Doug Clark, IBM UKI Cloud Computing Leader, in conversation with Sam Garforth

In this three-part blog post, Doug Clark and I had a conversation on 4 May 2012 about his views on cloud in the IT industry and his role within it. It was my goal to learn more about the business aspects of cloud and whether there are geographical differences in its adoption.

Part 1 of 3:  Doug introduces himself and discusses IBM’s commitment to cloud

Sam: Hello Doug, can you start by telling us your official job title and a little about your role?

Doug: I’m the UK and Ireland (UKI) Cloud Computing Leader for IBM. It’s a role that spans all the separate business lines in IBM. It’s an unusual role just by that definition. It’s very exciting and very dynamic. Essentially I pull the best of the best of the cloud skills we’ve got in IBM and across our IBM Business Partner organization and apply them to the challenges that clients have. So it really is an exciting environment.

Sam: How did you get the job?

Doug: I was invited to do the job. I’ve done a few intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial roles. My background is in bringing things to market. I’ve done that all my business life. I’ve built a number of businesses that, from a technology point of view or from an industry point of view, have created new cash flows, and that’s essentially what we’re doing here. I’ve worked with emerging technologies before, whether it’s RFID, wireless or mobility solutions, security solutions, digital media, but I’ve also used the same entrepreneurial skills in industry. Before I came into IT, I was working in pharmaceuticals and fast moving consumer goods. It’s a skill that’s highly transferable. I rely on colleagues such as you to provide the real technical intellect behind it.

So, in IBM, I’ve done a lot regarding innovation, bringing offerings and projects to market, and this one really excited me because I knew that the organization was completely behind it. I’ve led many other initiatives in the background but this one’s been announced to the street. Our current CEO, our previous CEO, and our CFO, have all made future statements to the stock market about how much business IBM is going to do with cloud. It’s seven billion dollars worth of revenue by 2015. When IBM makes an announcement like that it usually fulfils its commitments, as a minimum. So that’s what was exciting to me, that we really are making our intentions known. So I knew that there would be the backing and commitment within the organization to help us drive that new business. To put that into context, if you look on CNBC or other stock market portals, and look at $7b, what size of an organization does that represent that we’re replicating? It’s as big if not bigger than most Fortune 500 companies. That’s what we’re being charged with creating. That to me is such a responsibility. It’s such an exciting potential and such a new capability that I couldn’t resist it.

Sam: Does that make it harder for you personally — that you are expected to deliver?

Doug: No. Thinking about how that translates down to the UKI, we need to align and structure ourselves and put the right kind of governance and management processes in place to make sure that we deliver our portion of that $7b. That’s what’s on my, and the team’s, shoulders but that’s a great challenge to have. We’re all in this to grow the business. That’s the IBM side of the equation, but for IBM to earn that money from clients we must be driving business value for clients. Clients won’t be buying from IBM if they’re not going to see return on investment. So, clients themselves must get more than $7b worth of benefit.  If you think of it, there’s a global recession, so if IBM is saying we’re going to get $7b worth of new business from cloud by 2015 then the market must be growing so we must be helping to drive economic growth, because our clients will be implementing and benefitting from those cloud solutions.

Sam: How does cloud drive new business?

Doug:  Cloud is driving net new business for IBM. It’s agile, it’s nimble, it’s dynamic, it drives a huge amount of business efficiencies, and we’ve enjoyed those efficiencies ourselves in IBM. We’re going to be getting into opportunities with clients for new workloads, whether it’s big data, business analytics, social media, these are all new things. It doesn’t mean that traditional back-office systems, such as ERP supply chain, can’t and won’t be done on cloud, but what I’m seeing and what we’re really stepping up to in terms of business challenges are predominantly new workloads.

Sam: How is your team organized?

Doug:  There are a small number of strategic growth initiatives in IBM, for example: smarter computing, big data, and analytics. Cloud is one of those growth initiatives and in many ways it underpins some of the others too. These themes are triggers that shake the tree of the traditional IBM model which runs as the main lines of business and brands of software, hardware, and services. What’s great is that we’re straddling each of those lines of business and driving a truly integrated innovation.

The most recent public exhibit of that is the announcement of PureFlex and PureApplication Systems, which again are a breakthrough in IBM.  IBM is combining services and software and hardware in a way that’s never been done before to provide expert integrated systems—and from an insider’s view, we know it is not just hype. I think this is a really exciting new adventure in our industry. A lot of things have been brought together previously, but not done in this manner where it is a very integrated, agile, simple to deploy, dynamic, and a really expert system built on our industry knowledge. You combine all of those together and that is a really compelling story for the market, and it’s getting a lot of good interest and I think it will be a big success.  I think it’s unique.

Stay tuned for parts two and three of this interview, to be published tomorrow and Monday, respectively.