What Fuels Innovation?
For the past 20 years, the IBM jStart Team has combined its passion for innovation, deep skills, client focus, and delivery excellence to establish itself as the go-to team for emerging technology engagements. Starting with Java, the team has served as the ‘voice of the customer’ for many technology initiatives, providing references for use by IBM marketing, product requirements for use by IBM development, and lessons learned for use by customers and all of IBM to accelerate adoption. This ‘early adopter’ trait of jStart is characterized by short-term engagements (typically 4-10 weeks) in which a customer use case is defined and delivered upon to satisfy specific proof points.
There is, however, another side to the jStart story, and it pertains to the post-PoC experience. Even when the PoC demonstrates significant business value, many customers do not have the resources (time, money, and/or people) to train and commit to a technology project outside of their core competencies on their own. It’s a lesser-known aspect of the team, but jStart actually has a long history of helping customers in that situation who need longer term, production-level work.
Start Small, Grow Fast
A great benefit of our lightweight engagement model is that it is designed to foster a long-term partnership that will go beyond a typical vendor-customer contract. An actual relationship, where the client is open to (and an active participant in) applying our cutting edge technologies to solve their business challenges is the goal for all of our engagements. This, combined with the scalability of the model, has led to engagements with numerous clients on mission-critical and transformative applications that have been developed over multiple phases for several years. Our strategy begins with a workshop, and then solution development starts small – picking just a few of the most important use cases – to lower risk and build momentum. Once that first phase is delivered, we can rinse and repeat this process as many times as necessary for as long as it takes to build a complete solution for the customer.
Our ongoing work with the non-profit organization National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is a great example. The engagement began as a small but critical development project, creating a web-based application to help them build one of their core data products. The application would also give them the ability to provide this content in a machine-readable XML format for their customers and partners (such as IBM Watson) to ingest and use in new and interesting ways in the fight against cancer.
NCCN had high-level ideas of what they wanted and needed our help translating those into low-level requirements and, ultimately, a functioning app. It started with a workshop aimed at discovering their business challenges. Together, we brainstormed creative ways to apply technologies to the solution. NCCN saw the flexibility of our agile methods and their excitement grew. Four years later and the app has grown into an enterprise-class solution.
Bernhardt Furniture has been a traditional IBM customer for over 50 years. Recently, however, Bernhardt began looking for non-traditional ways to transform their business, and that’s where the jStart team stepped in. The work began with a small, quick engagement deploying a mobile app to replace their volumes of paper-based catalogs and order forms. Natural progression of the app has rendered Internet of Things (IoT) position-monitoring of users in their showroom, Dynamic Dashboards to visualize client focus within their product line, Spark Analytics for real-time product adjustments to their latest fashion releases, and they a new journey to Cognitive Computing. The phases of this solution have each been small and rapidly deployed, built in an engagement that has lasted for close to 3 years.
There are client stories beyond NCCN and Bernhardt to be found on our Youtube Channel and portfolio pages. We are proud of the long-lasting relationships we’ve built with our clients and grateful for their continued willingness to share their stories online and in-person at conferences around the world. Working with clients on breakthrough technologies to help them create business process efficiencies is what fuels each of us on the IBM jStart Team.