IBM’s Bill Bodin Discusses Spring Into Bluemix, Crowdsourcing, and Collaboration

September 8, 2015 Clinton Bonner

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Bill Bodin and his 2015 intern team. From left: Jia Zhou, Eun Susan Seo, Corynn Chan, Sahana Ramaswamy, Bill Bodin, and Jayprakash Patel.

The Spring Into Bluemix challenge series recently hit the halfway point.

We thought this would be a great time to sit down with Bill Bodin, Distinguished Engineer and CTO Mobility at IBM. Bill holds over 200 patents — with over 50 additional patents pending — in operating systems, mobility, media, telematics, consumer electronics, and healthcare domains. He leads the internal mobile strategy efforts for IBM’s CIO Office, focusing on mobile and wireless technologies, and bringing new and transformational capabilities to IBM. We recently spoke with Bill about his team’s participation in this IBM initiative, upcoming projects and partnerships, and — our favorite — crowdsourcing:

IBM’s CIO team and Appirio are collaborating on several projects. Can you tell us about some of the work currently going on?

Bill: This summer for the first time, designers actually outnumbered developers in our intern program. We have an incredible focus on design thinking and really getting the design right, and we’re running each project using agile practices and methodologies. We have integrated our design and development efforts more closely than ever, creating daily builds and correcting our course as we deliver.

One project we’re doing is called Mood Marbles. The project delivers a mobile app based on IBM’s MobileFirst Platform and is integrated with Bluemix for the backend database and web services. It will allow our employees to form self-assembled teams based on their specific projects, and will allow them to share their sentiment about their projects. It uses a very simple red, yellow, and green marble metaphor and blends those colors to visually illustrate the project’s status. It’s meant to be fun, quick, and allow the entire team to spot trouble instantly in any project.

Another project involves extensions to our Mobile Media Library application. After a successful delivery of our mobile app for media — which allows our employees access to over 300,000 media files — we’re adding live streaming capabilities, a super series function that allows content providers in IBM to deliver a very organized taxonomy for their media, and even an Apple Watch application as a companion to the mobile app.

Interns are working on a number of your projects. Why employ interns for these particular projects? And how productive are they with the use of crowdsourcing?

Bill: First of all, we realize that they may be interns this summer, but we want to hire the best interns into IBM. At the end of the summer, we know who is ready for a permanent assignment. The interns gain the knowledge to successfully position their projects for crowdsourcing, and have the opportunity to augment their own creative energies by leveraging the power of the crowd. This enables them to escape any shortcomings they may have had in professional experience — and succeed.

Of the projects you mentioned, can you tell us which is your favorite and why?

Bill: We are delivering several projects this year, but it is the AgileVR project that is most amazing. This project creates an Agile Training application in which our employees can walk within an open space environment and see virtually how people are engaged in Agile projects and methodologies. The AgileVR project we’re delivering this summer is a favorite because it involves so many interconnected facets. First, it involves many design tools and it gives us the opportunity to use all of those tools in the Unity environment. We couple our 3D designs — including avatars — with C# and UnityScript, a variation on JavaScript. That gives us unparalleled control in a 3D virtual environment and a way to demonstrate to all IBMers exactly how open space agile environments can be ultra effective.

For those who haven’t used crowdsourcing to do design and development work, what pointers and best practices can you share?

Bill: For me, it’s all about conveying the essence of the solution in terms that anyone in the crowd will feel comfortable delivering designs, code, or even analytics around. So my advice is to spend the appropriate time up front conveying to the community the specifics that you feel would make your project successful. Armed with great background, the crowd will no doubt go to work and provide fantastic assets that will help you complete your project, and can even be carried throughout further challenges to completely generate the solution.


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