User experience is an amorphous, all-encompassing field that’s given companies like Apple and design consultations like Frog and Ideo incredible global influence. Now IBM wants to claim a piece of it.
Today, IBM is announcing more than $100 million in global investments to greatly expand its UX consultation practice, which serves clients in the realm of experience design and engagement. That includes 1,000 new employees and the buildout of 10 new Interaction Experience labs (in Bangalore, Beijing, Groningen, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo) where clients can riff with IBM in open, creative spaces that happen to have assets like big data crunchers, marketers, and app development studios in-house.
"The world is sort of waking up to design thinking, new ways of thinking about problems and solutions to problems," John Armstrong, North American Leader, IBM Interactive Experience, tells Co.Design. "We’ve seen in all of our research, CEOs are very focused around the customer experience. This is very much an investment on IBM’s part in terms of where we’re seeing the demand."
In my discussion with Armstrong, he came back again and again to the challenges businesses faced as analog experiences and digital experiences merged—and the difficulty of translating a company’s product or brand experience from one of these worlds to the other.
"As an example, the work we’ve done with Jaguar Land Rover. What they know is, when they get someone in the dealership, in the car to test drive it, their conversion rates are really good," Armstrong explains. "In their case, we worked to build a virtual user experience, a full scale 3-D screen at the height of a person screen. You’re able to interact through gestures. You literally bend down, you can see under the car. You reach out to open the door, the door opens. You can sit in the car. You can hear the car. ...What we’re saying is, we can recreate the feeling of that automobile—in some part—but more importantly, when creating that experience digitally, you can collect data."
And the data is a big part of IBM’s sell in the competitive design consultation space. IBM's Watson team—known for juggling massive amounts of data to compete at Jeopardy or create new foods—will actually share a space with the Interactive Experience lab in New York.