Top Concern for i Shops: Making Users Happy
July 25, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Despite all of the legitimate complaining that many of us in the IBM midrange community do, it looks like the IT staff, business partners, and IBMers have their eye on the ball and are focused on satisfying the needs of customers. That is the message from the preliminary results of the 2011 edition of the COMMON Europe Top Concerns survey of the OS/400 and i installed base.
Despite being managed by COMMON Europe, the Top Concerns survey of OS/400 and i shops is a global survey that seeks to take the pulse of IBM midrange customers and ultimately, in conjunction with other user groups and customer input, shape what Big Blue does–and doesn’t do–with and for customers in the Power Systems-i base. This is the sixth global Top Concerns survey that COMMON Europe has put together on behalf of the entire OS/400 and i community–and participation is not just limited to people who work at midrange shops in Europe, but is both global and multilingual, spanning the whole Power i community in Europe, the Americas, Australasia, and Africa through user groups, and anyone that can get to the site from the Web can take the survey. The 2011 survey covered security, application development, infrastructure, and cloud computing issues, as well as basic demographic questions. It also provided an open space to write in your own “golden concerns” or ask questions about current economic and Power/IBM i migration issues.
The survey ran through June 24, and Deshpande Ranga, vice president and events manager at COMMON Europe and the Top Concerns project lead, was kind enough to give The Four Hundred a copy of the preliminary data for you all to chew on and cogitate.
COMMON Europe was able to get 524 people to take the survey, and you will have to judge for yourself if this was a representative and large enough sample. (I am certainly no statistician.) Of these, 343 people taking the survey were customers, 152 were employees at consultants, software vendors, or other kinds of business partners, and 29 worked at IBM. Half of the respondents came from Europe, 31 percent from the Americas, 15 percent came from Africa, and the rest came from the Asia/Pacific region.
Here’s how the priorities stacked up, presumably on a scale of importance that ranged from a low of 1 to a high of 10:
There are a number of different ways of saying it, but the survey results basically boil down to this: IBM i shops want to keep end users happy by giving them information when they need it and keeping their IT systems available while at the same time modernizing their applications and justifying their existence to the higher-ups at the company with metrics that prove that what they do adds value to the company. As you can see, saving money by going to cloudy pricing on hardware and software doesn’t rank very high against this when looked at as separate items–specifically, it ranked dead last on the list of 15 Top Concerns.
The ever-present griping about the lack of marketing by IBM of the OS/400 and now IBM i platform still ranks pretty high, at number five on the list and just behind application modernization. IBM has not done any differentiated marketing in favor of OS/400 and its successors for more than a decade, as far as I can remember, and I sure don’t expect this to change any time soon. IBM is supporting ISVs with co-marketing and advertising dollars and continuing to enhance the software platform and make it available on its most recent Power Systems iron. And that is about what I expect going forward. No more, no less.
On the budget front–and this data does not toss out the partners and IBMers, so I am not sure how valid it is–the operating and capital expense budgets are expected to fit a bell curve in 2011. About 46 percent of those polled said their operating expense budgets were stable, with 16 percent increasing and 18 percent decreasing. On the capital side, 41 percent said they were their CapEx budgets were stable, with 24 percent expecting to spend more dough on hardware and software this year and 17 percent cutting back. The general trend compared to 2010 is good, but if the global economy was truly recovering, there would be hardly any companies cutting back on either OpEx or CapEx budgets. I would like to see this data for only the 343 OS/400 and i customers who took the survey.
Of the actual customers polled, 16 percent said they had already upgraded to Power7-based machinery, with another 15 percent saying they are planning to do so and another 32 percent saying they might do a Power7 upgrade. Across those customers, 6 percent of the IBM midrange customers said they had moved to BladeCenter blade servers running i5/OS or IBM i, but an alarming 83 percent said they didn’t know, so this data may be suspect. It is not at all surprising that people in the IT department don’t know precisely what server is running in the data center.
And it would be equally unsurprising that many IT people don’t know the precise version of the IBM i operating system they have, either. That said, of the customers polled, 39 percent said they are already on the i 6.1 release on at least one of their machines, with 15 percent saying they have plans to upgrade to i 6.1; 8 percent of customers said they had at least one machine running i 7.1, with 25 percent saying they are planning to and 6 percent saying they might do it. Of those i 7.1 planned upgraders, a big chunk are customers who want to upgrade from i5/OS V5R4 directly to i 7.1–specifically, we’re talking about 7 customers out of 86 planning an upgrade to i 7.1.