S&DCE: What do you see as the biggest challenges to making sure that everyone has the right skills that they need?
Cantwell: This is just my personal opinion, but I think that the challenge is going to be establishing this kind of skill development as a regular part of how the company operates, and not just confined to just when we're looking at an employee's development plan. Traditionally, for us IBMers, we'll forgo that if there's a fire brewing. But we have to figure out a way to help our people not do that, to make sure that it is as high a priority as anything else that they've got going on. Because there is a temptation to have a lofty goal for how much training you're going to get, but then the normal hectic nature of the business gets in the way of those things. So our biggest challenge is going to be making this part of the manager's and the employee's normal business. And I'm starting to see that happen.
S&DCE: How long a process do you see this as being, and is there an "end state" at which everyone will have all the skills that they need?
Cantwell: As the company is moving into the on demand phase, we have recognized that it's a journey and that it's never done. I think that this will be the case with the skill development as well; as we get our people more proficient in the skills that we've identified today, the business environment will change and that won't be good enough anymore. We'll have to keep the headlights on as to where the business is heading and what that implies about our priorities.
S&DCE: IBM has been working with several universities on curriculum development around supply chain skills. Could you talk a little about that initiative?
Cantwell: IBM has been developing strong relationships with a number of universities over the years, and in the past couple years we have very specifically narrowed our focus to a few key schools — namely Penn State, Arizona State, Michigan State and University College Dublin — where we've built deeper partnerships. We've got executives on the university side and the IBM side who regularly meet and foster these partnerships, and we've got very specific, win-win objectives here for the universities and for IBM as it relates to some strategic research projects and curriculum development.
Very specifically, one of my hot buttons when I worked with the universities is that the curriculum in supply chain is still largely focused on manufacturing and logistics, you know, parts and products. But we're in a solutions and services world now. So some of IBM's emphasis in the partnership is on how can we help the universities steer the curriculum into areas that we feel are strategically important. We want those great students coming better equipped to work in a world that's services and solutions based.