How CEO Ginni Rometty Is Reshaping IBM

romettyVirginia “Ginni” Rometty is helping to reshape IBM into “the incumbent disruptor.”

The chairman, president and CEO is betting the 108-year-old stalwart can fit that bill by leveraging IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence capabilities across many of its products including the IBM cloud, utilizing blockchain technology to better track and trace products within global supply chains, and commercializing quantum computing.

It’s all about truly harnessing the power of data increasingly being fed into these systems, Rometty said at IBM Think 2018 conference.

“When you learn exponentially, you become the disruptor, instead of the disrupted,” she said.

Perhaps the Armonk, N.Y-based company’s biggest bet is Watson’s AI-enhanced technologies, which is being used to solve an increasingly wide range of business problems, Rometty said. As more customers feed their data into IBM’s systems, more actionable insight can be gleaned to everyone’s benefit.

“If we look at the amount of data which is actually being analyzed today, only 20 percent of the data we have is searchable and being used productively,” she said. “The other 80 percent is held inside companies, generally not being used. IBM is now building out IBM Services Platform for Watson so that IBM can start to offer AI tooling as a layer embedded into services for every use case.”

IBM is also exploring new uses for blockchain’s distributive ledger technology. The company last August announced a blockchain collaboration with a group of leading companies across the global food supply chain. The collaboration is working to enable food providers and other supply chain members to use a blockchain network to trace contaminated product to its source in a short amount of time to ensure safe removal from store shelves and stem the spread of illnesses.

“What the internet did for communications, I think blockchain will do for trusted transactions,” Rometty told CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

This January, IBM and A.P. Moller – Maersk announced their intent to establish a joint venture that will offer a global trade digitization platform powered by blockchain technology to provide more transparency in the movement of goods across borders and trading zones.

“For cargo, you know those containers we all see? Often the paperwork costs more than what’s inside of it,” Rometty said at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting Feb. 25, according to Transport Topics. “With blockchain, you’re able to get rid of all of that. Then you go to rail, to the truck [and] everything along the way. You’re going to find blockchain’s going to plow its way right through that. It’s a great efficiency play.”

IBM is also working on disruption via its quantum computing initiative IBM Q. The company in December announced the first clients to tap into its IBM Q early-access commercial quantum computing systems to explore practical applications important to business and science, including JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG and several universities, part of the newly formed IBM Q Network.

JPMorgan Chase will focus on use cases for quantum computing involving trading strategies, portfolio optimization, asset pricing and risk analysis. Daimler AGwill focus on use cases such as the development of new materials for automotive application through quantum chemistry, and the optimization of vehicle routing for fleet logistics or self-driving cars.

Rometty is leading the way in all of these endeavors. Forbes in 2017 named her as one of its Power Women for “heralding IBM’s transition into a data company, pushing its cloud and analytics products to counteract a decline in demand for legacy software products.” She has been named to Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list consistently for over 10 years, and listed in the top 10 since 2010.

Rometty also received the 2017 KPMG Inspire Greatness Award “for her role as a pioneer in technology, and for her ongoing commitment to empower and elevate the next generation of women.”

She’s No. 33 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.

Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM

Headquarters: Armonk, New York

Age: 60

Undergraduate degree:  Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University.

First joined company: 1981

First position with company: Systems engineer

Named CEO, president and chair: 2012

Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

PARTNER CENTER