What's On The Horizon Of IBM's 'Smarter Planet'

I spent some of this week at IBM's annual Connect analyst event, a cornerstone for understanding Big Blue's direction from the perspective of its fastest-growing and most profitable division.

And the direction is pretty clear: behind-the-scenes product integration is enabling tighter marketing and sales integration across what have been separate brands (Lotus, Tivoli, Cognos, etc.) in the software portfolio. Now the emphasis is on capabilities, and on tuning or packaging those capabilities into industry-oriented bundles such as "social business" or "smarter commerce."

IBM's Smarter Planet initiative is starting to have a positive impact in its software business. For the first couple of years since launch, Smarter Planet was principally a door-opener for IBM's business consulting teams, creating interest among clients in how IBM could help assess and improve business performance.

As those engagements have progressed and multiplied, the consulting organization has created "patterns" across them, problems that they run into repeatedly in a particular industry or geography. Those patterns are now being put into code for industry-specific solutions, for APIs that other software vendors can hook into, and other software artifacts. So Smarter Planet is starting to drive opportunity and revenue for the software group as well as consulting services.

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