Bringing a Trusted, Personal Touch to Technology

We’ve all grown accustomed to communicating via texts and emails and buying almost everything we need, even groceries and medications, online. It’s certainly a convenient and time-saving way to function—in both our personal and professional lives—but what have we lost in the process?

Considering all the professionals outside of our company that we deal with during the workday, shouldn’t we know more about these people and their company? For example, do we know—and trust—the representative (and vendor) selling the tech device, system or network we’re planning to buy?

In this age of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), smart machines and virtual reality, it’s easy to lose touch with the people behind the technology—the people who create, build, sell, and maintain tech devices and systems. Do we feel comfortable and safe doing business with these individuals, who are, after all, representatives of their company’s culture?  

Are these professionals knowledgeable and ethical? Do they consider the customer’s needs first—or focus primarily on their potential commission? Will they—and their company—be there to provide support during the tech implementation and deal with any problems that may crop up down the line?

I started thinking about trust issues recently after I attended the New York opening of the IBM Bluemix Garage, the ninth such facility the company has launched in the past three years. My first reaction was that the Garage represents an IBM that’s very different from the company we knew a decade ago: collaborative and unconventional—more like a startup than a century-old mainstay of the tech industry.

The business people who attended the opening—customers and potential customers—strolled around and casually checked out various stations that provided information about blockchain, cognitive computing, Watson and quantum computing. There were interesting conversations but no pressure—a learning experience rather than a selling one.

“With the IBM Garages, we’re starting over,” Shawn Murray, worldwide director of the IBM Bluemix Garage and Blockchain IBM Cloud, told me. “We’re agile and act like a startup, creating new apps in three or four weeks. We have a small core staff in each garage, and we call on the larger IBM team when needed.”

Murray explained that the Bluemix Garages work with organizations of all sizes—from startups to Fortune 500 companies. But, regardless of size, he said, “We always start with the customer, and design and develop apps and systems with the customer, acting as their partner and consultant. We will even help clients build their own garage.”

“We bring startup thinking to enterprises,” added Rachel Reinitz, CTO of IBM Bluemix Garage. “We merge design thinking, DevOps and agile to help enterprises achieve a business transformation.”

Earlier in this blog, I brought up the topic of trust in business relationships, and it’s a key selling point of blockchain technology. When speaking with Eileen Lowry, IBM Blockchain & Garage, she emphasized the importance of a trusted network. “Blockchain is a permissions network,” Lowry said. “It’s trusted, efficient and secure, offering companies an audit trail and a single version of the truth.”

Isn’t that what people want from the companies they do business with—a trusted, efficient and secure partner? Isn’t that something they have a right to demand from their vendors?