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Executives Reinvesting in IBM i

December 14, 2016


Today I’d like you to use your imagination a little.  Today I want you to imagine you run a business – you’re an executive. This is not hard for some of you readers, because you do, and you are.  But for many of my readers, you are not upper level executives, so I’m asking you to put yourself in the position of those “bosses” in your company.  OK, so, imagine it. 

Your business builds custom trucks, or has franchises that take care of lawns, or manages student loans, or sells things on the internet, or runs a fleet of trucks, or works with a stock portfolios, or even runs a stock market.  You have to make decisions about your company every year, which will affect the customers, employees and investors of your company. 

Your business is not Information Technology, but of course your business relies on IT.  And in your IT infrastructure, some portion of it runs on something your team calls IBM i (but you still call the “iSeries” or even the “AS/400.”)  Are you imagining this?  Can you put yourself in those shoes?

OK, now I need you to take a step into even more unfamiliar territory: while you’re imagining you run the business, also imagine you don’t know much about IBM i (or its predecessors.)  In fact, maybe you know nothing at all about the platform. Got it? 

Now that you’re in that state of mind, you are the kind of people I talk to when I go on customer visits.
On a recurring basis, this sort of executive needs to make a decision:  “Should my company spend our IT money on our current systems, or should we go a different direction?”  Executives put in this position typically decide they need to do their “due diligence.”  That is, they need to get educated, and they need to examine their options, weighing them against one another.

When this happens – when an executive or a leadership team decides to examine their options -- these executives or their teams contact their IBM client executives, or their IBM business partners, and ask for an update on their IBM systems.  And that’s when the calls come in for someone like me to go make a visit.

I like to think of it as if someone is pointing the Bat-signal into the night sky.  Except it’s not the familiar form of Batman’s bat which hits the ever-present clouds above Gotham; instead it’s the IBM i logo.  But that’s just my self-centered imagination running amok again.  Because, you see, this image presumes that someone needs help, and only a hero can provide that help.  There’s a problem with that image. 

What’s the problem?  By the time someone calls for our “help,” they almost certainly don’t need it.  They don’t need a hero.

And why do I say that?

In my experience, even before I arrive, by initiating this “due diligence” (this examination of their options and what those options mean to the business) the executives have already taken the first step to reinvesting in IBM i and Power.  They may not know it yet, but they will.

You see, the fact is that these businesses are getting amazing value from their IT teams, and their teams already believe that part of that value comes from the IBM i platform.  Now, it often feels to the IT team as if IBM i is under attack: the executive is looking at something other than IBM i. But in most cases this process of “due diligence” gives the IT teams the chance to gather data about how integral IBM i is to the business.  So, by the time I arrive (or shortly after I leave), the executives have seen the data, and understand the critical role IBM i plays in their present situation.  Once convinced that today is solid, the executives’ concern is for the future.  Can the business keep relying on this platform?
I tell them “Absolutely.”  I show them the roadmap.  I tell them we’re working on the next releases.  I tell them about the capabilities IBM has delivered already which they have not even taken advantage of yet. I point them to quotes from our General Manager (Doug Balog for the past several years) with clear statements about the commitment IBM has to the future of IBM i. And I show them a couple of examples of other companies who have reinvested. 

Perhaps my imagination should not picture me as Batman, a hero coming in to rescue someone in danger, but rather it should cast me as a closer: a relief pitcher who comes into the game in the 9th inning after the rest of the team has done its job well, and now I just have to do my job and the game is won.  (But I like comics better than baseball, so my imagination is still likely to go with the whole Batman thing.)

In any case, by the time we’re done, the executives no longer doubt the future of IBM i on Power.  Oh, they often have some questions for their teams about how their business might implement some of the things we’ve discussed: free-form RPG, mobile interfaces for applications, DB2 Analytics, Temporal Tables, Row and Column Access Control, managing the system with mobile devices, sharing SANs with the x86 side of the IT infrastructure, or systems with the AIX/Linux team. But they no longer doubt the future.

And they reinvest.

What were the keys to executives making this decision? 

1) Their business gets great value from the platform.
2) Their team shows them the value.
3) They see that reinvesting will provide them more value in the future.

On a related topic, I get contacted by IBM i users frequently who are concerned that their business leaders are considering another platform.   It’s a scary situation; they are talking to me at a user group meeting, or sending me an e-mail, because they want to know what to do.
So what do I advise? I ask them to imagine that they, the IBM i users, are the executives in charge?just as I’ve asked you to do today.  I show them that what feels like an attack might just be a reasonable examination of options.  And I point them to material they can use to help their managers learn what they need to know.  For example:
If IBM i users have been to any of the conferences or user groups at which IBM has presented its roadmap, I point out to them they have a PDF from that event which contains much of what their management needs to see. 

And, I let them know that, if they think they need more personal help, they can ask their IBM Business Partner and/or the IBMer most closely associated with them to help connect to IBM Rochester’s Executive Briefing Center. The REBC handles requests like this all the time.  We host companies in Rochester, or we arrange web conferences, or we can even come to visit. 

Now, we can’t do personal events for each and every one of our customers, but we handle as many as we can. We also give education and training to IBMers and partners around the world who can present the same message I’d deliver.

The point is most executives are acting responsibly when they decide to examine their IT options.  As an IBM i IT professional, you have an opportunity to show your executives the value of the platform in the business, and you also have some tools you can use to get them the information they need.

We have had great success when we are called on to speak to executives in these situations.  There are several of us who do it; I am not alone!  But, from my personal experience, it is extremely (extremely!) likely that executives who are shown the future of IBM i, while also being show the current value of the platform in their businesses by their own teams will choose to reinvest.
And that’s made 2016 another good year for IBM i. 

P.S. I want to thank all of the Twitter and Facebook followers who answered my call for suggested topics for this blog.  Most of them have to wait until next year, but it was great to get so many ideas, and I definitely intend to cover some of them early in the year!

Posted December 14, 2016 | Permalink

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