Ibm barcelona lab: a story of technological innovation

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Javier Busquets & Joan Ramón Mallart

ESADE Business School

Case Objectives and Use
IBM Barcelona Lab case has two main arguments: (1) technological innovation and (2) organizational adaptation and change. Therefore, the objectives are first, to understand the changes in the environment, that is technology and the banking industry from 1984 to 2004; to assess the priorities for IT investments in this period of time and link those changes with the adaptation in software production and the organization of the IBM Lab in Barcelona considered as a worldwide reference in Finance solutions in 2004. Second, understand the logic of a customer-centric technological innovation. Third, assess the political tensions between local and global operations between this small Lab and the off-shoring corporate policies. The case has been written for Senior Executive Programs and MBA Degree in Information Systems Strategy and Innovation. The case has a 25-minute DVD containing interviews with IBM Barcelona Lab executives. The video material is in Spanish and subtitled in English.
Case Synopsis

The case asks students to be in the shoes of Ms. Angel Moreu, Manager of the Lab in 2004, just after finishing the off-shoring process of its product to China and wondering what to do next. The Lab was created by small group of engineers in 1984 after successfully developed a turn-key project for a major Spanish Savings Bank: “la Caixa”. The project allowed the replacement of dumb terminals by PC’s for the first time in banking industry. This project turned into the first product ever develop by the lab, the LAN-DP. In 2004, there were more than 1.500 banks in the world using this product and 1.500.000 software licenses. In 1993, due to the crisis in IBM, this product was off-shored to Hursley Lab in UK. At that moment Ms. Angel Moreu was promoted as manager of the lab creating defining it as “open to the customer” and starting to develop new applications with their customers. The organization of the Lab was highly organic and network based building very innovative ways to develop software: the hybrid programming technique boosting collaboration with their clients. Students are asked to decide upon the future of the Lab by (1) understanding Lab’s strengths: customer focus, internationalization and its network structure; (2) the actual needs of financial institutions more focused on service differentiation and (3) the political tension between local vs. global operations to come up with a proposal.

The authors developed the case for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of the situation. The case, instructor’s manual, and synopsis were anonymously peer reviewed and accepted by the North American Case Research Association (NACRA) for its annual meeting, October 19-21, 2006, San Diego, CA. All rights are reserved to the authors and NACRA. © 2006 by Javier Busquets and Joan Ramón Mallart. Contact person: Javier Busquets, ESADE, Universidad Raimon Llull, Barcelona, +34 93 280 6162,

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