How a 108-year-old company adopted growth resulting in millions of revenue

Posted on September 17, 2019

When we think about growth teams, we usually associate them with small, but fast-growing companies.

But what about large enterprises. How would growth work for a company that is more than 108 years old, with over 350k employees?

Well, we ask Jason Barbato, global growth lead at IBM on the show to find out.

When Jason began growth at IBM three years ago, the team was four people. Today, the central growth team is thirty people, but many other product teams are now taking ownership of their growth framework.

We talk to Jason about:

– How the growth team IBM is organized into three pods, growth engine, nurture love, and experiments.
– The evolution of growth at IBM and how one experiment completely changed the trajectory of growth at IBM.
– Why Jason now runs an internal growth accelerator program at IBM and how it’s helping to take product teams from zero experiments to over 500.


Time Stamped Notes

[04:00] – As a company, IBM is over 108 years old and has more than 350k workers. It wouldn’t be a company people typically associate with growth teams.

[06:15] – IBM’s growth team has grown from four people to thirty people in three years.

[06:30] – IBM has broken its growth team into three parts:

1. Growth Engine: focused on building growth tools that make it easy for other teams to run experiments, gather data, and better monetize their users.

Most of IBM’s stack is now made up of external vendors vs. in-house custom tools.

2. Nurture Love: focused on helping product managers discover the Aha moments for their products and help onboard users to more of those moments.

3. Experiment Team: focused on leveraging all of the data collected to find opportunities to run experiments that create more revenue for IBM.

[14:10] – Jason thought of his growth team like a startup operating within IBM. Early on, there were a couple of pivotal milestones that helped growth to be successful in IBM:

1. The first was both finding and education product teams on growth and getting buy-in for Jason and his team to run experiments for them.

2. The second was Jason’s first big win. They ran an experiment on a pricing page that netted IBM $6 million in revenue.

[21:30] – Jason runs us through the experiment framework he uses at IBM. They’ve built their framework around growthhackers north star tool.

[26:50] – The growth team at IBM are accountable for the number of users, active users, and revenue.

[28:50] – With the early success of Jason’s team to grow revenue across different product lines, growth has started to become more decentralized. More and more product teams are taking ownership of their growth process.

[29:50] – Today Jason and his team run a growth accelerator program inside of IBM. It’s a six-week program. It first educates the team why growth is essential. It then gets them set up on IBM’s growth stack so they can begin running their experiments.

[32:30] – The program has been a huge hit. When it started, they had three teams apply. Today, they have over 40. A team who went through the program went from running zero experiments to now running 500.

[35:00] – It’s hard for a growth team to get traction in a large company. Jason gives us three recommendations on how they can be successful:

1. Always be prepared with data: when you approach a team to run experiments on their product, come armed with data. Take the initiative and teach them something they didn’t know about their users.

2. What’s in it for you: take time to understand what success looks like for that team, understand their metrics, their goals.

3. Partner on ideas: ask the team what ideas have they always wanted to execute on but didn’t have time. Let them know you’re job is to help them get their ideas live.


– Jason on Twitter / LinkedIn
– Kieran on Twitter / LinkedIn / Medium
– Scott on Twitter / Linked / Medium