Rousseau to Jordon: Max Michaels on Why the Cloud Is the Network
In episode four of the “Pioneers of Possible” podcast series, Dez Blanchfield caught up with Max Michaels, general manager of Network Services for IBM. During their discussion, Michaels told a personal story about cooperative deer hunting from his childhood and explored his experiences with a famous former CEO of Pepsico and Westinghouse. Both these experiences contributed to the depth that Michaels brings to his role and the management of IBM’s Network Services business.
Early in the discussion, Michaels shared an anecdote about how his grandmother’s retelling of an 18th-century Jean-Jacques Rousseau tale influenced his career. The story centers around a group of hunters who elected to collaborate while tracking a large stag rather than operate independently. He also recounted how he enjoyed a similar defining experience working with Michael H. Jordon when he was chairman and CEO of Electronic Data Systems.
Throughout the conversation, three endearing characteristics stood out about Michaels as a thought leader and innovator, including:
- The extent to which he values good business judgment;
- How he has succeeded through unorthodox thinking; and
- The critical converging of the IT and networking world.
Focus on Innovation
While at McKinsey in 1996, Michaels led a three-person team to win the McKinsey Worldwide Practice Olympics, a companywide competition among 300 teams worldwide to generate new client-ready ideas. His team won the competition by demonstrating how to apply the Black–Scholes trading model to any strategic situation. The Black–Scholes model eliminates risk by showing how to buy and sell an underlying asset in just the right way. Michaels showed how identifying the right issues can generate correct strategic actions.
This win illustrated how the business world is not directly comparable to the financial world. When you invest by buying stock, you usually have little direct input into what happens to make the stock go up or down. In the business world, when you invest in a new product, strategy or marketing plan, the investor has an opportunity to change the outcome as customer preferences evolve.
This approach is key to Michaels’ leadership style at IBM Network Services and the genius behind the “Always-On Initiative,” designed to help enterprises support the always-on nature of day-to-day business. The network helps businesses to converge IT and telecommunications.
Before this trend took hold, companies ran IT and telecom networks separately and with separate leadership teams. Michaels is now helping IBM customers move away from focusing on IT outcomes and toward a converged business outcome. This approach changes business models and makes it possible for organizations to better leverage the convergence of IT and telecom.
According to Michaels, the average person in the U.S. interacts with the network for 16 hours a day. Businesses, therefore, need to deliver their products and services to these individuals through the network. Modern business models rely on the network to facilitate seamless connectivity and the convergence of cloud.
Networks enable the cloud. And in the next phase of the evolution of digital business and digital transformation, the cloud, in turn, becomes the network. IBM as a cloud company is leading the way.
This very paradigm is the same driver behind the transformative effect that comes from incorporating IBM Watson into the network and the cloud. This can change how we all experience the world around us, both in business and in life.
Through the lens of network services, this overarching principle heightens the importance of network and cloud convergence. The explosion of data over the recent decade has increased the demand for everything to be software-defined so that compute, storage and networks can all combine into a single entity that provides value to the end user.
Network virtualization and software-defined infrastructure are dramatically and fundamentally changing the entire enterprise managed services world. That, in essence, is the definition of the IBM Services Platform with Watson.
Please enjoy this episode of the podcast series. We look forward to your feedback and comments through social media as we continue our journey to introduce you to leading IBM innovators and thought leaders.