IBM: The future will be quantified; IBM’s Bridget van Kralingen on how she leads a team of more than 100,000 people with a data-driven strategy

IBM: The future will be quantified

Adam Lashinsky


JUNE 2, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

IBM’s Bridget van Kralingen on how she leads a team of more than 100,000 people with a data-driven strategy.

Fortune: You head IBM’s  IBM 0.99%  consulting and services business, which traditionally sells to information technology professionals. Now you are focused on what you call a front-office agenda.

Van Kralingen: We are seeing a big shift in how IT is purchased. It is becoming the priority of “CXOs”: corporate leaders, public officials, mayors, and people who lead big functions like finance and human resources. The purchase decision is moving from the technical part of the shop to front-office leaders. We believe 61% of IT spending will be made or shaped by lines of business, as opposed to the IT department.

This is where “big data” comes in, right?

Yes. The business agenda is being empowered while it’s also being challenged by the plethora of structured and unstructured data. Getting it right allows businesses to shift from automating processes to focusing much more on enabling them to do things. An example would be giving real-time data to retailers to better stock store shelves and to deliver that information to a mobile device.

How is this shift affecting IBM’s culture?

It’s leading to some interesting opportunities for us to fuse what used to be two businesses, research and consulting. In the past we’d do really cool work in research that were one-off projects. Now so many of our clients are experimenting with how to use data to engage with their clients that a lot of the mathematical research we do can scale across many clients within consulting.

Your buzzword for this is “runaway innovation.”

Right. Our clients understand that their organizations are now extremely transparent to customers. They will be rapidly evaluated. In order to segment and attack new markets they need to understand analytics, and they need it as a core capability.

You’re selling this service in what you call Interactive Experience, which sounds a lot like an advertising agency.

We call it a digital agency. We make sure our clients can deliver to their users and that everything works well on the back end and is safe and secure.

Your business is massive, but it’s not growing much. How do you address that?

Data will be the source of competitive advantage, the cloud will be the basis of business models, and engagement will be the way in which companies get and gain customers and employees. We’ve cut and trimmed a lot of things that don’t pertain to those. They are the essence of our business, and we believe they will drive growth.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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