IBM Watson is just fine, thank you !


Over the last couple of days, I have seen a bunch of articles on my social media feed that are based on a research report from Jefferies' James Kisner criticizing IBM Watson.

I am a big fan of criticism of technology – and as folks who have known me over time can vouch, I seldom hold back what is in my mind on any topic. I strongly believe that criticism is healthy for all of us – including businesses, and without it we cannot grow. If you go through my previous blogs, you can see first hand how I throw cold water on hype.

Unlike my usual posts, I cannot claim to be an impartial observer in this case. As much as I am a geek who wants to make my opinions known on technology topics, I am also an IBM executive , and I run a part of IBM GBS business in North America that also includes services on IBM Watson (including Watson Health) . I also own IBM stock via ESPP and RSU. I don't set product direction for Watson – but my team does provide input to the product  managers. So I was in two minds over the weekend about blogging about this – but net net, I think I will go ahead and say some things about this , and as always I am happy to debate it and stand corrected as need be. So here we go.

IBM Watson's primary focus is on enterprise, not consumer !

This should be obvious to most people but perhaps the technical and use case implications are not super clear when they conclude Watson is in trouble.

Lets take an example of something that is often used to make the point in favor of consumer AI tech – Alexa. I often get asked Watson versus Alexa/Google assistant questions. You can tell Alexa or Watson to check the weather and they will both do it. The big difference is – Watson keeps the context of the first question while you ask the second question, and Alexa treats the second question as if the first one was independent of the second one. In the set of use cases Alexa solves, this is not a big problem – but the ability to keep context is important for the use cases that Watson solves, like customer service. In a customer service scenario, you cannot engage in a conversation without knowing and interpreting what has already been said.

That said – it is very easy to combine Watson and Alexa. For example , if you have echo installed at home, you can invoke Watson via a voice command and keep having a conversation without even knowing it is Watson that you are talking to.

While Watson cannot solve every possible customer service scenario – it can solve several and deliver very high value. For example – lets say you are a utility company that gets calls from clients who want to pay a bill, check a balance, find outage restorations etc. Those are all things Watson can do just fine, and leave the high value tasks – like being an energy advisor , or a retention specialist – to expert humans. Imagine the type of value generated for that utility, and the consistent and fast customer service for their clients . Consumer AI does not tackle these kinds of problems – and that is a big difference. There are many such examples like this in enterprise side of the house – like this video about how Watson acts as an expert engineering advisor for Woodside, and H&R block using Watson as a tax expert.

IBM Watson does not share one client's data with another client

This design principle is very key to enterprise clients. Data security and privacy drives a lot of AI decision making. Consumer AI generally keeps the data all users give it and uses it to learn and get better. I am sure those companies have high ethical standards and the data won't get misused. But that is not how enterprises look at their data. It is important for clients to have full trust that their data is not shared with others that they don't want to see it.

A lot of the criticism that Watson takes a long time to learn and needs data in a specific format that is hard to do for clients come from this principle being not fully understood. Watson can learn from a given client's data – usually unstructured data – and keep getting better, but will not use company A's data for Company B's system to learn. Even if we ignore Watson and look at data science as a general topic – there is no way to shy away from an AI model having to learn. That is the core of the value prop of AI.

This is not to say every client starts from scratch. In many cases, there is a well established starting point. Lets take a Telco call center as an example. If a client wants to put Watson to augment a telco call center, they don't need to build intents from scratch. Instead, they can use "Watson for Telco" that has hundreds of prepackaged intents and just add of change as needed. Over time, this will be applicable to all industries. These are all repeatable patterns – another point that observers don't seem to notice.

IBM Watson has plenty of successful implementations , including Healthcare 

The Jefferies report calls out MD Anderson project uses that to extrapolate that Watson is doomed. I don't see any mention of Mayo Clinic trials,  Or Barrow ALS study, or  Memorial Sloan-Kettering-IBM Watson collaboration   .  Where is the balanced analysis that led to the dooms day conclusion ?

Watson is in clinical use in the US and 5 other countries, and it has been trained on 8 types of cancers, with plans to add 6 more this year. Watson has now been trained and released to help support physicians in their treatment of breast, lung, colorectal, cervical, ovarian, gastric and prostate cancers. Beyond oncology, Watson is in use by nearly half of the top 25 life sciences companies.

IBM Watson is delivered as APIs that its ecosystem can easily use

When Watson won Jeopardy, that incarnation was largely monolithic. But that is not how Watson works now. It is now a set of APIs. I am under no illusion that IBM will be the only game in town, although I strongly believe we are one of the best. Partners and clients will build Cognitive applications using Watson in a much more productive way because the functionality is exposed as APIs.

This gets painted as a negative by some of the articles. You can't have it both ways. As I mentioned above, where it makes sense to package something for a given industry or domain, IBM or someone in the ecosystem will of course package it. But the decoupled nature is the most flexible way of innovating fast and at scale in my opinion. The fact that billions of dollars of investment is directed into this field is good for IBM and its ecosystem – let the market decide on merits who succeeds and who does not.

IBM Watson some times needs consulting , but it only helps adoption

Let me also point out the role of consulting – be it my team at GBS or another consulting company. Clients are still largely tip toeing into Cognitive computing. They need significant help to understand what is possible and what is not in their industry and their specific company – which is what we call advisory services. The actual integration work is not complex and can be done by in house teams or a qualified SI. The other service I often see that is requested by clients is for design. In some other cases, they also need services for instrumentation (like in IOT use cases).

If we rewind couple of decades and go to the time when SAP was just starting out in ERP, What was the role of consulting ? Did consulting  services help or hinder the adoption of SAP globally ? None of this is any different from any other technology at this stage of its life cycle. So I am not sure why there is an extra concern that adoption will tank due to consulting.

IBM Watson team does great marketing, and we already have amazing AI talent 

To be perfectly clear, I am not a marketer – nor do I have any serious knowledge of marketing other than a couple of classes I took in business school many years ago. However, I am VERY proud of the work IBM Marketing has done about Watson. Its an early stage technology – and that needs a certain kind of messaging to get clients to take notice. If all we did was fancy videos and panel discussions and there were no customers using Watson today, I would have gladly joined the chorus to boo Watson. But that is not the case – All over the place leading companies are using it and as I have quoted above, several are public references.

From what I could learn internally, there are about 15000 of us working on this at IBM. This includes about a third of IBM Research. And we are hiring top AI talent all the time. In fact if you are an AI developer and want to work on Watson, shoot me an email and I will get you interviewed right away. While we of course use job boards etc to attract talent, that is not the only way we find people. We already have more AI folks than a lot of our competition – so perhaps that should be factored in to the discussion on "look at job postings, IBM Watson is short on talent" part of the story.

So why is IBM not publishing Watson revenue specifically ?

I am not an official IBM spokesperson – and I am not an expert on this topic. So this one aspect – I have to direct you to people with more stars and stripes than me in the company.


Facebook bought Whatsapp – I have mixed feelings

I don’t exactly know what to make of Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp for about $19B . Like many others – it was a jaw bropping moment for me. And since then, I have been trying to rationalize it in my mind, with limited success.

There are some things that work in favor of this deal for sure

1. Facebook has a big inflated market cap. So it is a good time to buy someone if part of the investment is in stock.

2. What is the biggest risk for Facebook? I guess it is the scenario of growth stagnation and a loss of stickiness. On both counts , Whatsapp is THE new facebook . They would have hit a billion users one day soon with their growth rate.

3. If Facebook didn’t buy them – it is possible that Whatsapp might have ended up with a competitor like Google. In fact I cannot believe that there is no indication so far of anyone else bidding up the price for this $19B valuation to make sense.

4. Facebook is smart in looking for inorganic and risky moves to grow and keep potential competitors at bay. That is admirable for such a young company , especially one that has so many bright engineers working for it.

5. The only financing the company took was $8M from Sequoia. They got a VERY good deal – but it makes it easy for Facebook to not have to deal with a lot of deal complexity and negotiations.

6. Whatsapp shows that you can support 450 Million users with 32 engineers. I don’t know any enterprises or consumer companies who have that kind of ratio. It is unheard of – and something Facebook can hopefully learn from as they grow.

There are also some things I don’t quite like about the deal

1. Historically, there are many such big acquisitions that have not worked out quite well for the acquiring company – like Microsoft buying Skype for about $8B or so. And skype does have a model to make real revenue unlike Whatsapp

2. Facebook doesn’t make revenue to match its market cap. How exactly does adding a very pricey Whatsapp that makes very little money on top make economic sense beats me. Especially since the impression is that Whatsapp will continue to not get into monetization via advertisements.

3. How much of competition can Facebook buyout ? at some point – it gets very expensive, and the share dilution for Mr.Z might not make it attractive .

4. What is the rationale behind this valuation? Will more low revenue startups now use this to convince the market of higher valuation? Will be constantly be jumping from one bubble to another ?

In general , I am none the wiser. But of course what I think doesn’t matter – it is Facebook’s money – they can do whatever they please 🙂

What about those company values ?

Couple of days ago, I had a nice long chat with an old friend who worked with me more than ten years ago. One of the topics that came up in the conversation was how some companies don’t seem to have a set of core values to guide the actions of their employees. It is not as if such companies don’t have a defined value system – the problem is that employees don’t seem follow it. They just end up as slogans on a wall or a website or a T shirt.

When I joined IBM many years ago – it was drilled into me that there are three things that will guide me through my time there

1. Dedication to every client’s success

2. Innovation that matters – for our company, and for the world

3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships

In its abstract sense, this did not mean much at all to me. It took a few years and a lot of conversations with others living this value system that I figured what it really meant. I also learned through the process that having slogans mean very little unless someone takes time to explain and reinforce it with employees. There were plenty of other colleagues who did not have the chance to hear their leaders explain this to them with real life examples, and consequently never gave it a second thought.

Here are some of the nuances I learned over time that might be useful to others. I don’t think they are specific to IBM – it should work for many, if not all companies. But then again – my views are skewed for my experience. Take it with a grain – or a pound – of salt 🙂

Client vs Customer

The first time I was allowed to lead a sales pursuit independently, Dave Lubowe, the partner who managed the account, told me on the way to the meeting “Vijay, I need you to know that we don’t have customers. We only have clients”. I asked him if it was just a difference in semantics , and he told me that it was not. He explained that “customer” implied that we are in the midst of a transaction – something that is very short term, and we will probably not have to worry about this person or company a whole lot later. Whereas a client is someone who we serve for a very long time, and for whom we try to be a trusted adviser.

I got the rough idea from that snippet of conversation, but it took me many more years to understand fully why it is such an important distinction. It takes a lot of time to win someone’s confidence and it takes very little lose it. And without building that relationship, meaningful business does not happen at all. As everyone figures out eventually, it is easier to keep a client than win a new one – there is a quantitative reason for this. But even more important is the qualitative reason. I have not had a client who has not vouched for me as a reference with another client or prospect . In fact many of them have volunteered to be my reference when I switched employers. They know I will do the same for them – but neither I nor them expect any commercial favors from each other when we do business. We just know that we will be transparent with each other and that it will pay off for both sides over time.

Some innovations matter, and most don’t

While I am a big proponent of the concept of innovation, I am not a big fan of the word “innovation” any more. Due to its over use, I visibly cringe and occasionally completely tune out when people talk to me about innovation. Many of you might know that I am dead opposed to vendors describing their work as “innovation” . I use the word vendor only in a loose sense – to mean people building and selling it. It might be the IT department in a company building something for the finance people.

The sole judge of innovation is the people using it. When a client says it is innovative – then the vendor can advertise it as innovative. Till then it is just “potentially” innovative – and I would rather not see it being mentioned. Everything a vendor does should ideally be innovative in some degree – so harping on it is like me saying in every conversation that “did you know I was breathing throughout the day”. It is implied – and when you explicitly make a big deal out of it at every turn , it stops being authentic. Of course that is just my personal view of the world. I do respect the fact that others might view it differently and act according to their convictions. I have no problems with that at all.

Lets say we are in fact trying really hard to be innovative – building something potentially innovative. How do we go about it? Do we light as many fires(technical term being POC – as in Proof of Concept)  as we can in the name of failing fast ?  Do we designate some teams as “innovation teams” ? Do we let such teams run around crazy defying good and bad processes in the name of innovation? When do we stop and course correct ? or can motion be taken as the KPI for progress?

My point is – failing fast is good only if we fail responsibly. To begin with, lighting random fires in the hope of one or two catching on is seldom a scalable way to let innovation happen. Hope is not a strategy. It just spreads everyone thin. By failing responsibly, we should do micro and macro corrections along the way of each fire we light. Put out the ones that don’t belong using objective criteria and join forces with the ones that seem to show potential. And if there is no customer in the “innovation process” – just stop it at that point. At a minimum, everyone owes it to others to make sure that innovation in a company does not result in massive chaos. Some chaos is unavoidable, and some glass needs to be broken – but when it crosses over into massive chaos – its time to take a breath and realign.

Trust comes with the ability to question

The hallmark of a good team is a culture of trust and loyalty. However, it is easy to misinterpret what this means in day to day life. If the team members are not allowed to provide input in making a decision, then it is hard to expect them to trust the leader in the direction they have to take. And when they feel the team is losing direction – they should feel comfortable questioning the leaders. Goes without saying that this should happen with respect in both directions.

We are all unique, like every one else 🙂 

Thomas Watson apparently had “Respect for the individual”  as a core value for IBM in the past, and then at some point it didn’t make its way to the current three core values of IBM. I was told by an old time IBMer that the rationale was that respect for the individual was implied in everything else and hence did not need to be explicitly mentioned. In my opinion – this should have remained as an explicit value statement. Not only for IBM – but for every company.

The lowest unit in a team is the individual. There is of course the politically correct thing of ” there is no I in TEAM”. What we should not forget is that teams are a point in time concept. We are all individuals with things that make us unique.  When individuals do not get respect and dignity, it is hard for them to be a productive member of the team.

I had a recent conversation with a dear friend on the issue of titles at work. There are many managers who coach their employees to not chase fancy titles. What senior managers don’t always realize is that unlike them who already have the title and hence don’t worry about it as much, the employee is a few steps removed and hence genuinely worries whether the company cares for the individual. Not everyone is capable of the higher responsibilities, and maybe they are ready to take on the bigger responsibility but there is no business justification at that point in time. Most people are reasonable and if you explain clearly what the situation it, they will get it.

When I was in my early career stage – I used to hate managers telling me “just keep doing what you are doing and you will do great”. I always thought that was a cop out. Doing the same thing over and over just makes you good at what you do today – how exactly does it makes you ready for next level is not clear in such a response. Managers owe it to their employees to show a clear path on what is needed for them to progress. If they cannot do that – they owe it to their employees to tell them why they cannot help, and hence it is better for the employee to work for another manager or even another company.

Why do companies exist ?

In business school -I was taught that the primary idea of having a company is to maximize returns to its shareholders . There were some essays on the “additional necessity” of stake holder management too .

As I joined the workforce – I was taught that companies exist to make sure customers are successful . My favorite manager of all time taught me “when in doubt, do what is right for the customer”. It made all the sense to me – and I rationalized that if the customer is satisfied and excited , company will succeed automatically .

Along the way, I became a manager and then an executive . And I started getting the employee dimension . The idea of pleasing share holders and customers will work well only if employees are happy and committed to what they do . Yet, most managers have limited abilities to do what is right for employees . I think that is the root cause of lack of growth in a lot of companies .

Yesterday , on twitter – I was reading something on companies buying back shares to boost their stock price . As an investor , this is a pretty good thing to see the big companies spending tens of billions of dollars on buy backs every year . My gut feeling is that at least 500 billion dollars should have been spent by companies in share buy backs in last 5 years . If anyone knows an approximate number – please leave a comment .

I have mixed feelings on the idea of share buy backs . This is money that could have been used for product development , acquisitions , better customer support ,employee compensation etcetera . Whenever I hear about stock buy backs – I think “is it because this company has run out ideas of getting more profitable business from its customers? “. On the other hand – if I have stock in that company, I feel less bad given there is a chance that the market will reward them.

However , after watching the buy backs at big companies like IBM and AAPL having little impact to share prices , I am starting to wonder how long is this strategy effective ? At some point the market will require companies to do actual business to get rewarded . I wonder if it is possible to isolate the impact of buy backs on share prices to see if this is more effective than regular business in driving up the market cap of a company . My guess is that it is not – but then I have not done any real analysis . It’s just an uneasy thought in the back of my mind .

The idea of having share holders , customers and employees happy doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive . Some over lap via getting more employees to be stock owners can help – and some companies do it very well . It is also a good pulse check on whether employees of a company are fans of the company’s vision . Same thing with employees and customers – if better customer satisfaction drives better stock price , employees who own stock will not need to be forced into doing what is right for the customer . They will do it naturally .

PepsiCo CEO Mrs. Indra Nooyi, recently told Forbes magazine that she writes letters to the parents of her direct reports congratulating them for the good work of their kids . I was blown away – my parents have been extremely proud of everything I have done , but I would have never thought of my boss sending them a note to say that I am doing well and they should be proud . What a great idea ! Ok I guess some employees might think that is way too personal for their comfort , but I personally think that would be the sweetest thing a boss can do for parents and the employees .

I wish more managers and executives would take the time to take care of the employees – I know I have ways to go as well . But every time I hear about creative ways other managers use to get their team to develop into better people and better leaders – I get inspired a lot . It’s on my bucket list now to find a way to meet Mrs Nooyi 🙂

Once an IBMer …

I left IBM a year ago – but have always held the company in high esteem . A lot of what I know today about the industry is stuff I learned in my time there . And I definitely had more good days than bad days there . I still own a tiny little bit of stock in IBM , and some of my best friends and mentors work there . Where I work now , IBM is both a partner and a competitor . And for all those reasons – I keep a close eye on IBM . As always – I am posting this as my personal opinions , not that of my employer .

It was pretty disturbing for me to read that IBM is planning another round of layoffs in 2014 and they have kept aside a billion dollars for that, like they did in 2013 . Having several friends who work there – it is pretty sad for me when I see IBM in such trouble .

When I joined IBM, I think the share price was a little less than $70 . And every year it kept increasing and at some point went well over $200 and now it is about $182 or so . So over the long term, they did pretty well and many employees and investors did well as a result . While there were always some unhappy employees – for the most part , IBM did ok .

IBM is unapologetically capitalist in nature . By the time I joined – there was no pension plan or life time employment type things . And the company was expanding rapidly outside USA. If you look at IBM as an American company , it is kind of hard to see it in a good light . But if you think of them as a global company – it made sense to make use of cheaper labor, better access to other markets and so on .

IBM , in Sam Palmisano’s time made the promise to investors that it will hit $20/share as EPS by 2020. And EPS has been on an upward trend through every quarter I think , irrespective of top line growth.

And then Sam handed over the reins of IBM to Ginnie Rommety . She had already managed services and sales for him, and was supremely qualified for the job . She also grew up the ranks at IBM and knew the company inside out . I thought it was a great decision to make her the CEO and Chairman . It was a pretty smooth transition too .

Sam not only grew the share price and EPS , he also did some savvy stuff like selling off the low margin PC division , investing significantly in IBM Watson etc . So all things considered – it seems Sam set up Ginnie for a decade of success . And Ginnie told the world that she is executing on current strategy .

IBM is laser focused on that EPS goal , and uses all possible levers . There are mainly just four things –
1increase revenue
2.decrease cost back shares
4. show investment commitment to future revenues .

The latter three levers were the ones IBM seems to have played best in recent past . In Sam’s time – this was amply rewarded by the capital markets . But in Ginnie’s time – Market is punishing IBM for playing exactly those same levers . Not growing revenue is what is hurting IBM big time .

Selling the low margin part of hardware business to Lenovo seems like a good idea – but probably something the market has already factored in . I have mixed feelings of this sale – I have friends among the people in that business , and I can only wish them the best . But stemming that bleeding profit is good financially for the company .

All that being said – one question remains in my mind . Did Ginnie do the right thing by telling investors that she will follow Sam’s strategy and not chart her own course ?

Street likes predictability more than anything . So if a CEO resets expectations, market will usually give the company more time as long as the plan and time line is communicated well . In much worse situation, HP CEO asked for more time and the Market didn’t punish HP stock for that . If anything I felt HP CEO should have asked for even more time to steady her ship .

So if Ginnie had said “I am playing a long game – so I am going to extend the time frame of EPS roadmap” , would IBM stock have been punished more than the value it lost so far ?

Market is used to not seeing profits – companies like Salesforce and Amazon have gotten the market to believe that revenue/bookings growth should be rewarded even in absence of real profits . Yet, IBM will get punished for showing real profits and growing EPS but not revenue growth . I guess that is why capital markets have that mystic aura 🙂

Or maybe market is not that irrational – and IBM can’t cut costs forever and reach their promised glory . Like every large matrix organization, I am sure IBM has opportunities to cut costs and get leaner – but every time they do that, it does a lot of harm to its employee morale and that is not easy to repair . It is a hard choice to make .

Competitive landscape doesn’t make it easy either . IBM is an amazing technology company and has a habit of making long term bets – like Watson. But a mothership cannot always easily turn on a dime .

Amazon is the Walmart of infrastructure providers with its everyday low price model . That is not IBM’s game . IBM needs to play up its “value added services make us better than Amazon” card really well to see if it works . While I don’t under estimate Mr Bezos, I actually think IBM can out do Amazon since it has staying power in abundance . Soft layer acquisition is a good indication of IBM doubling down . Also , while intel based HW is out – IBM still has Z and P business which can provide manufacturing expertise for their cloud . IBM microelectronics has cutting edge expertise on semiconductors too. But data centers are a capital intensive business and IBM will need to get to the efficiency of the consumer company data centers at some point . Not at all easy , but eminently doable in my opinion .

I am pretty positive that IBM will do well again . I have three main reasons for that

1. Before my time at IBM, they had a near death experience . They know how bad it can get if things don’t go their way . But they survived that and thrived . That is invaluable experience that they can use again

2. IBM has invested a lot in leadership development . People like Ginnie and Steve Mills are some of the best in the industry and they have plenty of leadership bench . I always bet of good leaders and I would be shocked if these people can’t pull it off . It’s not just the top leaders – they have some very bright engineers and an amazingly well trained sales force with great customer relations . This is a people business first and foremost .

3. IBM has continued to invest in research through all kinds of economies . They have more patents most years than other companies . That kind of IP is invaluable in the long term – and not easy for someone else to overtake them

Good luck IBM – I wish you nothing but the best . But in the few times that I have to compete with them – I will try everything possible to kick their butt . That is how IBM trained me 🙂

What can corporate peeps learn from chimpanzees ?

Let me tell you a story

A scientist wanted to test how well Chimpanzees take care of each other and devised an experiment to test his hypothesis .

He put a little chimp and his mother into a huge tall glass jar . And then he started pouring water into it . As the water level rose to the little chimp’s nose , the mother picked it up and held it close to her chest . As water kept climbing up – she put the kid on her head . The scientist was fascinated , and decided to see what happens next . And throughout the process, the little chimp tries hard to escape from the top of the jar

As water level continued to rise – the mother stood on its tip toes . But as soon as it reached her nose – she dropped the chimp and stood on it to reach the top of the jar to escape .

End of story – and it is just a story , no actual animal was harmed in this fictional story .

In our professional life – at times we are the little chimp and at other times we are the mother chimp . The only thing that doesn’t change is the allegoric water level that keeps rising .

Will the mother chimp in us wait till the water is at nose level before we decide to put our life ahead of the little chimp under our care ? And when we are in the role of little chimp – are we always that helpless and do we need constant protection ? Clearly not a black and white problem

Sadly – there several managers will not wait till water reaches their nose level . At the first sign of trouble – some times even when there is no actual trouble – they will throw the people under them down and step on them . To those managers , all I can say is that they are not always playing the role of the chimp mother . There are times when they could end up as the little chimp and the tables will get turned against them too .

We can’t change how such managers work given the flow of decision making in most organizations . But we can choose whether to work for a manager who will give us as many opportunities as they possibly can till their own existence is endangered .

Not everyone has the option of finding a new manager when the existing one is clearly not the one you want to work for . This means we need to be patient and see if we can make it work over time . However , it will be pretty naive to not keep your skills up to date so that in worst case you can always find a manager in another team that you can trust . Skills alone will not find you the next job – you need to build a network too that you can tap into .

Hopefully you have that network already . The best time to start building that network was the day you got into kindergarten . The second best day is today . So please get started . Even if you never anticipate being in the little chimp situation – you will do the world a lot of good by being a good mother chimp to the unfortunate little chimps amongst us .

Always remember – even in the best case scenario, if water level reaches the nose level of the mother chimp – the little chimp has no chance from that point . So – wherever possible – work with the mother chimps to see if you can stop or slow down the water level from rising .

SAPPHIRENOW 2012 – View from the top, with Joseph A Bellissimo of IBM

In my last post, I had included 2 videos I did with John Leffler of IBM. This time, I am including a short video with Joseph (Jay) A Bellissimo .

Jay Bellissimo is the Managing Partner of the Global SAP practice at IBM Global Business Services.  He grew his career up the ranks via the technical path. He started in COBOL programming etc back in the day, and was a strong expert in SAP Basis from early 90s. He ran the COE for SAP when it was first founded. As he progressed in his career and became a Partner, he started taking up several business leadership roles including Geographic, Sector and Service Area ones. Jay has a truly international career – and has spent many years living in different countries and working with our global customers in various industries.

A lot of SAP technical consultants , including me at some point too, have wondered if there is a future for them in this field. People like Jay and Chuck Kichler (our CTO – and with whom I am planning to shoot a video soon) are prime examples of folks who had successful careers by taking the technical route.

I caught up with Jay right after the keynotes, and my friend Kris Ferrari shot this with her flipcam inside a conference room in the show floor. Huge thanks to my buddy Dennis Howlett for his editing expertise. I enjoyed the conversation a lot, and I hope you will find his perspective valuable too.