Alumnus Urges Students to Hone Data Analytics Skills
November 20, 2014
"You are digital natives. You are joining the workforce at a perfect time to bring employers and other companies critical value through your analytical skills," Mark Hanny '78 told seniors and MBA students during a recent visit to Isenberg. A career-long sales and marketing executive at IBM, where he once sold PCs in the early 1980s, Hanny offered a wealth of big-picture insights and advice in his November 13th presentation in Professor Marc Weinberger's class, "Managerial Perspectives on Marketing Strategy."
Today, as IBM Global Vice President of Software Group Channels, Hanny manages a global team of over 1000 employees who create partnerships with 6000 firms that resell IBM software in tandem with their own solutions to their clients. Hanny's worldwide team generates over $1 billion through those relationships and sales.
Information technology, Hanny told the students, is knee-deep in massive change. Computing is moving decisively toward cognitive systems, including artificial intelligence that can listen and learn. That will help business strategists make analytical sense of an explosion of digitized data that is proliferating through mobile devices, the cloud, Big Data, and social media. "Eighty percent of all data in the planet's history, in fact, has emerged in the last three years and it's essentially unstructured," Hanny remarked.
Welcome to the Age of Solutions
IBM, he noted, uses Big Data and analytics to create increasingly fine-tuned solutions for its exclusively c-level customers, all of which are businesses. It differentiates itself from its competitors by excelling across the board in hardware, software, services, and solutions. But its focus, he emphasized, is increasingly on solutions. It is solutions that drive the highest profit margins and insure against the curse of commoditization.
That data-driven, fine-tuned approach allows customers to budget for solutions as they need them. "We now sell data and solutions per user per month," observed Hanny. "It has transformed our balance sheets." That software-as-a-service operating model gives line-of-business managers greater flexibility. "In many cases, instead of forwarding requests to their CFOs, they can pay for our cloud-based services through their own group's operation budget."
Prospects are upbeat for graduates who embrace Big Data and analytics, Hanny continued. "Your ability to make strategic sense of unstructured data will be of huge value to your company. And you'll be an asset to so many industries and companies that haven't yet figured this out.
"One of the best things I ever did was sales," Hanny emphasized. "Do a sales job. You'll find yourself right on the firing line. It gets you externally minded. You're not going to sell them technology. You're going to solve their problems."
Now over 100 years old, IBM continues to reinvent itself by embracing change. "How do you stay relevant?" asked Hanny. "It takes really tough decisions. You have to get rid of things." At the same time, IBM has broadened its skills base through acquisitions and alliances. One thing though has remained constant at the firm: "Everyone is focused on customer success. We have a real culture here."
"All of marketing's four p's are blown up in my industry," Hanny cautioned. "They're evolving as we speak. So after graduation, keep your skills strong; don't let them atrophy," he told the students.