. If your humble big-data evangelist ruled Big Blue, I’d replace “international” with “integrated” in the company name to reflect this fundamental fact. But that would be overstepping my bounds. And give the false impression that we’re any less committed to being one of the most international companies on this Smarter Planet. So scratch that thought. But you catch my drift.

JK: I simply love the buzz of a great business conference. No matter if it’s our event or somebody else’s, I live for this. You can tell a great event when people are deep into conversation, drinks in hand, laughing, while all around them an expo hall is swarming with people doing business, demonstrating solutions, evaluating potential partners, or just overdosing on free chocolate bars. Oops – I just gave away my addiction. But I also jump into expo-floor conversations – and usually ramble on till I’m so hoarse that I shut myself up and walk out.

There's plenty more of IOD 2012 buzzing in my head, but this blog has already gone on long enough. Thanks to everybody for a successful event!

For more on the big data presentations, conversations and videos at IOD, visit