by Kevin Jackson & Dez Blanchfield
In episode four of the “Pioneers Of Possible” podcast series, Dez Blanchfield caught up with Max Michaels, General Manager, IBM Network Services in the studio. Their engaging and insightful discussion included a philosophic story about cooperative deer hunting from Mr. Michaels’ childhood, through to his professional life experiences with a famous former CEO of Pepsico and Westinghouse, both which contributed to the depth and strength Mr. Michaels’ brings to his role and the management of the IBM Network Services business.
Early in the discussion, Max shared an anecdote about how his Grandmother’s personalized retelling of a Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s tale circa mid-1700’s, about a group of hunters who elected to collaborate while tracking a large stag, rather than operate independently, influenced him throughout his career. He also recounted how he enjoyed a similarly defining experience working with Michael H. Jordon when the venerable leader was Chairman and CEO of EDS.
Throughout the conversation three endearing characteristics stood out about Max Michaels as a thought leader and innovator – they were:
- The extent to which he values good business judgment
- Successes he has earned through unorthodox thinking
- The critical converging of the IT and networking world
His unorthodox way of thinking was very effectively put into practice while at McKinsey, when in 1996 he led a three-person team, one among some 300 teams worldwide, to win a company-wide competition to generate new client-ready knowledge ideas called the McKinsey Worldwide Practice Olympics. Ranked #1 among 300+ McKinsey teams by showing how to apply the Black-Scholes option trading model to any strategic situation. The critical financial insight behind the Black-Scholes model is that it “eliminates risk” by showing how to buy and sell an underlying asset in just the right way. At McKinsey, Mr. Michaels showed how the identification of the right issues leads to correct strategic actions.
The insight displayed by this win is that the business world is not directly comparable to the financial world. When you invest by buying stock in the financial world, you may have little direct input into what happens to make the stock goes up or down. The business world is entirely different in that when you invest in a new product, strategy or marketing plan, the investor has a continuing opportunity to change the outcome, based on customer perception and preferences change. Throughout the conversation in this episode of the Pioneers of Possible podcast series, this approach to driving successful outcomes turns out to be key to Max Michaels’ leadership style at IBM Network Services, and the genius behind the “Always-on Initiative,” designed to help enterprises support the always-on nature of day-to-day business. The network is the enabling capability for “Always-on” and serves as a foundational element to the convergence between information technology (IT) world and telecommunications (telecom).
Before this trend took hold, companies ran IT and telecom networks separately and with separate leadership teams. With the intuition gained earlier, Mr. Michaels is now helping IBM customers move away from focusing on IT outcomes and move towards a converged business outcome. This approach, in turn, changes business models in ways which makes it possible for organizations to better leverage the convergence of IT and telecom, both within and external to their organizations.
According to Max, the average person in the US is interacting with the network for 16 hours a day. Businesses, therefore, need to deliver their products and services to these individuals through the network. Modern business models rely on the network to facilitate seamless connectivity and the convergence of cloud, the new model for delivering IT, and telecom. Networks enable the cloud, and in the next phase of the evolution of digital business and digital transformation, where the cloud, in turn, becomes the network. IBM as a cloud company is leading the way.
This very paradigm is in effect the same core driver behind the transformative effect the cognitive capabilities of IBM Watson has when incorporated into the network and the cloud, an effect as positively disruptive as a driver of change on how we all experience the world around us, both in business and in life. Through the lens of network service, this overarching principal also heightens the importance of network and cloud convergence. The explosion of data the world has experienced over the recent decade has increased the demand for everything to be software-defined, so that compute, storage and networks can all combine into a single entity which provides value to the end user. Network virtualization and software-defined infrastructure are dramatically and fundamentally changing the entire enterprise managed services world and that, in essence, is the definition of the IBM Service Platform with Watson delivers.
Please enjoy this episode of the podcast series. We look forward to your feedback and comments through social media as we continue our journey to introduce you to leading IBM innovators and thought leaders.
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