iManifest U.S. Adds Halverson to Build Membership, Awareness
November 29, 2010 Dan Burger
It’s been more than a year since the IBM i community in the United States took its first steps toward marketing the platform in the wake of Big Blue’s decision to concentrate on non-platform specific marketing. Success has not been meteoric. There was no reason to believe that it would be. However, by anyone’s measurements, iManifest U.S. has been virtually at a standstill. Can anyone power up this organization? Another person is going to try.
A month ago, iManifest chairman pro tem Jeff Olen announced he would be leaving the leadership position at the organization and that a replacement would be sought. In his place steps Jenniefer Halverson, an energetic marketer familiar with the i community. Halverson currently holds the position of director of marketing, partners, and channels at S4i Systems. Her initial efforts on behalf of iManifest U.S. will focus on increasing membership and increase awareness.
“Up to this point, iManifest has relied on technical people,” Olen says, including himself, Mike Pavlak, and Frank Soltis in that category. “One of the keys we were missing is the ‘people factor.’ That’s Jen’s skill. She has a talent that can get people to rally around iManifest. That will be a huge plus for us.”
Halverson says, “I’m going to beg Jeff not to leave. We’ve already become a team.”
“I’m still going to be around,” Olen says. “I’m not going to walk away. I don’t think I could. Jen and I will work together, but my role will be diminished. It will be similar to the roles Mike and Frank play. The three of us will sort of be Jen’s work group. We will be there to help her.”
Halverson’s top priorities for iManifest are increasing membership–individual memberships will be welcomed along with corporate memberships–and increasing awareness. The first item on her agenda is organizing an iManifest Web cast on December 14 that explains how the organization can move forward, the importance of building awareness and memberships, and the stake all members of the i community have in this. The group of speakers includes Soltis, Olen, and Pavlak.
Soltis is the worldwide ambassador for the AS/400 and its successors. The retired chief architect of the original System/38 and AS/400 knows more people in this community than anyone. And his advocacy for iManifest U.S. is well documented.
“It has been clear to me that it’s up to user groups and business partners to continue to promote the product,” Soltis told IT Jungle in an interview one year ago. “That was something that IBM made a decision on sometime back in the 1990s. Lou Gerstner came in (as IBM chairman and CEO) and one of his first decisions was that IBM would promote IBM rather than promote individual products. He took the individual budgets that general managers had for advertising and consolidated them into one budget that focused on IBM. That has really never changed since.”
“IBM does not have to market Windows,” Soltis pointed out in the interview we did a year ago concerning iManifest U.S. “The world knows what it is and Microsoft does their job promoting it. The same thing with Unix. You don’t see vendors marketing Unix. They market it from the standpoint that ours is better than anybody else’s, but they don’t have to promote the concept of Unix. With IBM i and z, both systems are well-known within their user bases, but not very well known outside of that. You have to really promote those. In that sense, i has suffered a bit because the rest of the industry does not promote IBM i. From IBM’s standpoint, I don’t think they see much difference among the platforms in terms of which ones require more marketing.”
The decisions on how to market the IBM i is likely the anchor that has dragged iManifest U.S. to a halt. Everyone seems to agree that IBM did a poor job of marketing, but ideas on how to do it better are a can of worms. It’s been the difference between the stalled efforts in this country and the far greater successes of iManifest Japan.
“In Japan, the ISVs are a tight-knit group,” Olen notes. “Business is done differently. The culture lends itself to corporations working together. In the U.S., we have an ‘every man for himself’ business culture. Companies have more of a ‘what’s in it for me’ view. These are the divisions that need to be bridged.”
One way to start building bridges is by getting thousands of members. It will take a substantial number of participants in iManifest before IBM and many within the ISV and reseller community take notice and want to be a part of it. Another factor will be to establish a goal beyond a single ad in a major business publication. It’s been a widely believed misconception that such a one-time shot was the sole purpose of iManifest. Olen and others have repeatedly said a big splash in a major business publication was one suggestion, not a statement of direction.
Halverson recalls learning a lesson from the IBM Tools Network within PartnerWorld that was organized by Doug Fulmer years ago.
“Even when you get the numbers such as the 200-plus ISVs that Doug Fulmer put together, it didn’t create a voice within IBM,” she says. “I think what we need are thousands of members. I’m aiming to give iManifest a voice with IBM and have an impact on sales. I think we can create a source for sales. People will come to iManifest to ask questions about IBM and about the platform. It’s people talking with people and seeking recommendations.”
“We can make a difference when people are making iSeries decisions,” Halverson continues. “I would like iManifest to be a part of those business decisions in the future. We need to do this because we are developing on the platform, our employees are on the platform, and I am looking for market value in Rochester that’s affected by this platform. There is a lot that is contingent on the future of IBM i.”
There are three objectives that Halverson has in mind: increase the IBM i customer base; assure IBM i customers, resellers, and ISVs that IBM i will not only survive but continue to prosper; and inform the wider IT community of the unique value proposition of the IBM i server.
“My goal is to accomplish this in six months and then find someone who will lead this as a business into the next phase as I stay on in marketing,” she says.