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jStart's 15th anniversary

exploring emerging technologies since 1997

Inside jStart, Part 1: Turning Ideas into Products
Identifying emerging technology opportunities, matching them to client needs, & creating solutions

By: Chris "Spence" Spencer and John Feller

Tangible innovation: it's what John Feller, a manager at jStart, tackles every day. John's team consists of architects, developers, and even interns, all focused on turning what jStart has learned from its customers into realized business value. "Our goal is to listen to what our customers tell us, identify pain points they have in which a gap in technology exists, create software to fill in those gaps, and hopefully, at the end of the day, come up with a technology that eventually solves a business problem and finds a home within the IBM product portfolio," Mr. Feller noted recently. "So, if you think about it, we're busy turning ideas into software solutions that our clients find valuable."

The team's mission

In business terms, this means that John's team is tasked with tackling one of the most difficult jobs in emerging technology: discovering opportunity gaps, identifying the right technologies to address that gap, executing on creating a solution, then shepherding that technology through an adoption process. "Basically we're the R&D arm of jStart, supplementing our customer engagements. Our team participates in both pre and post engagement meetings with the customer, which gives us the ability to look for functional gaps where there are innovation opportunities...especially if those opportunities are cross-functional. So, in that way, it's not just about filling the gaps, but bridging them by addressing challenges for which there are no current solutions," Feller explained.

"When you think about it, we're basically doing what any start-up would do--identify a need that's not being met, build a solution, validate that solution with engagements..."

"When you think about it, we're basically doing what any start-up would do--identify a need that's not being met, build a solution, validate that solution with client engagements. The point where we diverge from the start-up model is that once we get that validation, we then try to find a home for it where it can continue to grow, evolve, and thrive. That can be within the IBM product portfolio, it can be within an open source initiative, it can be a licensing agreement with a third party, or in the case of a technology which doesn"t succeed, we transfer the lessons learned back to the IBM product portfolio teams. Each technology is unique, and where it eventually ends up is largely dependent on the unique properties of the technology we've created."

about this series

This is the first in a series of articles about IBM's jStart® team--a team tasked with engaging clients for IBM's Emerging Technologies Group. This year, the team celebrates its 15th anniversary.

Executing on the mission

Examples of jStart's previous success in doing just that are numerous: jStart has contributed technology to IBM's Lotus, Tivoli, and Information Management divisions. And it also a part of the initial Watson commercialization effort--in fact, many former members of the jStart family are now part of the new Watson Solutions Group. Recently, John's team has been focused on developing software that actually looks a bit beyond the team's work on Watson: sophisticated data analytics, specifically in how to enhance current text analytics solutions, as well as exploring the field of social data analytics.

Lee Surprenant, a software engineer on John's team, has been working on two of those gap bridging technologies: software that complements IBM's data analytics software called IBM Content Analytics, as well as social data analytics, which in many ways is a considerable extension of today's social media analytics capabilities. The first technology, a utility that allows users to easily build dictionaries--and dynamically change the content of those dictionaries--is something Feller's team noted was a capability that wasn"t present in current product offerings. "It's something we kept running into with our clients, so it was pretty easy to identify the need," Lee recounted. "And we figured if we needed it, most anyone who used that software could find our utility useful."


jStart Turns 15

in-tune with the latest in tech:
how interns contribute to jStart's efforts

"You know what's great about interns?" John Feller, manager of jStart recently asked. "They always have a fresh perspective, they are highly motivated, and they are usually some of the first adopters of a technology." That means students frequently have a perspective and sensitivity to emerging tech that jStart loves to leverage. "We've found that an intern can significantly contribute to our efforts--they have done everything from creating entire software solutions based on a need they identified, to implementing and executing on an idea that we've created from our experience interacting with clients." Read More [+]

Looking for an internship?

"We're always interested in finding good candidates for our internship program," Mr. Feller noted, "currently, we're looking for students who have: Read More [+]

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