IBM Consulting and Samsung Partnering to Create Future of Enterprise Mobility Solutions

On this episode of The Six Five – CXO, hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead welcome John Granger, Senior Vice President of IBM Consulting and K.C. Choi, Corporate EVP & Head of Group & Global Mobile B2B Team at Samsung Electronics.

Their discussion covers:

  • The motivation behind IBM’s and Samsung’s strategic partnership
  • The focus of their enterprise mobility solutions
  • The multitude of unique products their collaboration enables
  • What’s in store for the future of the partnership

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead, and The Six Five is live in Barcelona, Spain, at Mobile World Congress. We are here in the IBM booth. We are chatting about digital transformation. Dan, MWC is on fire. I think there’s got to be more people than last year. We’re not taking masks on and off either. It’s great stuff, right?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, the energy’s really good here, and of course we’re here in hall two. Hall two and hall three are always the busiest and from the minute we walked in here, it was busy. And we got here early. We got here before, a few hours before, and like I said, this is the most action I’ve seen in Barcelona before 8:00 AM.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. And they’re not serving drinks yet. That usually happens I think at six o’clock, right? But no, let’s-

John Granger: Don’t let that hold you back.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly, exactly.

K.C. Choi: There’s plenty of coffee.

Patrick Moorhead: Let’s introduce our guys. John, K.C., how are you doing?

K.C. Choi: Great. Great. Good to be here.

Patrick Moorhead: Thanks for being on the show.

John Granger: Good to see you. Yep.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: So let’s start off talking about the partnership. We’re excited to have Samsung and IBM Consulting here together. You’re announcing a deeper partnership. Talk a little bit about the partnership that you’re announcing here at MWC 23.

John Granger: Do you want to kick off?

K.C. Choi: Yeah, I’ll start. Thanks, John. Always great to be with you guys, and thanks. I agree, the energy’s great now, so good to be here and nice to be with John as well. I think first and foremost, this is a re-announcement of a relationship that goes back literally four plus decades, and we’ve done work together from frankly, looking at IBM’s best practices, when we are starting out as a company but also the relationship has evolved to now where tremendous amount of work going on in terms of supplying capability to IBM. In fact, a lot of our foundry is producing active components for IBM’s Z series and others. And that relationship has evolved into one where now, we’re really taking a look at some of our really shared values in our go-to-market capability, especially as IBM has made the pivot to hybrid cloud and really bringing a lot of the data analytics capabilities.

We’re really looking at how do we then extend this relationship into bringing our really strong robust mobility endpoint ecosystem into that. So the work that we’re doing really is tapping into IBM strategy, their expertise obviously in some key verticals which is going to be highly important for us, and then taking really the power and capability and the connectivity of the mobile experience and bringing that to bear. So what we’re talking about really at MWC has been really pivoting around that edge capability and we’re excited about it. We’re looking forward to really the next chapters around that.

Patrick Moorhead: John, how much from your point of view, and one quick question. So K.C., you run globally the B2B business for Samsung. Does this relationship connect B2B and B2C?

K.C. Choi: Yeah, we’re really focused right now on B2B as well as in really the government sector as well. But keep in mind, and John, in fact, we met this morning, we brought this topic up. Look, the consumer is the employee, and as we trend more and more towards employee preferences and really kind of a choose your own device, choose your own technology type of a modality, that the importance of that consumer experience is going to be profound on the business side. So you’ve got to carry over all of that, and that means all the things, security, management, all the kind of unfun things you’ve got to do along with the serious aspects of doing the work that is necessary. But we’re going to start there really with the key verticals in the business space and then not losing sight of the fact that, hey, those business users are consumers as well.

John Granger: And look, why this is important to us is today’s IBM is quite different from say five years ago insofar as we really value how we can leverage the ecosystem to drive open innovation. And what you see in today’s IBM is that we are working with many more partners than we ever did before, because no one company has got the monopoly of the technical solutions that clients need. And why it’s so brilliant to be working with K.C. and the Samsung team is really, I think firstly, we share values and we share history as K.C. has said, but also, what we are really interested in, what we are in the business of as IBM and IBM Consulting is delivering transformation, and we really want that transformation to be end to end.

But so often, what we do is we deliver transformation in terms of platforms, applications, data and so on, but the last mile, the real, the last mile as to how you put all of that into the hands of the operative, whether that’s in a warehouse, in a retail setting or what have you, sometimes, that’s the bit that goes missing. And so where we see the opportunity is that we really compliment each other because we do that transformation around platforms, data applications, but working with K.C. and the team, we can actually close that last mile and I think that’s going to be very exciting for us. And that’s a last mile, I mean, we do a lot of work as K.C. says in the hybrid cloud space so there’s all the native application work that we can do there, but also all the enterprise transformation we do with SAP, with Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe and all of those enterprise transformation implementations will all benefit from closing the last mile with a device into how you actually really understand that you’ve driven the transformation end to end.

Patrick Moorhead: There are so many mobile opportunities out there and you can cut them horizontally and vertically, and whether it’s smart manufacturing, logistics, transportation, healthcare, and then you have the horizontal information worker productivity. I’m curious, K.C., what mobile solutions are you focused on in regards to this relationship?

K.C. Choi: Yeah. Before I go there, I want to pick on one thing that I think is worth mentioning that John just brought up, and it’s that openness question because I think the answer to this is going to be predicated on that.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay.

K.C. Choi: I think when you have that sort of openness, and what I mean there is really the willingness to look at APIs, willingness to get accessibility to the power that’s on the device, the sensors, the capability that’s in the processing, the APU, CPU, when you start to do that, you really then start to open up these new use cases that start to come to bear. Patrick, you know this well because you cover us, right? When you start putting things like 200 megapixel low light sensitivity camera arrays on a device, yeah, that’s fantastic for taking pictures and getting group shots and all of that, but what if we were to start to mobilize that really for industrial use cases? Things like visualization capability, things that involve the type of work that really, you look at almost any vertical, whether it’s scanning things in logistics or looking at things like digital twin capability. This is where the real power of that last mile starts to come into play.

And then you just have to couple that obviously with robust backend cloud services, and again, this is where the IBM expertise really comes into play, which is how do you begin to transform and to refactor those applications so that that user experience, really that manifests itself in that endpoint device, really has the best representation that it can. So this is the type of thing that we’re seeing, especially as we start to move into these new territories where in a lot of cases, that industrial space hasn’t yet… That chasm hasn’t been crossed yet from the mobility perspective, and that’s what’s really exciting about the partnership as we start to get into some of these new industries.

John Granger: And I’d reinforce that. I think in IBM consulting, a big part of our differentiation is our industry expertise. So to your point, we’re really focused on those industry use cases, whether that’s in retail, whether that’s in financial services with wealth management and what you can do with wealth advisors, or even in the government space. And one of the things that’s exciting of which links what I was saying earlier, for example, is we are doing implementations for defense departments around the world of S/4HANA. Now, all of Samsung’s kit, it’s all very, very security compliant because of the Knox piece. It’s been proven in those security environments and even in special forces operations and so on and so forth, so when you’re talking to defense departments about whether you want that situational awareness or whether you want to use things at the edge in supply chain situations or in more operational situations, then closing the last mile, they’ve got the devices that really enable us to do that and to build on that end-to-end transformation, as I was saying earlier.

Daniel Newman: As I listen through, I’m hearing a lot about these advanced applications too. You start talking about putting these cameras, I see drones flying around inside of manufacturing facilities. We talk about things like the metaverse and it’s all been very consumer driven, but I’ve written about this and I think we’ve both been on TV talking about this, these industrial applications are going to be the ones that land first and that are actually going to be commercialized and become business. So as I hear where you’re going with this, you’re breaking through on future technologies with AI, with AR and VR and next generation visualization. What do you guys see as ahead? How does this partnership evolve and become even more valuable for the customers, John, that you serve at IBM Consulting?

John Granger: Well, first of all, I think there’s a whole range of industries and a whole range of use cases that we can get into, and I think one of the critical things for us is the ideation process that we are going to undertake jointly so that we co-create these solutions. One of the things that we’re very proud of in the way we work is something that we call garage, which is when we bring together our clients, our partners, the technologies, and actually really ideate very quickly to produce a minimum viable product and then to scale that out quickly. So for us, what lies in front of us is a whole load of those garages in order to drive more and more of these use cases.

But I think the other thing that is important for us from our transformation experience is that it’s not just the experience of the user that’s important, it’s also the experience of the employee. Because one of the interesting things is there’s more and more evidence now that actually, only about 30% of employees are really prepared to change their behavior in order to advance the organization. So if you are going to make processes actually serve people rather than the other way around, you’ve got to start to make that employee experience really, really good. And so I think an interesting part of where this goes is actually keeping a focus on the client, the customer experience, but also trying to look at that employee experience and how do you get more productivity? How do you get more excitement? How do you get more change from your people through using these devices? And I think the way that the Samsung team has started to work on that employee experience is really interesting too.

K.C. Choi: Yeah, I think the ideation key, we have different disciplines in how we look at it. On our end, it’s really about that mobile experience. What do you do in terms of putting that capability in the hands of the user? John and the team have brought in a tremendous amount of expertise, really on the data aspects of it. It’s on the refactoring and the application aspects of it, because any good app is going to have a lot of layers below it in regards to providing that type of user experience. The key for us is this then, how do we partner in making sure? And then to your point really on that workforce, these new workforces that are coming up, they’re mobile native, they’re mobile first, and they’re in some cases mobile only. So again, designing for that paradigm and how they want to work and where they want to work has been really the key.

So I think some of the mutual learnings that we’ve had along the way is the technical design, the architecture, the enterprise architecture is really key and I think we’ve got some good methods for it. But what we’ve been learning along the way is, again, the adaptation of this for that ultimate user experience, because ultimately, that’s where the rubber meets the road and that’s where you complete that last mile.

Patrick Moorhead: One of the areas that I just find so fascinating about the two companies. So first of all, Samsung and IBM, leaders, big companies, big R&D and big scale, and you’re very complimentary as well. And then I do a lot of C-suite advising and one of the biggest things that is coming up is employees, and that’s frontline workers and also information workers. And I see the combination of the two companies in both areas adding incremental value, whatever vertical that it’s in. And it’s interesting, every employee is a consumer. Not every consumer is an employee, but if you can have your cake and eat it too, which is introducing to them an experience that they’re used to with minimal training, that they just understand because they all use their phone or a tablet or some device, that Samsung, it seems like nothing is ever a no-brainer, but this alignment to me makes a lot of sense. And I know it’s not new. I think K.C., you said it was 40 years old, but I’m super excited to see where this goes in the future.

K.C. Choi: I give John a little grief about this, but you’ve got two companies that on any given year, were trading the number one or number two places on patents, right?

Patrick Moorhead: Right.

K.C. Choi: We won this year, right? But I think what that demonstrates, and it’s great to see that degree of raw innovation occurring, but what we enjoy is really applying that in terms of what you just talked about. And again, these results are starting to yield. We’re starting with, again, some industries that we both know really well and then we’re just growing from there. And the more I can educate John’s organization about what the capabilities on the endpoint is and the more that his team is giving us really the expertise around, here’s how you do application transformation, here’s how you make the user experience as robust as we can, that’s a pretty good combo. And we’re starting to finish each other’s sentences too so that’s always a good sign of a good partnership.

Daniel Newman: You guys had a great flow. We never had to prompt either of you, you knew exactly how to jump in on top of each other. We do have to wrap momentarily but I do want to ask one question, and maybe I’ll get both your takes on it. John, you said something I thought that was really important when you talked about the employees and driving culture, and that was sort of the subplot. How do you feel that coming in together enables you to drive cultures of adoption? Because many IT and digital transformation projects fail, not because the tech doesn’t work, but because the cultures, they can’t get the buy-in from the employees. You said something about it. Do you have any great tips? And as you guys work together going into these clients, are you able to drive that cultural transformation along with that technical transformation that you mentioned?

John Granger: I think it’s two things, two things that really help your employees get on board. One is the confidence in the solution, and that’s why we’ve been banging on about this closing the last mile, because then they can actually see that this really is going to work. That’s the first thing. And the second thing is just their experience of the device. Is it easy to use? Is the application easy to use on the device and so on? I think if you can get those two things together, then I think you drive that cultural transformation. But I do think it’s really interesting that we’ve ended up on this employee thing, because the skills shortages that we have at the moment, the wage inflation and so on, it all points towards you’ve really got to have a great employee value proposition, and one of the things that I think our partnership is going to do is to make that value proposition for the employee much, much stronger.

Daniel Newman: Closing the technical gap.

John Granger: Yeah.

Patrick Moorhead: That’s good.

K.C. Choi: I don’t have much to add to that. I think John covered it really well. I think it does boil down to the following. This new generation of worker, whatever letter you want to attribute to it, they want to work their way on their terms, on their experiences, and on something that they’re comfortable with. They’re not frankly comfortable with being given something to say, “This is how you want to do things.” So again, I think the prevailing wind right now is around mobile experiences, and that is the preferred modality. So lesson learned from us is give the employees what they want. Give them that choice, give them that option, but empower them with the capabilities to do everything that they need to do. Don’t do a compromise, and that’s been a good lesson for us, and again, it’s been something that we’ve learned over and over again in the work that we’ve been doing together.

Patrick Moorhead: The sage advice, I really appreciate that, K.C. and John. K.C., it’s great to see you after your big event in San Francisco. John, it was great meeting you for the first time, and it’s really exciting to hear about a long term partnership and the way that you’re expanding it and making things happen for the modern age. It really is cool, so thanks for coming on.

John Granger: Let’s do it next year.

K.C. Choi: Great to be here, gentlemen. All right, thank you Dan.

Daniel Newman: Well hey, everybody. Thank you so much for tuning in here. We are at the IBM booth in hall two at MWC 2023. For Patrick Moorhead, for myself, for The Six Five, we appreciate you tuning in. Hit subscribe, join us for all the shows here at the event and all of our shows all the time. But we’ve got to go now so we’ll see you later.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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