IBM i Marketing: Not A Thankless Job
November 25, 2019 Timothy Prickett Morgan
For over one decade of the three that I called New York City my home, I was the president of the board of directors in the co-operative apartment building in which I lived. For many years, I ran a half rack of servers and storage in the kitchenette in our apartment to support IT Jungle’s website and subscription database, and I ran T1 lines up the outside of the building and in through the window. It was unconventional running a business that way, but there was no cloud computing as we know it, and certainly not at the prices you can get today.
Being co-op prez was an interesting experience. Technically speaking, the co-op was a representative republic, not a true democracy. You voted for a board and then the board decided who was going to be president. Because I worked from a home office, I was the ideal president – from the point of view of the other shareholders – because I was always accessible. And being the amiable and helpful person I generally am, being president took up a lot of my time, and at the same time I was running a business, working another job, and raising two children. Being on that board taught me many things, and is probably only second to being the editor of The Four Hundred in terms of the dramatic impact it had on my professional life. But there is one thing that always annoyed me, and I heard it time and time again:
“Being co-op president is a thankless job, Tim.”
Sometimes I thought it, and sometimes I said it – sometimes with just a bit of wry humor or maybe sometimes with my teeth a little clenched: “Well, all you would have had to do there is actually say ‘Thank You’ and maybe it wouldn’t be.”
And so, as we introduce the new worldwide IBM i product marketing manager at Big Blue, I am going to start off on a good footing and say a big “Thank You” to Brandon Pederson, who works down in IBM’s Austin, Texas, Power Systems lab and has taken over this role. And I mean it, too. Heaven knows this cannot be an easy job to do.
We have been looking for new blood in the IBM i market, and Pederson definitely fits the bill. He graduated from Lake Travis High School in the Austin suburb of that name, and then got a bachelor’s of science in marketing from the Texas School of Business and Communication at Concordia University in Austin. I met Pederson and the rest of the Power Systems team earlier this year, and it is clear that he thinks local, thinks community, but has aspirations that now span the globe thanks to the IBM i business that he is helping to maintain and grow. Pederson started at IBM in May 2014, working on market management for the WebSphere middleware line, supporting the go-to-market strategies, sales, competitive analysis, and pipeline support activities for IBM and its channel partners. For two years, Pederson did a job that I am well acquainted with: Interviewing customers and telling their stories as overall marketing plans, a job that was brought to bear on the Power Systems line. In March 2017, Pederson was promoted to the position of worldwide IBM Power Systems community and content manager, which he did for nearly three years until getting his recent promotion to head up product marketing for the IBM i platform.
IBM is a complicated system, and the sales, development, and marketing funds that it spreads across its products and up and down its groups and initiatives are invisible to us on the outside. But we do know that even in the darkest days of bad economies, Big Blue supports its partners and it does spend money on marketing on the Power Systems platform in general and on IBM i in particular. We may argue that it is not enough, that it is too hard to negotiate IBM’s byzantine bureaucracy, but we can’t ever say the budget for marketing is zero. It’s not fair, and it’s not accurate.
Pederson is the sporting type, so when I reached out to him to do a one-on-one, he didn’t hesitate. There is a lot that he is not allowed to say, of course. But the important thing is this: He’s on our side.
Timothy Prickett Morgan: There is a misconception out there in IBM i Land, I think, that there is this one job called IBM i Marketing, all caps except for the i of course, and this person is in charge of marketing the IBM i platform. But you and I know that IBM i is part of the Power Systems division, which is part of Systems group, and there are marketing people all up and down that chain of command, and moreover, there is a whole separate set of people who do advertising and lead generation that work with the advertising agencies that IBM hires, and then there is a whole separate organization that handles channel marketing, where the IBM i gets a lot of its revenue stream.
Brandon Pederson: I do work with that team that we call Channel Marketing here at IBM. And, you know, I work with them on making sure the channel has the right content, the right campaigns, the right messaging around Power9 and IBM i. So when the channels go out to their clients, they tell them the right story about Power9 and encourage them to upgrade. There is co-marketing money associated with that and partners can apply for that co-marketing money and use that to help us market Power9 and IBM i in the portfolio. We’ll work with the partner to help them maximize the use of that money so they can get the best return on that investment and ours.
TPM: OK, that’s cool. So in addition to that, what do you do now that you have been promoted?
Brandon Pederson: As the worldwide product marketing manager for IBM i, I work under Hadley Hempel, who is manager of the worldwide product marketing team for the Mission Critical and Enterprise Linux areas of Power Systems, who works for Kim Storin, vice president of marketing for the Cognitive Systems division within IBM Systems group. We have a person dedicated to AIX and enterprise hardware, a person dedicated to SAP HANA and our overall Enterprise Linux portfolio, and then myself. I worked on IBM i and I’ve been helping out with our scale out business recently. As you know, most of our IBM i business is on the scale out systems, so that’s appropriate.
Basically, we are the chief marketing officers for those parts of the Power Systems business. I own the marketing strategy, all marketing activities, and the messaging around IBM i. And we have a ton of other people, though, at IBM that we work with. As I mentioned, our channel marketing team, who markets to the partner and through the partners. IBM also has content marketing. We have graphic design. We have Web. We have campaign strategy. We have social media. And so, my responsibility is to work with all these different people to promote IBM i and put IBM i in the best light as we go to market.
TPM: Describe to me the things that you are doing for IBM i here and now at the end of 2019?
Brandon Pederson: I’ll give an example. Recently, I did a lot of seller and enablement content, including competitive analysis versus Windows.
TPM: Oooh. . . . How do I get a copy of that?
Brandon Pederson: [Laughter] I don’t know if I could just share that externally. I mean, I can try. . . .
TPM: I did one of my own a few weeks ago.
Brandon Pederson: Happy to see that. That was good. That was a good article. I did read that.
TPM: I’m assuming you’re in charge of Power Champions, and the new Fresh Faces campaign, which we covered most recently here. There’s other campaigns I’m assuming you work on, too.
Brandon Pederson: I don’t manage the Champions program anymore; I turned that over to somebody else. I obviously do work with the Champions. As you know, many of them focus on IBM i and are passionate about IBM i, so I still have a great relationship with all of them. And I trust and rely on their feedback. I do still manage the Fresh Faces campaign and we’ll have some new Fresh Faces coming out next month. So I’m excited about those.
I write customer stories and case studies around IBM i. So if you see a case study on IBM, I’ve written all of those. I think there’s over 50 stories out there. I also write the messaging, how are we positioning IBM i in the market, looking at the features and benefits of the platform.
Obviously, I was busy with the announcement of IBM i 7.4, even before I moved into this role officially at the end of the summer. I was I was basically doing product marketing part time for IBM i. And then I requested to move into this role full time. I help out with the press relations and analyst relations teams as it relates to IBM i as well. For example, we just promoted a white paper published by IDC, and they also wrote a blog for us about two months ago.
TPM: I looked at that IDC whitepaper, and while it’s better than the one that had been out in the past, I did have some criticism of it. It is not so much that anything the whitepaper said was wrong, but more that it didn’t do enough to give hard evidence to defend the platform for those scenarios where it’s under fire. When a company merges with another one and they’ve got Oracle on one side and IBM i on the other, we lose eight out of ten of those battles. We know it anecdotally, but these IBM i side needs hard evidence to prove its value in those scenarios. My criticism of the IDC whitepaper helps everybody else feel comfortable, but it doesn’t do enough to help the guy who is under fire.
Brandon Pederson: The IDC whitepaper IBM i wasn’t more of it wasn’t Forrester Total Economic Impact study, where they do quantitative analysis and calculate return on investment. We just did one of those for SAP HANA on Power versus X86. The goal that to deal with a lot the misconceptions and myths around IBM i, such as why does it cost more than a Windows solution generally, unless you’re getting into one core systems, which you pointed out in your article. Why has the amount of IBM i hardware in the world go down? Because Power8 and Power9 are a lot more powerful than the Power6 and Power7 and you don’t need as much hardware, plus customers have added virtualization, which drives up utilization on machines.
TPM: Yeah, I get it, I have spent my life doing this. I knew Moore’s Law stretches out the time between upgrades. Of course, the amount of revenue is going to go down. And then and as Moore’s Law forces the cost of a processor to go down over time, you get a double whammy. Not only do they not need as much processing, but the time between upgrades is stretched out. So the revenue stream for IBM i had to go down. There’s no easy way for it to go up, even with a million customers.
That said, I wish there was the TEI study at Forrester for IBM i. If you’re going to spend some money, I wish you’d do it there.
Brandon Pederson: I agree with you. I think we need to put numbers to what we’re saying and to show the ROI that you’re going to get from IBM i and Power9 is much better than you get on Windows on X86 and that we have facts and data to back that up, that it is not just not my opinion.
There is some other stuff I have been working on. We just launched our Community Badge program – I think Alex Woodie just wrote an article on that. I spearheaded that and I manage the distribution of all the badges. This is an exciting thing we did, and it came about from feedback that we heard from the community. We listen to the IBM i community very closely. As you know, we have our Champion program, but we can’t make everybody a Champion, but they want something to reward the rest of community. Digital badging is the new digital resume, the new certification. And so I created this whole badge program for the community where for advocacy you do for IBM i, you know, writing blogs, speaking at conferences, contributing to open source projects, and so forth, you can move up to a Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. So that’s something fun I have put together and the community has really appreciated that. We have all given out over 100 badges in the first few weeks of the program.
TPM: OK, then, here is a different question. If, within reason, you could get anything from IBM – go above Kim’s head all the way up to Ginni Rometty if need be – if you could ask for any one thing, what would you ask for to help to market the IBM i platform?
Brandon Pederson: I would ask for more advertising just around Power Systems in general, which would help out IBM i. Kim would say the same thing and so would Hadley.
I would like more advertising around Power Systems as a brand externally to raise mindshare. IBM is a huge player in the server market. We have built the first and second most powerful supercomputer in the world, and we run hundreds of thousands of businesses. And like I said, I think that would have a direct positive impact on IBM to just to market Power Systems more externally at the corporate level.
What’s the what’s the number one complaint we hear about? Why IBM doesn’t market IBM i? And that’s not true. I mean, like I said, will you turn on an NFL game and see an IBM i commercial? No, but we do do a ton of marketing around not just IBM i, but AIX as well and the mission critical portfolio. And I just want the community to know that we are super committed to IBM i. We have me dedicated full time to marketing IBM i. We have budget. Development and offering management, they’re also very committed, and they are also putting money into this. They’re invested in the platform, too.
TPM: Thank you.