IBM Garage brings the agility of a startup to the scale of an enterprise

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Is it possible to combine the best characteristics of startups and enterprises to create meaningful innovation and transformational change? IBM Garage hinges on the premise of combining the agility of a startup at the scale of an enterprise. This center for client-centric innovation was conceived to apply purposeful technologies to quickly create and scale ideas that allow businesses to evolve.

IBM Garage employs a methodology where organizations co-create, co-operate, and co-execute ideas with the right combination of people while utilizing applied technology, industry best practices, and IBM’s depth of experience.

The co-creation experience

As described in their Think Singapore 2019 showcase, IBM Garage initiates the transformation process by focusing first on the customer’s desired outcome before employing enterprise design thinking to understand who the customer is. They then bring in users from both the customer and IT to drive consensus and clarity around the business before developing empathy maps to glean insights into what the users really think, feel, say, and do.

The co-execution phase follows, and this is where the customer and IBM Garage develop a minimal viable product (MVP) together by determining how a big problem can be broken down into something small that can be tested and iterated with their users.

The main objective is to get an idea into working code as quickly as possible (as little as six to eight weeks), building an MVP that’s designed from the onset to scale.

A time-saving pricing tool

Mueller, Inc., a leading retailer and manufacturer of steel building products in the US, counts itself as one of the companies that has adopted this new way of working. When sales rose exponentially a few years ago, contractors had to contend with a manual pricing process that involved a lot of back and forth with the company’s sales team, weighing them down in paperwork and delaying projects. Mueller partnered with IBM Garage because it needed a solution to scale its business by minimizing the time spent on administrative tasks.

“This tool was going to be such a strategic portion of our connection to customers that we couldn’t afford to mess it up,” said Mark Lark, Mueller’s Manager of Strategy Analytics and Business Intelligence.

Over the next nine weeks, IBM Garage helped Mueller come up with a solution through a process that involved a user research activity that determined their customers’ pain points, an Enterprise Design Thinking workshop where the proposed solution was discussed in detail, the design of a mobile app on the IBM Cloud Public platform, and the testing and validation of the MVP. The result was the Material Estimator app, a pricing tool that helps contractors configure product specifications and generate quotes until they have a solution that fits the customer’s requirements — sans the constant input from the sales team. Customers now receive pricing quotes more quickly, translating to faster project timelines and increased customer satisfaction.

“This is the type of problem-solving approach I want the company to take,” said Mueller CEO Brian Davenport. “It is going to help Mueller be nimble as we continue these development systems in the future.”

Inspiring collaboration

IBM Garage drives digital transformations for its clients by putting to use IBM’s assets (such as hardened reference architectures and code) and practices (such as DevOps and lean agile) in conjunction with diverse experts across research, strategy, process, application, infrastructure, and technology. Their methodology is meant to inspire collaboration and eliminate traditional silos so employees are encouraged to learn by doing.

The center works with clients with the goal of building new value propositions by empowering them to design and create real applications that solve their particular needs. It also aims to help organizations build people-centered cultures and user-focused business outcomes.