A Fresche Emphasis On Services
June 19, 2017 Dan Burger
How does your organization plan its IT roadmap? If that roadmap includes implementing new technologies and modernizing legacy systems while staffing has been set at maintenance mode levels, your choices are to hire additional staff, admit the roadmap goal is unattainable, or contract the work to be done by a company with experience helping organizations meet their needs with expertise for hire.
The decision is not an easy one regardless of how easy it may seem to offload your problem onto someone else’s shoulders. Trusting a professional service provider with specific experience in what you need may seem like an easy decision, but the key word is trust.
An often-noted complaint from a variety of IBM i customers, most of them far removed from the attention received by the large user group members, is that they no longer feel connected to IBM. Some have trusted business partners in the IBM sales channel, but many don’t. They may need help to develop a modernization roadmap and on top of that they may need staffing assistance.
Rather than hiring employees to accomplish specific projects that each require specific skills, companies are considering contracting for specific job-by-job services that take place during specific time periods.
Hiring the expert knowledge and experience that current employees can’t provide is a factor in choosing a company that specializes in roadmap projects. Typically, the outsourcing specialty companies include training existing IT staff as part of the arrangement. You also won’t have to pay for your IT person to keep up-to-date on new techniques and programs via training. The outsource company trains those employees. Management of the systems is usually on the business that owns the IT roadmap.
Developing a services business has become a strategic goal at Fresche, a company that stirred the IBM i community by acquiring several significant software companies that are knowledgeable and experienced in the IBM i modernization arena. Since its acquisition of Databorough in 2013, looksoftware in 2014, and Quadrant/BCD Software in 2016, Fresche has begun a mission to expand its service-oriented capabilities beyond GUI modernization, code analysis, database modernization to offer services such as strategic advice and staff augmentation. One of the big issues in IT – and certainly within the IBM i community – is skills acquisition. Minimal staffing and training budgets have put many companies in a position to outsource the skills problem. Helping BCD and looksoftware customers manage and implement modernization projects through collaboration and staffing has built strong relationships with the customers and has become a big part of the growth at Fresche.
“We are uncovering that this is an issue for shops and are seeing business growth beyond our expectations,” says Fresche CTO Brendan Kay. “It seems 90 percent (a soft statistic) of the organizations are short staffed to take on additional projects. There is a tremendous opportunity there because many IBM i shops are going to struggle with the skills and tools and finding the existing staff time to take on projects. We have people with the capabilities that many shops do not.”
Software typically is sold with implementation and training – assisting users in attaining a level of proficiency – as part of the package. In the case of application development tools, advice on application development strategy and reliance on the software vendor’s expertise has always been part of the software purchase.
However, Fresche is taking a broader perspective on the advisory role, but keeping it definitively within the IBM i community, which is foreign territory for the large IT outsourcing services companies that provide strategic advice, or any other advisory group that lacks IBM i knowledge.
“As long as our customers are having business issues, we will be able to help them with a combination of technology, skills, services, industry-leading experts to leverage the past and the future,” says Andy Kulakowski Fresche CEO.
Kulakowski hired former IBM partner channel executive Robert Heroux to guide a partner program with the goal of making Fresche a one-stop shop for IBM i shops that need help beyond the application and database development/modernization projects that Fresche software handles.
The one-stop shop idea covers Fresche products and services, but is also incorporating partners with expertise in all areas of IT.
“The IBM i customers are looking for trusted partners to figure solutions and Fresche is adding capacity to do this,” Heroux explained in an interview with IT Jungle last month at the COMMON Annual Meeting.
“The green-screen-to-GUI interface is often the biggest pain point. And Fresche has software options to solve that problem. But there is a long list of entry points to engage customers. We want to have an answer every business problem that comes up in a customer engagement.
“Our partner program is much larger than most think. We have hundreds of partners that include independent software vendors, value added reseller, cloud service providers and managed service providers. We just added 35 new partners in the past three months. Helping companies develop strategies is a key and we have invested in doing that. We are working on expanding our partner ecosystem and the one-stop approach.”
One of the hot topics at the COMMON Conference was Watson and cognitive computing, an area of great interest to IBM and the focus of much of Big Blue’s research and development energy. Cognitive computing is expected to have a major impact on enterprise business computing in the near future. It’s an unfamiliar area for most businesses.
Fresche sees Watson and cognitive as another area in which the company can assist IBM i shops.
“Moving into a cognitive computing system and the benefits that will bring in terms of data analysis means writing applications in a different way than most IBM i shops do it. And most shops are not prepared to make that internal staff transition without help,” Kay noted.
“Watson will be a useful tool just like there are many useful tools available to IBM i shops. We have people with the capabilities that many shops do not. In the future that will include experts in implementing Watson integration. We certainly expect to be using Watson to extend the solutions we provide. We don’t have a Watson team now, but we do have some really smart people who are working on that,” says Kay.