iManifest Regroups, Plans to Meet at COMMON
April 5, 2010 Dan Burger
IBM i For Business enthusiasts led by Frank Soltis, Jeff Olen, Mike Pavlak, and nine software vendors are hopeful the iManifest U.S. project can still take flight. During a conference call last week, members decided to gather at the COMMON conference in Orlando next month to reinvigorate the program, which is designed to promote the i operating system as a thoroughly modern, extremely capable, and smarter alternative for running business applications.
Since taking shape in July 2009, iManifest has managed to gain only limited corporate support from the independent software vendors that are crucial to the organizations goals. The vendors that are onboard include: LANSA, ProData Computer Services, Raz-Lee Security, DRV Technologies, BCD, New Generation Software, Quadrant Software, Xperia, and Linoma Software. By comparison, the vendors exhibiting at the COMMON conference total 68.
Olen and Pavlak were the main recruiters from the early going. Soltis signed on in November 2009. Since the announcement in December 2009 that Linoma was joining the group, no additional members have been added. The pledge fund, which will be used for marketing and promotion, has remained at $48,000.
Olen, in a phone conversation with IT Jungle Thursday, admitted the iManifest U.S. has lost momentum and has its hands full getting beyond the starting point and making it a functional organization. Enthusiasm, on the part of the member organizations, remains high based on the teleconference conversations, Olen said.
“There’s no doubt an emphasis needs to be placed on building membership,” Frank Soltis said in a phone conversation with me on Friday. Soltis, of course, is the ex-IBMer who designed the System/38 and AS/400 minicomputers and steered some of the development of their kickers. “Many of the specifics of where iManifest U.S. are still up for discussions, but I am confident that we will be putting a program in place to bring together business partners in the U.S. and promote the IBM i as well as promote business partner software. We hope to bring some of the business partners who are at the COMMON Expo to the iManifest meeting–those who haven’t committed, but have shown some interest. We need to make some inroads, get it moving, and start doing some promotion.”
One of the topics of discussion last week was the potential merger of iManifest U.S. with iManifest EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa). It was decided that “at least in the short term, the EMEA and U.S. groups will remain separate,” according to an e-mail Olen sent to iManifest U.S. members.
Early this year, iManifest EMEA organizer Martin Fincham stepped away from his role in that organization due to the demands of his day job. You can read his blog entry on this topic here.
Olen said that until someone steps forward to take over the organizational role, a merger will not be considered. There is, however, an open door to uniting the two organizations if someone steps into the “on the ground organizer” role, Olen said. There is value in having the two groups “speak with one voice and that voice would be bigger and louder than each group would have singularly.”
Getting more people involved in iManifest also includes ideas about individual involvement that is separate from corporate involvement. Olen says this is not a statement of direction, only a topic of discussion that has some interest behind it.
Another discussion point is how to put an advisory council in place. “We are getting close to the point of having a steering committee,” Olen said. “Frank Soltis is absolutely going to be one of the steering committee members.”
The committee would be instrumental in formulating plans on membership initiatives and overseeing the follow through, as one example of its responsibilities. There are also marketing directives that need to be decided upon and the committee would take charge of that.
“There are a lot of committed people with great ideas. It makes me very optimistic about the strength of the initiative,” Olen said. “A committee is needed to get things moving and keep things moving.”
Also on the discussion table is the potential for cooperation from COMMON whether that is good for both organizations in general and whether representation from COMMON on the iManifest steering committee is a good fit for both organizations. Details have yet to be worked out on this. The iManifest organizations that operate in Japan and EMEA are affiliated with the COMMON user groups in those regions.
“It’s not clear if COMMON and iManifest U.S. will develop a level of involvement. That’s one of the things that we want to discuss at COMMON next month,” Soltis said.