Angus: The name matters..
I was fortunate enough to attend the recent 2012 IBM Power Tech University. As an IBM Champion, I was invited to speak, and presented three sessions – all repeated once, for a total of six. The attendees are a mix of Power Systems professionals, largely representing AIX, with a growing population of IBM i, and a new batch of Linux people. Getting used to a Power Systems audience took a step or two, but the results were that my sessions, primarily IBM i focused, were well received. In fact, I have never been asked for my handouts for any recent events, and Power TechU attendees were eager to take something away.
I presented a new session called “Promoting IBM i and its future to your business”, and it was quite an experience. The idea behind the session is to dispel some of the myths we continue to hear in our community, then give some ideas about how to move into the future with IBM i. I started the first session having a relaxed conversation with the attendees, and that backfired a little while they continued the conversation during the actual session. It calmed down, but a couple of people stood out. They objected to many things I was presenting, prior to actually hearing what I had to say. They vehemently blamed IBM as causing the (perceived) failure with the platform, and were very very stuck in their own opinion and own importance.
Of course, that accusation can be thrown at many people in our community. We seem to think the world revolves around us, our IT department, or our company, and we don’t often consider that to IBM, our platform is just one of the many products, solutions and services they offer. Even after I pointed out this discrepancy, there were still objections. I asked if any of those people knew how to run a business like IBM or knew how to run a marketing department for a company the size of IBM. I also asked if anyone had a marketing degree. The answer to all three questions was a resounding silence.
As the week progressed, I engaged in more conversations with Power Systems customers. At one point, there were two conversations at a breakfast table. From the IBM i customers, we heard all about speeds and feeds, SSDs, TR4 and TR5, and so on. The AIX people were discussing how fast they ran their last marathon. The IBM Power Champions roundtable was a great conversation with IBM i, AIX and Linux well represented. Overall, a positive experience and Power Systems brings together a formidable group of people. Yet the name game was still being played.
During the course of the event, I discovered three distinct groups of people in the IBM i community. One group represented companies who were leading the pack in adopting technology, modernizing applications, embracing new methodologies, and being true leaders in the future of their own business. A second group spent a huge amount of time wondering what to do, confused about their choices, and representing companies who don’t know which technology to adopt. The third group, who seemed quite out of place, were complaining bitterly about many things, arguing that everything has changed to their detriment, and generally offering a negative perspective.
A little more categorization of these groups, and it was very clear who belonged to each. Those who were complaining bitterly, referred to the platform as AS/400. Those who were confused about what to do, referred to the platform as iSeries. Those who knew where they were headed, referred to the platform as IBM i.
The surprise to me was that this distinction is normally not so clearly defined. Yet, at a conference for Power Systems, the borders between the groups are starting to be obvious. I had previously postulated that our community would be split into two groups – those who steadfastly refuse to call the platform anything but AS/400 and want to live in the AS/400 cave forever, and everyone else. That seems to be changing as we move into the Power Systems world, and I expect the three groups will become more distinct over the next couple of years. And, for clarification, this is not a generalization of the entire IBM i community, as I know people who use old vernacular while adopting modern technology and methodologies. However, I expect soon enough, adopting a modern vernacular will simply become the norm.
The lesson I learned from this experience, is that the name truly does matter. It is not that just simply calling the platform by the right name, all your woes will be fixed, or the community changed overnight. It is that those who see the platform as IBM i on Power, and therefore call it by that name, are the ones who are moving forward in this industry, both in their own careers and for their companies. Using an old branding identifies you as someone who is stuck in the past, or stuck in the present not knowing which direction is best.
So, how do you see the platform? Is it moving into the future? Are you moving into the future with it? If you want to be in that group, then you will need to learn about the platform – as it is TODAY and as it will be moving forward. Instead of spending time arguing about the name being changed, or the name being bad, or the name being wrong, get over it and adopt a new attitude. So far, those who have done that are leading the way – use them as your example.