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Best of 2021 – Innovation in IBM Automation

By DAVID Jenness posted Wed December 22, 2021 01:15 PM


It’s that time of year to look back and assess what was good about 2021. This year, perhaps more than others, it’s important to view through the right lense.  If you can see the worldwide Covid crisis, supply chain slowdown, and general ongoing disruption in all sectors as an opportunity for creative people to innovate, then things start to look interesting.

One of the projects I’m most proud of working on in 2021 focused on innovation in IBM Automation. In a series of conversations between IBM Automation Vice President of Product Management, Bill Lobig, and some notable experts, what emerged was an uplifting vision of the resilience of our Automation tribe. 

For the Business Automation North American Summit in October, an annual look at the most exciting developments of the year, we, once again, had to go virtual. But, silver lining, it means I can share it all here. I cut it up into three segments, each featuring Bill and a different guest.

The first Segment features a conversation about Innovation with analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe, who founded Deep Analysis, and has overseen their annual Innovation Index for two years.  Bill first described his own view of innovation and then Alan laid out the criteria for judging Innovation. It was Alan who pointed out that today’s global disruption is actually creating an Age of Innovation as upstarts and large companies alike leverage AI and Blockchain technologies to find new and exciting ways to solve challenges.

In Segment Two, Bill described the three ways that IBM creates a Culture of Innovation to train, motivate and support innovation across the company. And then he introduces Merve Unuvar.  Merve is Director of AI and Automation for IBM Research, based on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Merve described the work being done there and showed some new capabilities being developed for IBM Automation products. If you want to see how IBM is pushing the envelope on new ways that Automation can bring value to an organization, here’s your chance. 

In Segment Three, the conversation turns towards how IBM’s large enterprise Automation customers can inspire innovation in their businesses.  After reviewing some of the Innovations that have recently been introduced into IBM Business Automation products, Bill turns to James Taylor, CEO of Decision Management Solutions, a premiere IBM Business Partner. James has spent two decades helping customers innovate and he brought some real practical wisdom to bear about how to determine what your fundamental challenges are and where you can get started building an autonomous business that supports employees, engages customers and improves the bottom line.

When you think about innovation in IBM Automation, the Big Story in 2021 was Watson Orchestrate, a new development in AI and Automation that creates a Digital Worker that can augment a team and do the tedious repetitive work on command, which was first touted by IBM CEO Arvind Krishna at Think in May. Many who saw the demo in Arvind’s keynote wondered to themselves if it really had a practical use for their organization.  However, one man in the audience saw an opportunity and actually built an IBM Watson Orchestrate application that he plans to launch in early 2022.  Jon Lester is Director of Service Delivery and Transformation for IBM Human Resources, a global organization that supports IBM employees all over the world. Soon after the BA Summit, I had the great fortune to have Jon as a guest on Automation Reaction, where he showed a live demo of Watson Orchestrate and how it will help IBM HR professionals manage the promotion process, and he has plans for many other use cases.