Recent IBM global surveys reveal some interesting insights regarding innovation. For example, according to the company, one survey found that 76 percent of the world’s top 750 CEOs said collaboration and partnering is critical for driving innovation, and that external partners, rather than internal R&D, account for nearly a third of the companies’ total quantity of ideas. In another survey, executives from small and medium businesses (SMB) stated that keeping a business innovative takes more than product innovation. It lists customer service (66 percent), partner/supplier collaboration (41 percent) and access to global markets (34 percent) as the most instrumental areas of focus to keeping a business innovative.
In response to these findings, IBM has taken a giant leap forward with respect to both how it manages access to its coveted brainpower and how it supports SMBs, in particular. For the first time, IBM business partners will be able to tap into one of the company’s most valuable assets—the intellectual capital represented by the scientists and engineers in its world-class $6 billion research division. Starting mid-year, qualified business partners will have the opportunity to collaborate with IBM’s leading researchers and industry experts to develop, market and sell more innovative solutions to a broader range of clients, including both the large enterprise as well as mid-market segment, according to the company.
IBM has also expanded the annual investment of its innovation centers to $250 million, targeting up to 40 new innovation centers worldwide in 2006. As part of this initiative, IBM plans to provide each business partner innovation center with a technology advocate who is an executive or technical leader in that community with extensive product knowledge. Their role will be to establish long-term, one-on-one relationships with selected accounts to provide customers with a window into IBM’s development community and accelerate the production of customer-generated solutions.
While remaining customer-driven and research-oriented, the IBM of today differs from the IBM of yesterday in that it is more focused on identifying ways to drive growth externally — in particular, through collaboration and by capitalizing on opportunities available on the global front . With such initiatives in place, the company appears well positioned to move forward and live up to its latest promise to customers, “It’s a good time to be an innovator.”