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Engineering Systems Solutions to Real World Challenges: An Overview

10/17/2006 4:00 PM 34-101
Linda Sanford, IBM Senior Vice President, Enterprise On Demand Transformation & Information Technology

Description: Of 1,000 companies tracked from 1962 through the late 1990s, only 16% are still around. Linda Sanford attributes such corporate survival to innovation. The pace and unpredictability of change has increased dramatically, and only companies that rise to this challenge can make it. Corporations must undergo complete transformations in order to innovate properly _ no -tweaking" says Sanford. They must break from 20th-century notions of innovation --inventions cooked up in labs by engineers or scientists _ and embrace a larger definition. Good ideas must be -married to business and social insights and deliver real social or economic value," says Sanford. Further, these ideas can't prosper in companies where there's little collaboration among departments or disciplines, or between the firm and outside partners. And companies must take advantage of knowledge and expertise around the world. -Innovation engines" can drive top line revenue growth, assures Sanford. At IBM, such a transformation is in progress. This sprawling international technology power is fundamentally changing its business model and management culture to remain nimble and competitive. New technology must solve a real problem, and evolve with appropriate business processes. IBM eliminated its multinational business structure, where each country had its own -soup to nuts" operation in favor of a global approach that aims to leverage skills and talent around the world. Sanford describes how financial operations are in Brazil, procurement in China, HR in North Carolina. More power now resides in the hands of -front office" people, the sales force, who can make immediate decisions -on behalf of what's right for the client," employing data and analytics provided by the -back office." To benefit from its global pool of 330 thousand employees, IBM holds real-time, online chat sessions, which Sanford calls -Value Jams." There are online sites for developers and other employees to test new ideas, and opportunities for others to respond in blogs and forums. The company routinely offers MP3 podcasts of meetings so that far-flung branches of the company can monitor developments elsewhere. Sanford says IBM demands that employees not simply offer new ideas, but critique them and find ways of acting on them. -If you don't follow through and do something with it, you will lose credibility with the broader population." Says Sanford, -The worst thing is to unleash the creativity of people and do nothing about it."

About the Speaker(s): Linda Sanford is responsible for working across IBM to transform core business processes, create an IT infrastructure to support those processes, and help create a culture that recognizes the value that on demand leadership can bring to IBM. Previously, Sanford was Senior Vice President & Group Executive, IBM Storage Systems Group. Prior to assuming that position, Ms. Sanford headed IBM Global Industries, the organization that manages relationships with IBM's largest customers worldwide and is responsible for generating almost 70 percent of IBM's revenue. Earlier, Sanford was General Manager of IBM's S/390 Division, which develops, manufactures and markets large-enterprise systems.

One of the highest-ranking women at IBM, Sanford is a member of the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Engineering. She has been named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Business by Fortune Magazine, one of the Top Ten Innovators in the Technology Industry by Information Week Magazine, and one of the Ten Most Influential Women in Technology by Working Woman Magazine.

Sanford co-authored Let Go To Grow: Escaping the Commodity Trap(Prentice Hall 2005), a book that details how successful companies are pursuing strategies to drive long-term growth and innovation.

A graduate of St. John's University, Sanford earned an M.S. in Operations Research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Engineering Systems Division

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MIT World — special events and lectures

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