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Alan Seiden Discusses Bringing the IBM i Message to CIOs

Alan Seiden returns to explain why executives need to hear about the benefits of IBM i.

"MEMBERS" in orange 3-d letters with a computer mouse attached to the "B."

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. I'm delighted to be joined today by another friend and colleague and PHP guru, IBM i guru, renowned speaker, renowned author and all around good guy, Alan Seiden. Hello, Alan.

Alan Seiden: Hello, Paul. What's this haitch stuff, anyway?

Paul: Oh, don't start on me about how I pronounce the letter H!

Alan: All right.

Paul: Can I help it that you guys don't speak English with an Irish accent? [Laughs.] It's not my fault.

Alan: All right, fair enough.

Paul: So Alan, just before we talk here, I was telling you that I had realized that it has just been over a year since we recorded one of those, so I think we've got some catching up to do.

Alan: Definitely.

Paul: So first of all, just in general how have things been with you in the last year? How's business been and all of that?

Alan: Very good, still a lot of interest in PHP and actually all of open-source on the IBM i. It's been growing quite a bit and we enjoy-at Seiden Group we enjoy putting together PHP and RPG and all those―and Db2 and all those great ingredients that we have on the i.

Paul: Yeah, so there are a couple of things that I want to talk to you about in particular, Alan. One of them is something that I kept seeing popping up all over the web, and it comes at me in flurries. I'll see it like five times a day for a couple of weeks and then it sort of disappears and intermittently crops up again. I keep seeing the words, Club Seiden. Do you want to tell me what that is please, or tell everybody what that is please?

Alan: Sure. Sure. Well some of our friends in our conference-hopping world notice that when we attended conferences, we just got smarter, we shared ideas and learned a lot―not just taking in from speakers but also deciding what do we need on this platform, what could we do to help it advance and so forth? But between conferences that kind of subsided somewhat, so we decided to create an online group called Club Seiden where we could get together and share ideas and also socialize also. Some of us work by ourselves or a lone person in an office or an office with other people who don't understand what the person does necessarily. So we started it and basically just adding one person at a time thinking this person would contribute something or that person would contribute something, and then it grew from there. We even have some IBMers in there and it became kind of an underground―what do you want to call it? Cult? I don't know. [Laughs.]

Paul: Okay, it's never a good idea to have your name as part of a title of a cult, Alan.

Alan: All right. You're right. It's bad for tax reasons. You're right. [Laughs.]

Paul: So is Club Seiden then―conceptually, is this kind of an extension a little bit of the whole open-source side of it?

Alan: I would say it is. We also have a forum for questions and some articles and things. Then there's like this private chat. If people want to join, they can ask about it. Maybe they could contact you or me and ask to join it but I would say definitely. It's definitely open sharing of information especially about the open-source world of IBM i and other things but it's definitely―I would say it fits in with the philosophy of open-source for sure. We don't charge for it or anything.

Paul: Sure. Sure. Yeah, no I mean that's good because I'm―well as you know as well Alan, that one of the things we've noticed at the conference over the last couple of years is that when this push started from IBM about open-source, that traditionally on i a lot of us―a lot of people well, especially my age, would be not quite getting the whole open-source concept, so the more there is out there that explains it, the better. The better for everyone.

Alan: Yeah, actually sometimes a consultant will say "what is your return on investment for doing this? I don't get it. You're not making any money on it." And I just laugh. Like I feel like it's―we're just doing it because first of all, even as consultants we need this IBM i community to thrive and be strong.

Paul: Yeah.

Alan: We want it to thrive and be strong and so doing something just for that reason is enough. Then you trust that the universe will provide. [Laughs.] Okay, something like that.

Paul: Oh, now there's a balance question I'm going to come back to later, Alan.

Alan: Oh-oh.

Paul: Okay but let me bring on to the second thing that I wanted to talk to you about and this is something that is well over the last few weeks and in October will be a little bit more pertinent to me as well so earlier this year in April if I remember, you ran an event in New York called the CIO Summit. Do you want to explain to people a little bit about what that was?

Alan: Yes. I realized that those of us consulting/development world are often talking to developers or application managers explaining the benefits of IBM i, how to use it properly. But we're often not talking to the CIO level―or we do later. We go into a company. We meet the CIO, and then the CIO has a lot of questions, but we don't talk to that person directly until we're doing our work. Yet the CIO may be the person on the front lines having to make tough decisions, having to speak to other management, other executives and explain what IBM i is or explain the role of IT―not even beyond IBM i, just the role of IT―good decision making, and is under a lot of pressure. The CIO may feel alone also, being under that pressure. Having to manage people below, having pressure from above to deliver certain things or the president of a company may hear something in social spheres that the CIO has to answer to―

Paul: Yeah.

Alan: Like about going to the cloud or this or that as a solution or salespeople and so on so we wanted to create a forum for CIOs to be able to talk to each other and share ideas, share tactics, strategies, make friends, and get ideas from each other. We facilitated it just basically had some suggested topics but then the CIOs themselves really ran with it and were self-directed. It was all confidential. They could share whatever they wanted with each other.

Paul: So but obviously you had some topics of discussion as opposed to, you know, get ten people in a room, sit them down and go what will we talk about today?

Alan: Oh, yeah definitely.

Paul: So what kind of things were you talking to them about?

Alan: Uh-huh. Well one was this topic of modernization; what does it mean? This wasn't strictly IBM i and we realized―well we knew but it came out of the discussion that every platform has to keep moving and develop and evolve. Every application has to keep moving, develop and evolve. At IBM i we have a feeling like it's some inferiority complex like we're the only ones with these issues of old applications. The fact is that the platform is modern, but the applications are sometimes old, and users in a company don't always realize it. They say "well the AS/400 can't do this or that," but it's really their old application isn't flexible and can't do it. We can separate that in people's minds and realize that every language has to be modernized―actually in other worlds they say refactored. So start using terminology that the rest of the world uses. Say if you're just changing your code to be more modular or be more effective like that, you can call it refactoring. It's not unique to us; don't think it's just RPG. Even the PHP language is now over 20 years old and there's legacy PHP, so that was one thing. Some CIOs said that they prepared for the questions from other executives by measuring their RIO and their effectiveness every few years, and even researching competitive solutions, like "how good is our solution compared to other solutions" and being ready with answers―those CIOs who are more business oriented. So it's really interesting to hear the different points of view they had and how they thrive and really take a proactive stance about their jobs.

Paul: Yeah, that's it's―yeah and I think it's something that we inclined to forget again because we're so used to dealing with the development people with― that at times that CIO actually can be quite an isolated person, I mean both within an organization―

Alan: Exactly.

Paul: And with having to make those decisions and with all the pressures that is coming you know from the people who work from them and from management within a company as well.

Alan: Exactly, and that's I guess my thrust is always like two-fold. It's the technical side of work and it's also the human side, that these are human beings with pressures on them, and it's very helpful to them to have a peer group that they can talk to and not be so isolated.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah, okay so the second part of this, then Alan, was that went so well that you've decided to do it again.

Alan: Yeah, sure have, taking on the road.

Paul: Yeah so and this is where I referred to earlier, where I took sort of interest in this, because when we got talking about this, you are going to do this conjunction with the RPG and Db2 Summit out in October.

Alan: Very proud to do so. Great conference.

Paul: Yeah, so I think the idea is that on the―well the day that we're doing the workshops while―and I must say, you were very clever with this Alan that you got myself, Jon and Susan all doing workshop so we can't come and basically screw it up on you. [Laughs.]

Alan: You bet. No.

Paul: So on the Monday in a nearby location, you are going to run another CIO Summit.

Alan: Uh-huh. Right. Yeah, it will be a very beautiful location nearby where we'll have the CIO day. Meanwhile the regular RPG Db2 Summit goes on―

Paul: Yeah.

Alan: For developers. So I think it's nice, it's a good balanced event that way and I'm really excited to be doing it again because it was just very rewarding for the people. We got wonderful feedback on it. It meant a lot to them to be invited to it and to share the way we did and I think it's great that it's sort of being a part of the RPG DB2 Summit that has had this long history. I hope that then it creates some―gives some ideas for the CIOs to talk to the developers about even.

Paul: Yeah. So if I remember correctly what we are planning to do, Alan, is that on the Tuesday, which is the first day of the conference, that the CIOs are going to be invited along to the conference and we're going to schedule some more of the―a few of the more high level topics, like broader, the more concept type things, which would be maybe of more interest to CIOs. They'll also get a chance to maybe mix with some of the―well, you know, some of the Rochester speakers and people like that that we'll have there as well.

Alan: That's right. Yeah and even the CIO day, the first day―we make it a mix. It's a mixture of a few presentations just to spark people's imaginations and excitement―about looking forward to the future, really kind of excitement for the future, interest and growth. Then the free conversation times, it's a really good, very effective blend. Then the CIOs can attend a track at the regular conference with some [recording cut out]. I thought was really smart. It's really good information that they should know. It gives them a basis to talk about the platform at a high level and also talk with the developers and understand them better.

Paul: And also, I mean if you're a CIO and some of your developers are actually going to be at the conference, it gives you a little bit―now you maybe have a better understanding of what each other are talking about as well at times.

Alan: Right. It's sort of getting aligned as a team and working together more effectively from an intuitive level―just to work better, you know. So I think it's on a lot of levels I'm really looking forward to it, the new and different thing.

Paul: Well I must say I'm looking forward to it as well―and again I'm just sorry that I'm not actually going to be able to attend the day, but good planning on your side, like I said, Alan. [Laughs.]

Alan: Also I learned so much from doing it, from talking to people, just pick up so many perspectives from it. So it makes us all better and then we can share that perspective in the future too, so yeah. Well you'll be there in spirit, Paul.

Paul: Oh, I will.

Alan: We'll have a huge poster of you right in the front of the room for us to worship. [Laughs.]

Paul: Only if you're trying to scare people and stop them from coming in, Alan. But okay so listen Before we go, Alan―as always on these things, I like to end on a slightly personal note. I was saying this to you before Alan, that like I'm always fascinated by what people do outside of work, but I think you're one of the few people who―I think you are one of the sort of extremes. That on one side on the work side where you're working within this whole techno area and on the other side, one of your big things is into things like meditation and that. So first of all, by the way, before I get away, tell people what you're doing tomorrow.

Alan: Oh, yeah. I'm attending a workshop about dreams, looking at our actual dreams and getting some kind of wisdom or understanding from them.

Paul: Yeah―because I mean if one is to be a believer in something like ying and yang, you have both in your life. [Laughs.]

Alan: Yeah, right.

Paul: Okay so I'm going to throw a nasty question at you. So if you won the great mega millions lottery tomorrow and you suddenly had no pressure on you―that all of your creature comforts were looked after―which Alan would we end up with? Would we end up with the technophobe Alan, would we end up with somebody who spends their whole life meditating, or would we have the same Alan?

Alan: I don't know. I think I'd be the same Alan, but try to have a mindful good life through our work and everything we do. Sorry about that answer but that's the best I can do.

Paul: Oh, no. I think it's―that was a very balanced answer, Alan.

Alan: Oh, good.

Paul: I would expect no less.

Alan: All right.

Paul: And I think a balanced answer is a good place to leave, so Alan Seiden, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us.

Alan: Thank you, Paul.

Paul: Okay everybody, that's it for this iTalk. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.

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