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IBM looks to 'unlock value' with new AI and cloud initiatives

·3 min read
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IBM (IBM) is doubling down on hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence as CEO Arvind Krishna takes steps to modernize the legacy company’s tech business.

At it’s virtual IBM Think Conference, the company unveiled a whole host of new initiatives aimed at pushing the tech giant into areas of potential growth.

“There's a huge issue around unlocking value from all the data that enterprise collects and so the first set of advancements we've made are around artificial intelligence," Krishna told Yahoo Finance Presents.

Among the highlights are AI enhancements that boost IBM’s Cloud Pak for Data. Krishna says customers can get answers to questions as much as eight times faster than previously and at nearly half the cost of comparable data warehouses.

Watson Orchestrate is a new interactive AI capability designed to increase the productivity of employees across sales, human resources and operations. It integrates with Slack (WORK), Salesforce (CRM), SAP (SAP) and Workday (WDAY).

Leading brands have also adopted IBM Hybrid Cloud and AI Solutions. CVS Health, for example, is using the company’s Watson Assistant to help manage the high volume of customer calls the pharmacy chain is receiving as it rolls out its COVID-19 vaccine program.

A woman enters a CVS Covid-19 vaccine site in Monterey Park, California on April 27, 2021 - Los Angeles County health officials are concerned about thousands of residents not getting their 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as the Center for Disease Control also reports on troubling nationwide statistics showing more than 5 million Americans have not followed up with their second dose of the Moderna of Pfizer vaccines. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman enters a CVS Covid-19 vaccine site in Monterey Park, California on April 27, 2021 - Los Angeles County health officials are concerned about thousands of residents not getting their 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as the Center for Disease Control also reports on troubling nationwide statistics showing more than 5 million Americans have not followed up with their second dose of the Moderna of Pfizer vaccines. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

“Within three weeks, we put in place a Watson conversational agent, which actually could handle about two-thirds of the calls,” said Krishha. “So you think about that in a regulated industry like health care, answering really precise questions, and being able to handle them with an AI agent, that I think is the power of enterprise AI, and the power of what Watson can bring to them.”

Krishna has worked at IBM since 1990 and was a major architect of the company’s $34 billion buyout of Red Hat, the cloud computing software company, in 2019. He succeeded Ginni Rometty as CEO at the height of the pandemic, in April 2020.

Arvind Krishna became CEO of IBM in April 2020. Credit: IBM
Arvind Krishna became CEO of IBM in April 2020. Credit: IBM

Since then Krishna has made 11 acquisitions, decided to spin off the company’s less profitable IT infrastructure unit, and continues to make big investments in cloud computing and AI.

Those moves are beginning to pay off. IBM beat Wall Street estimates for the first quarter with a return to year-over-year revenue growth that was primarily driven by its cloud offerings. For IBM, the challenge has been achieving consistent growth. Krishna says he’s confident that’s coming.

“We'll keep seeing increasing results as we go down this year, and even more into ‘22. As you get to ‘22 and beyond, that’s where we will begin to see the sustainable return to meet single digit growth,” he said. “But we’ve got to keep executing on the strategy we've laid out.”

Part of that strategy is investing a billion dollars into IBM’s growing ecosystem with its partners which include Samsung and Siemens. Much of the effort involves having partners leverage Red Hat OpenShift for multi-cloud and on-premises application deployments.

IBM also announced 30 partners to help further drive business and technology automation including Infosys (INFY), Intel (INTC) and LTI.

Krishna believes the coronavirus pandemic has “dramatically accelerated” adoption of AI and cloud computing.

“I believe that 10 years of digital acceleration has come forward into the first two — meaning 2020 and 2021,” said Krishna. “We're going to look at this moment in history, and perhaps call it the moment that the world came into digital all the way.”

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.