Driving the Agile Business. An Interview with Marie Wieck, General Manager for WebSphere
Shaku Selvakumar 060001XT47 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  websphere work_life ibmimpact bizagility application integration bpm leadership
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Marie Wieck is the General Manager for the Application and Integration Middleware (AIM) business unit. In this role, she leads an organization of more than 7,000 software development, marketing, services, and sales professionals. She is responsible for IBM's WebSphere software portfolio and other strategic middleware products, including Web application servers, transaction and messaging systems, integration, and business process management solutions.
We managed to find time on Marie’s busy schedule to talk about her leadership role, her views on the agile business, IBM’s acquisition strategy and how she finds time to find that fine balance between work and family.
Congratulations on being named the General Manager for WebSphere. You are extremely familiar with the WebSphere family having led significant business initiatives since 2001 in various capacities, most recently in Global Technology Service. Could you share with us, what excites you most about this job?
I believe one of the key benefits is that I have just spent the last four years in services leveraging some of the great technology that we have here. I am really thrilled about the prospects in extending that technology to really drive client value even further, integration across not only the WebSphere portfolio but with the other elements of the SWG group. What I have seen is the power that integration of our functional capabilities can have across the portfolio to really drive agility and give our customers the maximum business benefits. Combined with our key capabilities, the fantastic team that we have, the enthusiastic response from our clients and the fact that we are the number 1 player in each of the markets we serve, has been a source of great excitement for me.
You will be keynoting at the Four Corners of the World events in NY on Oct 21 and in Sao Paulo on Nov 10, addressing business agility. This is a hot topic for our clients with only 49% CEOs stating that they can handle complexity successfully. What would you say are some of the unique challenges facing our customers today?
Well I think we all have heard the challenges. Our Global CEO survey indicated that more than 80% of CEOs feel that their organizations are experiencing significant business model change and have been impacted by the uncertain economic environment. The ability to respond quickly as you said,is not something that they feel that their organizations are well equipped to handle. As a result, they are trying to do more with less but don’t necessarily always know the best way to chart a path that will give them the most impact.
From the work that we have done in looking at those customers who have been able to weather storms, and research from the IBM Institute of Business Value around strong companies that not only grew during the good times but also continued to drive good financial results during the last few years of economic change, we can see that the out performers really are able to capitalize on changes by investing in those shifts and making that benefit them. Some of the key things that we think technology can help them drive that agility, centers around really driving that connection between business and IT.
What role can IBM and our technology play in helping clients drive greater agility.
I would say there are 3 key elements
I think one of the other key aspects that customers need to think about is skills. A key element of the strategy and linking business and IT is do you have the skills available? Not just the technology but do you have the talent and the capabilities to exploit that? There are a number of ways that IBM and our partner community can help clients from mapping out the strategy that they need and to also to help determine the fastest ways to implement it. We do have a broad view on best practices and methodology for successful projects, and can assess where our customers are in the maturity cycle in order for them to take advantage of market shifts and do it with confidence.
One of the ways we are extending this knowledge to clients is with our quick start services and Quick Win pilots that can help clients deploy in under 90 days At a project level, customers can build capabilities, extend and demonstrate value back to the business so that none of these implementations become big bang approaches, but really the means to assist their employees and businesses to grow and actually help build in the management and the governance as they grow to be more successful.
Are there specific industries where there is a greater pressure to meet these challenges?
I think we certainly see all industries reacting to business model changes because we are all interconnected but clearly when we talk about North America, the financial market and the healthcare industry are certainly experiencing significant change. Worldwide, we certainly see the public sector being more involved in how to set innovation and growth agendas
And there are dramatic changes taking place in telecommunications and in retail as mobile platforms really start permeating across their businesses. How you take advantage of some of those technologies to reach new markets and to delight your customers would, I think be of interest to every industry.
You have been very active on the acquisition scene. Can you comment on this?
Yes, I have been involved with a number of the acquisitions that the SWG team has done. We are delighted with the breadth of capabilities that many of the recent acquisitions we have added to our portfolio. Take the recent Cast Iron acquisition which drives integration between the enterprise and SaaS and cloud applications in a very rapid time. Or some of the newer capabilities now that will really help us with client marketing agenda, like Coremetrics, Unica and Sterling Commerce capabilities which will give us a new entrance into accelerating the value of that business network. Helping the Chief Marketing Officer leverage technology to drive opportunity and growth for their business is very exciting.
The most important element in any acquisition is that in almost all cases, the companies that we have acquired have been partners of ours in the past. We also look to see if there is a cultural fit. Do they address an gap in our product portfolio that will give us additional technical capabilities, and in turn, how these companies can leverage IBM’s reach in order to access our global markets and customer base. I think it is a very complementary approach and we always continue to assess build vs buy kinds of opportunities in order to drive both organic and inorganic growth in the function and platform capabilities that we market.
Moving to the oft asked question, what is your personal view on the qualities of a great leader?
The key qualities of a great leader among many would be to stay open to input from many different parts of the organization and to reach out to thought leaders within the industry and be able to synthesize that into a strategy. You need to be able to assess not only where the market is going, but be able to listen for those “jewels” at various levels both internally and externally for new opportunities. To execute on that strategy, you need to surround yourself with people who aren’t just like you, so you get a mixed viewpoint and actually have the capability and skills to deliver the desired results.
One of the things I tend to use as a guide, particularly as it relates to new technology, is keeping an eye out for what people are picking up on their own. What new standards are our technologists are looking at and adopting on their own, not because someone in the organization told them to do it but because they see it providing benefit to them in terms of enhancing productivity or function. Those are usually a great source of insight.
The other obvious element is listening to the client. We want a market based view on how things are evolving and making sure that we are listening individually to clients and then understanding the patterns to drive that back into our strategy.
So it’s a constant loop…where you are listening, strategizing and executing
You need a good balance in the feedback loop where you are focusing on strategy and monitoring execution to making sure you have the skills to balance to ensure both those things are happening.
Another point that is we sometimes get caught up in the accelerated pace of change our businesses face in responding to the most urgent requests. But urgent is not necessarily what is important to the business. So you need to take the time to continually look at the longer term roadmap, on how you are building the organizational capability, how you are looking at market position, and how you are responding to changes in competition. This distinction is critical for leadership.
Marie, you are a co-chair of IBM's Global Work/Life Council and you won the Work/Life Balance Award from SWE in 2005. Can you talk to this topic? How can we personally increase our productivity without losing our balance?
One of the key things that IBM has recognized that we use in our council is a focus on Work/Life Integration as opposed to Work/Life balance. I don’t think you are ever perfectly in balance and when we try to walk that fine line, I think it leaves people feeling stressed or guilty that they are not doing enough. I think what we are really trying to focus on is that we allow people the flexibility to prioritize their work and to balance some of the things that are really important to them.
We have also recognized that this is a broad issue. IBM had previously aligned this focus to our women’s activities and is really now considering it as a workforce issue not solely a women’s issue and a way for our people to leverage and embrace technology as a way to make us work smarter and to understand that everyone is subjected to the same accelerated rate of change.
I personally use my own calendar as a reference point to try to make sure that everything that is important is listed there, whether it’s an event at one of my daughter’s school or a critical meeting at a client, that it’s all on there and I can try to plan in advance. I think given the 24/7 nature of work and technology, giving yourself the slack to take 2 hours to attend to this important personal task, knowing that I can come back later and make sure I am ready for that client presentation.
The other benefit of working for company like IBM is that we are truly global. We can leverage the capabilities in other locations on a project. This presents other challenges as we are on call during odd hours or the day or night but the trade off is that we learn to be more adaptive and culturally sensitive and as well as giving us an opportunity to balance things in a different way.
Marie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! We are looking forward to your keynote at the Four Corners of the World in NY on October 21.
Meet and listen to Marie Wieck who will be our keynote speaker at the Four Corners of the World IT Executive Summit on October 21st in NY. Her keynote on Three IT Projects Every CEO Will Fund to Drive Business Agility will be followed by a presentation from Nachiket Desai of 1 800 Flowers. The event will also feature in-depth ‘How to Sessions’ presenting case studies covering BPM, SOA, virtualization and cloud technologies.
Or if you would like to participate remotely, join us on Oct. 21 (4:00 pm EDT) for a LiveStream broadcast of the New York City IT Executive Summit
To learn more about Business Agility, click here: www.ibm.com/business-agility
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