Last Thursday, February 8, Bill Langston of NGS and Roger Mellman of LightEdge co-presented a Webinar about IBM Power cloud capabilities, pondering the question of whether moving the IBM i on Power off premise was a good idea or not. While companies have been slowly heading in the direction of the cloud, the advice was to proceed with caution: consider the capabilities of the cloud and whether or not your company would take advantage of them, and ask specific questions to prepare for a smooth transition.
The Webinar recording is now available in NGS' video library. Also, check out Dan Burger's IT Jungle article about the Webinar, entitled "NGS and LightEdge Provide New Entry to the Cloud."
Clearing the Fog and Finding a Cloud
Ask a dozen people in the computer industry to define “cloud,” and you are likely to get almost that many different answers. Initially understood to mean a remotely located, shared system used to store files, today the “cloud” label is often used to describe just about any computing environment. Maybe the best example of that evolution is the phrase “on premise, private cloud.” That sounds a lot like an explanation of how companies have been using IBM computers for more than 40 years.
We're not a cloud provider, but we take software support very seriously. We know many IBM i customers are investigating managed service, cloud, and co-location options to meet business continuity, disaster recovery, security, infrastructure, and staffing requirements. Some are eager to use NGS-IQ as a cloud reporting and analytics solution. Many simply want someone to explain where IBM Power fits in an increasingly cloudy landscape.
Spring into Action
During March and May, NGS-IQ product specialists will be traveling throughout the continental USA to attend events, meet users, and conduct tutoring sessions. We hope you’ll look for us, ask your customers if they would like to learn about NGS-IQ, or request a chance to meet with our team member privately to discuss marketing tactics. Our spring calendar is below:
RPG & DB2 Spring Summit
Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas DFW Airport North
Mar 20 – 22, 2018
COMMON ‘POWERUp18’ Annual Conference & Expo
San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter
San Antonio, Texas
May 20 – 23, 2018
IBM Think 2018
Please let us know if you plan to attend IBM Think, IBM’s flagship conference for 2018, in Las Vegas on March 19-22. There will be more than 1,000 sessions on artificial intelligence, security, cloud, data, and systems led by industry experts, IBM staff, customers, and business partners.
Technology vendors and consultants love to invent and use new terminology to differentiate their products and expertise. In recent years, I’d argue the most frequently used and redefined term in the computing industry is “cloud.” When a term is used often and conjoined with other terms, usually through the liberal use of hyphens, it quickly becomes more difficult for people to understand. That’s when most of us tune out. Ironically, this is often the point in the technology life cycle when related solutions reach maturity and their associated costs and risks begin to decline. We think 2018 is that time for IBM Power and the cloud, so we're co-sponsoring a FREE educational Webinar about IBM Power cloud capabilities with LightEdge Solutions on February 8, 2018.
We’re not a cloud provider, but we take software support very seriously. We know many of you are curious about managed services, cloud, and co-location to help you meet business continuity, disaster recovery, security, infrastructure, and staffing requirements. You might also be interested in using NGS-IQ as a cloud reporting and analytics solution. There is a lot to know and not all clouds or providers are alike. We encourage you to attend this Webinar and learn what's possible.
Selling Opportunities Created by the Skilled Labor Shortage
When you spend most your time talking to IBM i customers and vendors who make a living serving the IBM Power Systems community, you may come to believe that our market faces a unique challenge in finding skilled workers to fill new positions and replace retiring staff.
I was recently disabused of that notion while talking to managers from companies in the skilled trades and public utility sectors. As they described their fears and frustration over the shortage of people available to replace their aging tradespeople and engineers, they sounded exactly like IT managers. Each expressed concerns about the time and cost associated with training, the knowledge required to maintain legacy systems, the expertise needed to interface old and new technology, and the demand to do all of these things without service disruptions.
When you face a labor shortage, you have a few options. You can raise compensation in the hope you will attract more people, provide more training, or find new technologies that automate and simplify the work so you can meet your goals using fewer, and less skilled, workers. Throughout history, the most successful companies are the ones that take the last path.
This approach is well-suited for data access and analytics. There was a time when most of the people using our NGS-IQ software were IT professionals with programming or computer operations backgrounds. But today, many of our strongest users are business analysts without a technical background. This change is partly due to advances in software and education, but it’s also the result of more and more companies realizing that operational analytics is too important to limit to the domain of workers with scarce technical skills.
Enabling business people to take over tasks that previously required IT staff isn’t always well received by those who have been performing those tasks, but this option is what selling technology is supposed to be about.
New On Demand Video: NGS-IQ - Advanced Functionality for Every Twist and Turn Your Queries Need to Take
The playback of our most recent Webinar is now available in our video library. This Webinar features a quick demonstration of NGS-IQ followed by a terrific conversation with an operations analyst who explains and shows how she uses NGS-IQ to help her company control overtime costs and monitor worker performance. Please encourage your clients to watch this playback. Of course, you're welcome to take a look, too.
IT Jungle Talks About the State of Analytics on IBM i
No one follows the IBM i software market more closely than IT Jungle Contributing Editor Dan Burger. His latest article about IBM i customers who use analytics software includes comments from IBM partners in the market, including NGS.
As a software vendor focused exclusively on the IBM i market, we often read or hear IBM i IT professionals complain about IBM marketing or the way competing vendors have managed to surround and discredit IBM i in their company. The general theme of most these discussions is that IBM i is the Rodney Dangerfield of computing platforms. We understand the sentiment, but our perspective on it might surprise you.
While every experienced salesperson would like to speak to the proverbial “C-level decision maker,” in our experience getting to that person in an IBM i shop is a significant challenge. Most C-level executives immediately redirect software vendors to their IT department the moment they hear the words "IBM" and "software" in the conversation. Secondly, confirming that a company runs IBM i usually requires initial contact with the IT department where we're most likely to find people aware of and supportive of IBM i. We try to reach this audience through a mix of telephone and email marketing, advertising in IBM i technology newsletters and magazines, and exhibits at user group conferences.
Unfortunately, the IT professionals most likely to see our marketing are usually focused on programming methods and development tools they personally might use. There isn't a lot of incentive for them to initiate the evaluation of a software application that they will need to install and set up for others to use, especially if they expect those people to require technical support. Wouldn't it be easier if those users met their needs some other way? Given time, they will, and that contributes to the shrinking role and image problem of IBM i in many companies.
We're not inclined like some IBM i software vendors to tell IT professionals that it's their job to fill the void created by IBM's modest marketing efforts, but we do think the future of IBM i would be brighter if more of its biggest proponents invested more time introducing their C-level executives to IBM i business solutions. If for nothing else, you might try this tactic as a way to annoy those other vendors surrounding and discrediting your beloved IBM i.
The region where NGS is based is growing rapidly and experiencing a real estate boom. Of course, every buyer needs a seller and nearly every seller must become a buyer. For long-time residents of this area, rising home prices mean that the price of buying a smaller home is very likely equal to or greater than the price of selling a larger one; buying a new home comparable in size to the one being sold will cost substantially more. Given these financial factors, what motivates people to sell and buy? Real estate professionals say that many people simply like to buy a new home every 7-10 years, even at a higher cost, to avoid the repair and maintenance projects they put off during that time.If you’re involved in developing or maintaining enterprise software, you might recognize this thought process. Maybe your company’s application software is showing its age. Through the years, updating and enhancing it has become a low priority. Gradually, the functional gap between the software and your current needs or expectations has grown. Now, you face a decision whether to incur the cost and disruption of implementing new applications or the cost of revitalizing your current ones.
Opportunity Awaits for Companies Still Using Microsoft Access
Recently, we’ve had several conversations about Microsoft Access with potential new customers and longtime NGS Business Partners. While it doesn’t get much press anymore, Microsoft Access is still widely used as a reporting tool in small to mid-size IBM i shops. The companies talking to us are eager to move away from Microsoft Access, but only if they can find an affordable, easy-to-use, point-click alternative.
Most of these companies have small information technology departments with one or two staff members doing all of their IBM i and network management tasks. In every case we’ve encountered, reliance on Microsoft Access originated many years ago as a “work around” when these IBM i customers assigned database reporting responsibility to a Business Analyst with Microsoft Windows and Office skills, but minimal understanding of IBM i.
It’s a credit to these desktop wizards that so many were able to get so much mileage out of such a modest database tool with little support or training. But anyone who has worked in an environment like this is familiar with the weak data integrity, data latency, control, and security it breeds. Additionally, Microsoft doesn’t seem very committed to future Access development.
Next time you are speaking to one of your IBM i customers, ask if they transfer DB2 data to Microsoft Access for reporting. If they do, suggest they evaluate NGS-IQ. We’ll work with you to schedule demonstrations and free trials to help your customer step forward.
IBM i on Power – An Inheritance to Appreciate
Once upon a time, you could assume that any mid-size or large company running IBM i had an IT Director with a strong foundation of IBM i knowledge. Today, companies usually have an IT Director who inherited the environment and needs education to appreciate what it has to offer. It’s a testament to the ease of managing a small IBM Power server running IBM i that smaller companies also often delegate responsibility for the system to a Human Resources Manager or other non-technical executive. These managers, too, need at least a foundation of knowledge.
NGS’s Benefits of IBM i page has links to resources that can help these managers. The first link on the page, Getting Started with IBM i, directs you to a terrific IBM website written especially for people in this position. We also provide a link to a new Total Cost of Ownership study conducted by the market research firm Quark + Lepton. Those who are evaluating IBM i and x86 servers and software costs should download and read this document.
Fall Is Showtime
During September and October, NGS-IQ product specialists will be traveling throughout the continental USA to attend events, meet users, and conduct tutoring sessions. We hope you’ll look for us, ask your customers if they would like to learn about NGS-IQ, or request a chance to meet with our team member privately to discuss marketing tactics. Our fall calendar is below:
OMNI Technical Conference, IBM, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 19, 2017
COMMON Fall Conference, Hyatt Regency St Louis at the Arch, St Louis, Missouri, October 2-4, 2017
RPG-DB2 Summit, DoubleTree Park Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 17-19, 2017
Mincron-Dancik Fusion17 User Conference, Sheraton New Orleans, Louisiana, October 15-18, 2017
IBM’s Strategy and IBM’s Customers
Since you are reading this newsletter, there’s a good chance you receive IBM Systems Magazine each month in its digital or print format. IBM uses the magazine to soft-sell their strategic direction and remind customers about the strengths of IBM Power.
The current issue includes the results of a survey of over 300 readers. A quick review of the results alongside the content of recent issues suggests a gap between what these customers want to read and what IBM marketing wants them to hear. In a table showing their level of interest in various types of content, readers showed their strongest interest is technical information and articles about new IBM technologies. In contrast, strategic content was least frequently cited as being of strong interest and most frequently described as being of little to no interest.
When your most loyal customers aren’t interested in your strategy, it’s either a weak strategy or you aren’t communicating it in a meaningful way. Let’s hope IBM has begun to recognize this and is actively working to enhance both.
Working with NGS: David Gillman is wrapping up his long career at NGS this month. Bill Langston has assumed his job duties and request that you address your questions to him going forward. We thank David for his many years of service to NGS and wish him the best. Please contact Bill Langston at (916) 920-2200, ext. 254.
As you may know, COMMON is the largest IBM user group providing education to IT professionals who work on IBM POWER systems. SHARE is a similarly organized user group for IT professionals working on the IBM Z or “mainframe” platform. A friend at another company recently mentioned they were attending the SHARE conference. That casual comment lead me to do some research.
I've never attended a SHARE event, and New Generation Software, Inc. does not play in the IBM Z marketplace. But when I looked at SHARE's website, I couldn't help but notice how much the curriculum and feel of things resembled COMMON. Whereas in years past the sessions offered at the two conferences probably did not have much overlap, today's situation seems different. With IBM focused on Watson, LINUX, and open source software development on both POWER and Z, the technical content of the two conferences looks surprisingly similar. I believe there are some people who attend and speak at both conferences, and some of the same vendors seem to exhibit at both, too. Of late, attendance at the two conferences is also about the same.
Bringing these two groups together just might make educational and economic sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if IBM or a few large Z and POWER customers have already suggested this idea.
Fall Season Marketing
Leaves change, the weather changes, people change…but the IBM i marketplace and its customers, in general, seem to remain the same.
Thanks to their frequency and the difficulty of getting your message through to your intended audience, Webinar marketing is a challenge in 2017. I hear from partners who have been disappointed with attendance at recent events, but regardless of the attendance numbers, the more important concern is getting those who do attend to take the next step. Webinars remain a low cost way to share product and technology information, but you need a compelling subject, not a sales pitch, that raises issues your audience will want to discuss further after the event is over.
What does continue to work in the IBM i market is good old-fashioned personal contact. Calls and in-person meetings have returned as the main way to spur IBM i customers to action. It seems that what is old is new again.
Many IBM i IT people know there are additional products or services which can improve operations, but they are hesitant to sell them internally. Having an external subject matter expert come into the office both lends an air of credibility to their internal argument and gives the IT person a reason to involve decision makers in the discussion.
We can work together to create a marketing campaign where the call to action results in lead qualification and is closely followed by a face-to-face appointment with one of our subject matter experts who will travel to your area.
Watson and IBM i
If you are reselling Watson into IBM i using accounts, I would love to talk with you.
Despite several years of announcements and advertising, Watson is still in the early-adoption stage, particularly once you step outside specific industries like healthcare. NGS has created demos and business case discussions for how to integrate Watson-produced data into IBM i-based reports. They work and they make sense to customers, but very few IBM i customers are moving forward at this point.
We get the usual excuses at first – no time, other priorities, and so on. However, with just a little probing we can attain the true reasons for most small and midsize companies’ reluctance – management doesn't know how it might gain a tangible business benefit from Watson, and the IT department isn't sure how to frame the conversation needed to initiate a project. Small, focused projects targeting a narrow business use seem to have the best chance of gaining interest.
What is working for you in selling Watson services to midsize companies using IBM i?
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