Leaders, Followers, and Product Development
July 15, 2013 Dan Burger
While writing the article about the current scene in the IBM i market as told to me by Stan Staszak, the director of Power Systems solutions at Sirius Computer Solutions, which appears elsewhere in today’s edition of The Four Hundred, I was reminded of something that Steve Will, chief architect of the IBM i, told me when we talked about his view of the IBM i back in April at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition in Austin, Texas.
His comment was that he often works with companies doing the newest implementations and that “in development, it almost always seems as though things are going well for a new platform.” Our conversation was about the development of IBM i 7.1. “We work with customers in the Early Ship Program and we are making sure things work. And from there we roll right into the first adopters.”
What I took away from that conversation was that working with early adopters and companies that are helping to take products to the next the next level is not the same as having a view of the entire community. An entire community does not march to the same drummer as the segment that enjoys being on what we like to call “the bleeding edge.” That term replaces the once common “leading edge” because it is widely recognized that if you lead, you sometimes bleed.
The leaders and the bleeders tell us a lot about the technological trails that are being blazed. But, unfortunately they don’t guarantee success for either a technology or a product. They are just indicators of some of the things that are right and wrong. On one level they are the canaries in the coal mine. On another level, they are the pioneers and the risk takers.
In a similar vein, the companies that Staszak talks about are also the early adapters. Rather than dealing with products in the prototype phase of development, these early adopters are using products that are released into the marketplace. These products will continue to benefit from customer feedback and in subsequent versions and releases be improved. However, sometimes this discovery process leads to the conclusion that a product is not going to survive.
Staszak and I discussed the Power-based BladeCenter blade servers as being one of those products. It might well have been the right idea, but it was the wrong product. The lessons learned, however, are being applied to the PureFlex System. It could be that this time the product developers got it right. Time, and the early adopters, will have something to say about it. But time will have the final decision. Because time factors in all the companies that wait and see if technology and products actually live up to the promises that accompanies each item that rolls down the runway.