Introducing IBM at 100: Patents and Innovation

With the looming Jeopardy! challenge competition involving IBM Watson, I am feeling proud of my association with IBM.  In part because IBM is an icon of business.  As a tribute, I plan to re-post a few of the notable achievements by IBM and IBMers from the past 100 years as an attempt to put the company’s contributions years into perspective.   Has IBM made a difference on our world … our planet?  What kind of impact has IBM had on the world?  Is it really a smarter planet as a result of the past 100 years?

I hope to answer these and other questions through these posts.  A dedicated website has these postings and much more about IBM’s past 100 years.   There is also a great overview video.  Check back often.  New stories will be added throughout the centennial year.  Let’s start with Patents and Innovation … a cornerstone of IBM’s heritage and reputation.

IBM’s 100 Icons of Progress

In the span of a century, IBM has evolved from a small business that made scales, time clocks and tabulating machines to a globally integrated enterprise with 400,000 employees and a strong vision for the future. The stories that have emerged throughout our history are complex tales of big risks, lessons learned and discoveries that have transformed the way we work and live. These 100 iconic moments—these Icons of Progress—demonstrate our faith in science, our pursuit of knowledge and our belief that together we can make the world work better.

Patents and Innovation

By hiring engineer and inventor James W. Bryce in 1917, Thomas Watson Sr. showed his commitment to pure inventing. Bryce and his team established IBM as a long-term leader in the development and protection of intellectual property. By 1929, 90 percent of IBM’s products were the result of Watson’s investments in R&D. In 1940, the team invented a method for adding and subtracting using vacuum tubes—a basic building block of the fully electronic computers that transformed business in the1950s. This pattern—using innovation to create intellectual property—shaped IBM’s history.

On January 26, 1939, James W. Bryce, IBM’s chief engineer, dictated a two-page letter to Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the company’s president. It was an update on the research and patents he had been working on. Today, the remarkable letter serves as a window into IBM’s long-held role as a leader in the development and protection of intellectual property.

Bryce was one of the most prolific inventors in American history, racking up more than 500 U.S. and foreign patents by the end of his career. In his letter to Watson, he described six projects, each of which would be considered a signature life achievement for the average person. They included research into magnetic recording of data, an investigation into the use of light rays in computing and plans with Harvard University for what would become one of the first digital computers. But another project was perhaps most significant. Wrote Bryce: “We have been carrying on an investigation in connection with the development of computing devices which do not employ the usual adding wheels, but instead use electronic effects and employ tubes similar to those used in radio work.”

The investigation bore fruit. On January 15, 1940, Arthur H. Dickinson, Bryce’s top associate and a world-beating inventor in his own right, submitted an application for a patent for “certain improvements in accounting apparatus.” In fact, the patent represented a turning point in computing history. Dickinson, under Bryce’s supervision, had invented a method for adding and subtracting using vacuum tubes—a basic building block of the fully electronic computers that began to appear in the 1940s and transformed the world of business in the 1950s.

This pattern—using innovation to create intellectual property—is evident throughout IBM’s history. Indeed, intellectual property has been strategically important at IBM since before it was IBM.

The full text of this article can be found on IBM at 100:

WikiLeaks Disclosures … A Wakeup Call for Records Management

Earlier in my professional career, I used to hit the snooze button 4 or 5 times every morning when the alarm went off. I did this for years until I realized it was the root cause of being late to work and getting my wrists slapped far too often. It seems simple, but we all hit the snooze button even though we know the repercussions. Guess what … the repercussions are getting worse.

For years, the federal government has been hitting the snooze button on electronic records management. The GAO has been critical of the Federal Government’s ability to manage records and information saying there’s “little assurance that [federal] agencies are effectively managing records, including e-mail records, throughout their life cycle.” During the past few administrations, similar GAO reports and/or embarrassing public information mismanagement incidents have reminded us (and not in a good way) of the importance of good recordkeeping and document control. You may recall incidents over missing emails involving both the Bush and Clinton administrations. Now we have Wikileaks blabbing to the world with embarrassing disclosures of State Department and military documents. This is taking the impact of information mismanagement to a whole level of public embarrassment, exposure and risk. Although it should not be surprising to anyone that this is happening considering the previous incidents and GAO warnings it has still caused quite a stir and had a measurable impact. Corporations should see this as a cautionary tale and a sign of things to come … so start preparing now.

Start by asking yourself, what would happen if your sensitive business records were made publicly available and the entire world was talking, blogging and tweeting about it. For most organizations, this is a very scary thought. Fortunately, there are solutions and best practices available today to protect enterprises from these scenarios.

Implement Electronic Records Management: Update your document control policies to include the handling of sensitive information including official records. Do you even have an Information Lifecycle Governance strategy today? Start by getting the key stakeholders from Legal, Records and IT involved, at a minimum, and ensure you have top down executive support. Implement an electronic records program and system based on an ECM repository you can trust (see my two earlier blogs on trusting repositories). This will put the proper controls, security and policy enforcement in place to govern information over it’s lifespan including defensible disposition. Getting rid of things when you are supposed to dramatically reduces the risk of improper disclosure. Although implementing a records management system has many benefits, including reducing eDiscovery costs and risks, it is also the cornerstone of preventing information from falling into the wrong hands. Standards (DoD 5015.02-STD, ISO 15489), best practices (ARMA GARP) and communities (CGOC) exist to guide and accelerate the process. Records management can be complimented by Information Rights Management and/or Digital Loss Prevention (DLP) technology for enhanced security and control options.

Leverage Content Analytics: Use content analytics to understand employee sentiment and as well as detect any patterns of behavior that could lead to intentional disclosure of information. These technologies leverage text and content analytics to identify disgruntled employees before an incident occurs enabling proactive investigation and management of potentially troublesome situations. They can also serve as background for any investigation that may happen in the event of an incident. Enterprises should proactively monitor for these risks and situations … as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Content analytics can also be extended with predictive analytics to evaluate the probably of an incident and the associated exposure.

Leverage Advanced Case Management: Investigating and remediating any risk or fraud scenario requires advanced case management. These case centric investigations are almost always ad-hoc processes with unpredictable twists and turns. You need the ad-hoc and collaborative nature of advanced case management to serve as a process backbone as the case proceeds and ultimately concludes. Having built-in audit trails, records management and governance ensures transparency into the process and minimizes the chance of any hanky-panky. Enterprises should consider advanced case management solutions that integrate with ECM repositories and records management for any content-centric investigation.

This adds up to one simple call to action … stop hitting the snooze button and take action. Any enterprise could be a target and ultimately a victim. The stakes are higher then ever before. Leverage solutions like records management, content analytics and advanced case management to improve your organizations ability to secure, control and retain documents while monitoring and remediating for potential risky disclosure situations.

Leave me your thoughts and ideas. I’ll read and respond later … after I am done hitting the snooze button a few times (kidding of course).