IBM Services

IBM Garage Helps Growing Client Roster Emerge Smarter by Integrating Hybrid Cloud and AI

By Elissa Gootman

Practically overnight, the spread of COVID-19 changed the entire landscape in which organizations worldwide operate. Customers and employees became homebound, with their needs and constraints instantly redrawn. Supply chains and entire industries were disrupted.

Organizations needed to pivot, and fast. There was sudden, widespread recognition that technologies like hybrid cloud and AI were no longer optional, but essential tools for surviving the pandemic and thriving in an uncertain future.

To accelerate their digital transformation journeys, a growing number of organizations have turned to IBM Garage: IBM’s approach for fast-tracking innovation, at scale, to transform organizations from the inside out. Since the beginning of the year, the number of IBM Garage engagements has climbed from nearly 300 to nearly 900, across industries.

IBM Garage was founded in digital—from the tools and technologies to the ways of working, mindset and culture. This made the transition to fully remote work seamless for Garage clients, resulting in zero days of lost productivity. Since making the switch, velocity has increased by up to 40 percent, as measured by the pace at which projects are completed. And working virtually opened new opportunities for collaboration. Suddenly, large teams of leading experts with the specific skills needed could be assembled in moments, no plane tickets or hotel reservations required. Executives and employees who may have been reluctant to transition to the cloud, embrace AI or adopt remote work tools, quickly experienced the value of purposeful technologies and got on board.

By moving their operations to a hybrid cloud environment, finding new ways to incorporate AI and adopting agile business practices, Garage clients have developed the ability to iterate quickly and innovate continuously—which is crucial to success in a rapidly changing environment.

Creating a Cognitive Enterprise

To maintain its momentum and commitment to innovation, Frito-Lay has expanded the IBM Garage Methodology across the Frito-Lay organization. IBM Garage has helped fuel Frito-Lay's transformation with meaningful innovation. Frito-Lay is now positioned to fully function in a virtual environment and quickly adapt to challenges that arise. Working virtually, the teams have kept the same routines, stand-up times and release schedules.

“As the world’s turned upside down, we’ve seen very clearly that the companies furthest along in their digital journeys are the ones that have been able to adapt quickly,” said Debbie Vavangas, IBM Garage Global Lead. “When you move your operations to a hybrid cloud platform, when you are collecting data and using AI to glean real-time, actionable insights and to supplement your human workforce, you are able to scale up smartly and turn on a dime.”

Debbie Vavangas is the Global Lead for IBM Garage.

IBM Garage pairs clients with multidisciplinary IBM experts in design, cloud, AI, blockchain, IoT, business process, industry and beyond to fast-track transformation, using the principles of agility and design thinking. Teams leverage platforms and data, as well as insight, experience and industry expertise. The IBM Garage Methodology can take clients from idea—or a problem that needs solving—to a “minimum viable product” (MVP) in three to eight weeks. Recognizing the urgency of transformation, clients have signed new Garage contracts within five days of beginning discussions, an unusually quick timeframe even under “normal” conditions.

At the same time, there is the process of transforming the business itself: helping clients bake intelligence into their workflows to create a cognitive enterprise, enabled by hybrid cloud. “What’s unique about IBM Garage is that it brings tech, process and experience together and delivers to outcomes,” Vavangas said. “For us, innovation is only interesting when it scales, and it delivers measurable value. Then it becomes transformative.”

Meeting the Challenges of Tomorrow

La Trobe University, a public research institution based in Melbourne, Australia, needed a way to communicate critical information about the university’s pandemic resources to its students. The university engaged the IBM Garage to help it develop a virtual advisor based on Watson Assistant that would supplement its existing COVID-19 resource site, ensuring information was synthesized and available to its students really quickly. La Trobe lays claim to being the first organization in the southern hemisphere to migrate to a SaaS student information service and enjoys partnering with innovative organizations.

Working together with IBM Garage, the organization established remote teams, and within two weeks had created a minimum viable product (MVP). Using Watson Assistant, La Trobe expanded on a previously delivered IBM Garage project, the Bachelor of Arts Explorer, a discipline evaluation site that uses Watson AI services and IBM Cloud to deliver predictive responses that map student queries about majors to potential careers.

When the pandemic subsides, Vavangas said, continuing with digital transformation will be essential to organizations’ survival. “If organizations don’t innovate to transform now, it will be too late,” Vavangas said. “We’re working with our clients to ask, ‘Where do we want this to go?’ ‘How can we use this as an opportunity to transform our ways of working, to meet the challenges of tomorrow?’”