In the Best Interests of IBM i
January 10, 2011 Dan Burger
It’s been a long time coming. And it has a long way yet to grow. But the idea that the IBM i platform is a wise platform choice for a significant number of existing customers and that many companies are unaware of its attributes is reason enough for supporters to come together. Just prior to the holidays, iManifest Americas presented the first of what is expected to be many Webcasts aimed at building an army of awareness enhancers.
This is a gathering of like-minded folks, but it’s apparent there are differences of opinion and points to be debated.
Still, it’s about the IBM i community and an IT system that its supporters say is widely misjudged by some and completely overlooked by others. Frustrations stemming from IBM’s inability to adequately market the quintessential midrange computer abound, but if all goes well in the building of iManifest Americas the hard heads won’t dam up the flow of ideas or inhibit membership.
The Webcast, primarily a “Howdy, let’s get to know one another” affair, included two ground-floor IBM i technos–Jeff Olen and Mike Pavlak–along with Mr. IBM AS/400 Frank Soltis, and Jenniefer Halverson, the gandy dancer who hopes to get this organization on the right track.
As Pavlak pointed out in his description of community feelings, “everyone wants to do something yet everyone struggles with what to do.”
That’s not to say there are no ideas. The organization’s collaboration page on LinkedIn is a clearinghouse for potential strategies, points of emphasis, and discussion.
Halverson is encouraging widespread active participation and an open exchange of ideas. She anticipates the formation of steering committees that will most likely be established according to industries or interest groups, recognizing there will be objectives that benefit the entire group and objectives that can be accomplished through smaller, more narrowly defined participation with targeted marketing. Pavlak mentioned an example that could easily come into play: a steering committee focused on existing customers and another focused on new customers.
There are plans to form a board of directors to provide overall guidance.
Step one is bringing people on board. Membership is open to everyone connected to the IBM i. Originally, iManifest was a vendor-oriented operation, but the direction now is to broaden the base of support. There will be multiple membership levels, but it begins with individuals and the organization is going with a “strength in numbers” approach. Corporate memberships coming from the IBM i customer base are expected to be part of the mix, and the independent software vendors plus the IBM business partner network will need to rally as well. Membership fees have yet to be determined, but the door is open for free membership until at least March 31.
Halverson says it’s possible that membership fees could be $5 for individuals, with higher fees for corporations and separate accounts set up for specific marketing strategies. She also suggested that membership could be based on a rewards program designed to increase membership. For instance, a company that brings in a specified number of members would have its membership fee waived. This is still in what you might call the beta membership phase.
“The direction for this organization right now is to increase membership and increase awareness,” Halverson said during the Webcast. “I would like people to send out personal invitations to join or send me the names and I’ll send them personal invitations to join.”
Another of her early objectives is to acquire logos from companies that support the IBM i platform. She plans to build “a rotating logo stream on the Website” that would take 10 minutes to show the full scope of support.
During the Webcast, Soltis spoke about the success of iManifest Japan and mentioned some particular aspects that would be advantageous if adapted to the efforts in the Americas.
“The competition for IBM i in Japan is a tough as it is anywhere in the world,” he said. “Yet it is the leading country for midrange sales in Asia. IBM i in Japan is a growth product.”
This isn’t the only place in the world where new customers coming in, Soltis says. But part of the reason the IBM i is doing well in Japan is because that market recognized years ago that IBM was not doing enough to promote the platform, so the vendors took on more of that responsibility.
“There are more than 100 business partners in Japan involved in iManifest,” Soltis notes. “They compete on individual products, but they promote the i in agreement. They cooperate on one level and compete on the other.”
Points worthy of emulating include creating an advisory board made up of business partners, building a repository of case studies that supports IBM i technological advancements and modern applications, and the establishment of specific IT industry events and seminars sponsored and promoted by iManifest Japan. Soltis also gives them credit for a three-pronged marketing effort that makes distinctions among the CEO, the CIO, and the IT systems engineers. He says the IBM i story needs to be explained in different terms to those three audiences.
iManifest Japan and iManifest EMEA have both expressed interest in working with the Americas organization to share ideas and coordinate global efforts.
Halverson said there will be additional Webcasts in the first quarter of 2011, but no specific dates have been chosen. In the meantime, she is directing interested individuals to join the LinkedIn group and to encourage others to do the same.
You can join LinkedIn here and then easily search for IBM i Manifest to link with that group.