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IBM Visionary

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Internet Strategy You Can Use Today

John Patrick
VP Internet Technology

John Patrick’s bio says it all: “Some people call me the strategist, some call me a visionary, and some call me chief dreamer….” But when John Patrick has a dream, those around him would be wise to listen up.

After all, the 31-year IBM veteran has used his position as Vice President of InternetTechnology and his pull in the tech industry to realize some pretty far-out dreams – dreams like XML, the Net language destined to launch e-business into its next phase or Internet II, the high-speed network intended for advanced applications. John Patrick is a dreamer, all right. But some of his dreams come true.

In fact, one of Patrick’s most successful ideas IBM’s AlphaWorks, started out as a wild dream and ended up being one of the most dynamic development labs around.

“One day we got the idea, ‘why don’t we use the Internet as a way to take some of these technologies that we’re not quite sure what their future is and put them on the Internet and let people download them and use them and give us feedback and get a dialog going with technology aficionados?’ ” Patrick remembered. “This was somewhat of a bold move in a sense of taking real stuff from our laboratories and putting it outside.”

Patrick’s daring paid off. AlphaWorks is now one of XML’s most robust info-sites, and is also inhabited frequently by Java and open-source programmers. Big Blue is also looking with great interest at the rapidly burgeoning field of e-business, and in particular at creating applications which enable the easy flow of trade. Patrick says that e-business is often confused with e-commerce.

“E-commerce is ‘click here to buy,'” Patrick said. “You know, ‘click here to buy a bottle of salsa, click here to get your favorite music selection;’ but e-business is a bigger thought actually. E-business is more like ‘click here to initiate the supply chain, click here to start inventory flow between company A and company B, click here to enable a new employee to step through the on-boarding process to become assimilated to the company.”It’s a deeper idea than e-commerce.”

To enable such powerful e-business predictions, IBM is working on a slew of new technologies. In the pipeline are products to provide customer service through instant-messaging voice capabilities on corporate sites, as well as virtual meetings with video and other capabilities over the Web. Patrick said that IBM is moving rapidly to keep up with the pace of e-business development and that clients are starting to pick up the pace as well.

“That was not the case four or five years ago when they would say ‘John, you’re crazy.’ Now their question is ‘how can we go faster?, and what I tell them is don’t try to have a complete plan,” Patrick said. “Today’s mode with the internet needs to be more sense and respond.”

“Try something,” Patrick continued. “Listen to what people say and if it’s a dumb idea they’ll tell you. It is so easy to be inwardly focused on creating this thing so that everybody will come to it. That’s not the way to think about this. The people have the power.”

Those people are getting more powerful by the day, Patrick says, with technology getting cheaper, better and more popular all the time.

“Just look around and you’ll find that our mothers are using the Internet,” Patrick said. “Our grandmothers are using it, our great-grandmothers are using it and our great-grandfathers as well. Next holiday season many of them will be watching the kids under the holiday tree in video.”

And anyone who still thinks of the Net as a fad is in for a big surprise, Patrick said.

“Look at the real results of the past holiday season,” he said. “In 1998, 30% of all retail stock market transactions occurred on the Net. So that’s hardly a fad, something that important.”

One thing’s for sure: wherever the Net goes, Patrick will have a hand in it.