IBM CEO Virginia Rometty has stressed the importance of data in the future of her company’s business structure, while announcing new strategies for the New York-based tech giant.
Rometty, who rarely speaks in public, told journalist David Kirkpatrick how data is fast becoming an integral part of any business model, and highlighted the current period’s fluctuating markets.
“Data, cloud, engagement: they’re all at once. How many more clients I now see starting to put in place chief data officers, reporting to the CEO,” said Rometty, at the Barcelona conference’s third day of four. “These are not technical positions.”
IBM has a big-data analysis division worth $16 billion, said Rometty, whose company has suffered a turbulent twelve months. IBM also has 40 data centers around the world, and recently reported record earnings. But shares are still 14 percent below their value last March, and revenue has dropped seven months in a row.
Rometty, who recently made headlines for eschewing a bonus worth up to $8 million, admitted that this period is the “most exciting,” but also the “most disruptive” in history. IBM is going through plenty of changes itself. The company sold its x86 server business to Chinese firm Lenovo for $2.3bn last month. But it has also recently announced a decision to acquire Boston-headquartered Database-as-a-service (DBaaS) provider Cloudant.
This is part of the company’s shift away from its traditional position as a hardware company towards cloud based offerings and software. IBM software sales accounted for 29.2 percent of the company’s total revenue in 2013, up from 24.4 percent in 2012. In contrast, hardware sales as a percentage of total revenue has dropped from 16.9 percent in 2012 to 15 percent last year.
And Rometty used the Mobile World Congress to challenge mobile developers to make apps that use its intelligent, cloud-based service Watson, which Facebook Effect author Kirkpatrick views as a positive shift for IBM towards the cloud. “I think she has the right vision, of the right changes: data, the cloud, and…engagement, which others would call social,” he told Bloomberg TV.