ConnectEd in Zürich – Old Boys meeting

I am not going to bore you with a lot of technical news about IBM Verse and stuff, but first, I want to thank the IBM partners and distributors, who actually run the show. IBM provides rooms and some speakers, the partners do all the rest, as I was told. Great job, really.
This time, there were more C-Level tracks half as long as a technical session. I suppose that was to allow for the lower attention span of the C-Levels, therefore I will do the same thing here and give those with a lot of meetings waiting for, a management summary:

ConnectED Zürich: 5 march 2015
IBM Verse: Very good. Strongly suggest to consider replacement of Microsoft Stack.
IBM Watson Analytics: Great technology. Not available from any other vendor.
IBM Notes: Will be supported for the forseeable future. Consider to move to Verse anyway.
IBM Connections: By all accounts and opinions even from some Microsoft Partners, still the better product. Consider to move as soon as possible.

Having now reduced the number of readers by half we can go to a more in-depth look.
IBM Switzerland must have reduced its workforce significantly again, because half of the building is now used by other companies. That isn’t really good news. And the roof leaks. Really. I got hit by drops twice during cocktail hour.
I and others had the feeling, we were at an old boys/girls event.

There are one or two things I found rather interesting.
Scott Souder stressed the point, that Verse isn’t just about mail (we have heard that before … for about 25 years) and IBM is looking into making classic Notes apps available in the browser without a plugin. As we were told, this is a sky-high priority, since most browsers could not care less about plugins and IE is as crappy as ever (I did not see a single hand, when Scott asked who used it). He also said, that we all have to realise, that especially Notes is 25 year old. There are things in there that make it hard, to make it a modern client. The browser is just the better and easier tool for the future. But Notes 9.0.2 is coming and a 64bit version for OSX, too (Scott said we shouldn’t tweet certain things he said, that would get him fired: Sorry, Scott, I forgot which, I didn’t tweet it and you say that every time).
Domino, XPages and Bluemix are really something to be considered. It really can ease some pain. IBM thinks, it is a tool to get new developers on the platform. We have heard that before, too. I rather think it is also a great tool to migrate slowly of Domino. I just wonder about the OpenNTF tools and Bluemix.
The thing that let my jaw drop to the floor was this: Jeff Schick apparently said, that IBM wants to have 500’000’000 users in the Verse cloud … half a billion … 5 times 10 to the power of 8. Err…. Dear Jeff, do you realize that the world has roughly 7.3 billion human beings? Only about 40% use the internet: 2.92 billion. Half a billion would be about 12% market share. Notes has less than half a percent. You would have to convince a few big ones to move to Verse. I see a few hurdles to this idea.

(Disclaimer: Below is what I have seen until now. It is subject to change by IBM and I have not seen the pricing. So I might be completely and utterly wrong.)

First: Not everybody has the 500-emails-per-day-problem. Many live happily and stress free with their current installation. Even if it is an Exchange server.

Second: Do you really think companies would trust a computer to filter their mail? Companies (and there are many) whose administrators day after day go through the quarantined spam and look for mails that might be important?

Third: We don’t need another email address. The domain of the free Verse is From a marketing point of view, that is a nightmare. It sounds like a beta domain (apart from that the name „Verse“ itself is a marketing nightmare, for example in French „je verse“ is pouring something and in German it sounds just awful).

Forth: It is really sad. Again IBM does not understand small companies. Nobody will move from their free or almost free (change countries and providers as appropriate) address to a free address, if there isn’t a huge advantage. 500 MB file space isn’t enough. I think IBM should match Google Drive.
For small and micro companies there isn’t that big advantage that makes them change. None whatsoever.
Every single time IBM tries to get small companies in the boat, they mess up … every f+%&/* time (my blood pressure … breathe slowly). I can’t see any reason, why this time it should be different.

Fifth: IBM claims every time they announce some new feature for Worse – ups sorry, just the sound of it, I mean Verse – competitors come up with something similar. The only difference is: The competitors deliver. They are here right now.

And last: Nobody understands Watson. You can’t show it really. How do you want to sell that? There will always come up the argument, that users can do that with rules. I use that single button on my apple mail quite often and that works nicely for me. And just for the record. Most don’t understand „People centric“ neither.

Dear IBM, the Verse offering does not show a USP that makes Tom, Harry and Dick/Sally, Susan and Diana move. None. Nada. No „wana have“. I did not say it is bad, oh no, it is great, but as ever IBM marketing su….. isn’t good enough. You have to come up with an offer that is so good, that about 2 billion users might consider a change (By the way, how about a run-your-business offering for business partners? I am looking into moving my this blog and mail to something else. But I want to keep my domain).

I have seen the Verse ad for the second time. The first time was in a blog post. It isn’t „everywhere“ as was claimed. At least not here. But Here and again, IBM fails again to „SHOW THE PRODUCT“ as what it is. If you don’t know, it is about email, you just wonder what it is all about and the ad was clearly targeted towards big companies.
IBM isn’t on the radar of small companies. Just isn’t. Not here, not there. Nowhere. It would be IBM’s duty to go to the small companies to change that. But this is hard work and by far not as interesting as the Global 500. Which have their act together and don’t need IBM to explain it to them.
Since I am generally a nice person (some say), I give you an idea, what I think the offering should look like and makes it different from others.
A difference would make: „Pay once, use forever“.
For example. I just need freebie Verse but I want my own domain. I give you 20 bucks and that’s it. Don’t need no support. I can point my MX record to your server myself.
Need another user with the same domain? 20 bucks.
Need guest access to files? 20 bucks.
Migration of old mail and calendar entries? 100 bucks (20 from Notes).
Just add features that are not important for everyone and I pay you if I need it … once, because there is just one change once.
Give me a choice.
If I want something that asks for more space or computing power? I would pay for it every year. That is fair. But just because I want my own domain, I don’t see, why I should rent that right from you.
I want an offering where I have the choice and the difference between free and full service isn’t a 1000 bucks. Sometimes I just want a salad and not the whole menu.
And now the last bit. I don’t want to be the product. Not even if I use the free Verse. Therefore NOBODY touches my stuff, I don’t know personally. Make that clear to everyone. And even more important. I want my stuff here in my own country.
IBM I make you an offer. If you get the offering right, I will personally stand on 10 Saturdays in 10 different shopping centers and on 10 Thursdays at SMB exhibitions around Switzerland. You just have to provide the marketing material and your name. I give you my time. The exact terms would depend what we agree on, but you don’t have to pay me for those 20 days or more than 100 hours of hard work. Deal? That should once and for all show, if Verse is the product for SMB.
By the way! Where is the business partners place in all that?
So far so good. Scott Souder, HP and Louis Richardson were fun to see as ever.
Other memorable sessions – because I went there – were those of the University of Zürich and the one of Klaus Bild about SDI (formally known as TDI).
The switch of the University of Zürich to Notes is one of the big success stories of the last years. Nobody knows about it, which is another IBM marketing failure.
They have rather interesting problems. 158 institutes that can do what they want. Central IT Services can’t even do something, if one of the institutes decides they want their own stuff. The institutes are completely free, as it should be at a research university. And they have from Amigas to the latest Apple gadget everything and it has to work (well somehow limited in case of an Amiga). And only Notes/Domino can do this. Now did we ever doubt that?
During the speech Dr. Roberto Mazzoni wasn’t all nice and cheery with IBM. Scott was sitting in the audience but probably didn’t get everything, since it was in German. I suppose he heard it before. Today the University of Zürich runs a huge Domino/Notes infrastructure for about 40’000 users. All that with just 2 Admins. Amazing isn’t it? And that isn’t all. The Uni-ZH has added Connections, too (needs a bit more manpower to keep it alive though).
Two words of warning came from Sandra Bühler of Belsoft, the company that helped the University: If you use Traveller on a Microsoft Server, be aware that Microsoft might come after you and wants you to buy CAL’s for your users. There is probably something in the fine print that says you must. Therefore: Linux. It’s anyway the better solution.
IBM always says to engage HR in the deployment of Connections. Don’t! They don’t have the time and „resources“ to do it.
My last breakout session was about SDI. Google it and you find „SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure“ or „Software Defined Infrastructure“. We were getting a closer look at „Security Directory Integrator“ or better known as „Tivoly Directory Integrator“. When is IBM ever going to stop the product renaming circus? It does not make sense at all.
Anyway, it is still a great tool, but IBM should invest a few bucks to get some limitations fixed. It is very annoying that one has to write the whole XML code on a single line. That line can easily be a long as a cargo train. Is carriage-return-new-line such a big problem?

That was about it. I am really a bit annoyed, that I never got the chance to test Verse in its early stages. I have registered several times and never got a reply.
Whenever it comes out, I want to test it thoroughly. Is anybody out there game to do a group test? Sending emails to myself is a bit boring, but if anybody wants to find out what is all the fuss about, we could do it together. Some real life testing.

We will see what happens next.


I need feedback! Do you know how to explain social business?

I don’t. Whenever I am asked, what Connections is made for, I get in to trouble. I know what it does and I know pretty much how I can use it, but explaining that, is rather difficult. Lot’s of „imagine“, „well“, „ah“ will be included the next 15 minutes of a roller coaster ride around the different elements of Connections, with a bit of Notes thrown in … you can see I make a complete mess of it. While the mess get’s bigger I am still talking, desperately trying to get less messy, with the obvious result. I just have bored the listener to death. Interestingly it looks that others have the same problem. Nobody I have met was able to explain it to me in a simple way.
Whenever I explain something with success, I paint a mental picture.
Having recently read the book of Kelly Johnson, somebody you all know, I am sure, I think I can now explain, what social business software does to people.

Apart from being one of the best aircraft designer of all time, Kelly Johnson was also a genius in organisation and project management (he wouldn’t have made a mess of the Obamacare website). Fortunately he had an employer, Lockheed, who saw this and let him have his way.
Now that picture:
Lockheed Skunk Works was known for its ability to get extremely complex airplanes in the air within time and budget. Many times even below budget and well before deadline. Something many project managers are struggling with. How did they do it? First, they were all in one building. Every engineer was working as close as possible to the project he was assigned to. Which means, that they had their plotting boards literally below the wing of the airplane they were working on. Everybody was working so close together, that a formal hierarchy was something on paper, but not lived. The informal hierarchy was much more important. Decisions were often taken right on the spot, not in endless meetings, and with input from everybody. Kelly Johnson himself wanted almost absolute control about the project and would only report to the top management.
Kelly Johnson also treated his employees in that way. If you worked for him, you got the absolute control about your part of the project, but if you disappointed him, somebody else would take your job. But not in a sense of hire and fire, and that is in response to what I have discussed with Grant Osborne on Palmi Lord’s blog. Kelly was well aware, that Lockheed owned its employees some sort of job security. Just as a side note.
In aviation paperwork is important. Everything has to be documented. The 747 probably can’t carry its own documentation. Kelly Johnson wanted only the absolute minimum and no redundancy, but thoroughly. He never accepted a standard report longer than 20 pages. Everything that already had been reported or somehow written down, was referenced, but not copied.
Kelly Johnson cut down the time for the whole project by encouraging collaboration and communication, eliminating endless meetings and useless reporting and paperwork being sent around.
Now isn’t that exactly what social software does? By pulling down formal hierarchy and encouraging people to bring in their own ideas? Cutting down lost time in endless meetings by using ad hoc web meetings and discussion portals? Replacing endless one-to-many reporting done by eMail by a self-serving documentation in one place that is always up to date? Finding expertise everywhere, even on the shop floor? Getting people engaged in project, which also means, that they feel more responsibility.
All that in a fashion that makes access easy and less time-consuming.
Social Business Software encourages many of Kelly’s 14 management rules, which still are true today, although a bit modified if you don’t work with the Government or in aviation.
What do you think, is that a picture that works?

After the DB2 10 Bootcamp I am a Version 3 now – bugger

I am a „IBM Information Management DB2 10 Technical Professional v3“ now. That sounds a bit like the Austrian title race. What the heck is v3?

To make my life a bit more interesting I attended the DB2 10 bootcamp last week.
I have not used relational databases a lot before and I thought, that this camp could just be the thing and since I am (and a lot of you are too, I suppose) moving towards Connections, this would be a good start. Frankly, for somebody who has never seen a DB2 up close, it wasn’t easy at all. I was pretty much worn out in the end, because I had to learn a lot after and before every class. I had to go through the whole db2 certification pdf, Up and Running with DB2 on Linux, Unleashing DB2 10 for Linux, Unix and Windows, tried to inhale the DB2 SQL Reference and gave up when I saw the 2569 pages on the iPad and I tried to read every chapter of the course book in advance. Having five hours of train ride every day helped, but when 2 guys in your compartment have a heated discussion about the next popular votes, it isn’t easy to concentrate (they offered me head phones, but that does not help if you don’t have any music on the iPad). In the end I got only one of the two certifications and that one I passed with only 80%. By far the worst passing result I had in a long time.
Was in worth it? You bet. It gave me a lot of insight and from now on, I have at least a basic understanding what is going on … enough for sales 😉

The bootcamp itself was meant to be for anybody who wants to know more about DB2 10 and the only requirement was a basic understanding of relational database management systems and some Linux knowledge would be nice, too. It turned out, that a lot of knowledge about DB2 would have helped and the Linux stuff wasn’t needed. The Labs are great for beginners, but the course slides where – typical IBM – overloaded and did not give me the information I needed. No way I can read and understand them while the teacher is talking.

I am wondering what the purpose of that boot camp is. If IBM wants more DB2 certificates in the wild, the DB2 bootcamp could be improved by cutting the number of slides in half, focusing them on the information’s that help you pass the fundamentals test and distributing some 20 to 30 pages about basic technical aspects and structure of DB2 before the course, to get everybody on the same level (DB2 for Dummies?).

I am feeling quite DB2 geeky right now and hopefully I will pass the DB2 fundamentals exam next time.

Did I mention that the boot camp and the tests are free of charge? Pretty good value if you ask me.

Sogetis TeamPark – a book review … not yet.

I am working my way through Sogetis book „Teampark platform and method„. It’s all about Sogetis approach of introducing IBM Connections.
Sogeti is much more a Microsoft Shop, than IBM but they still use IBM Connections and have even developed bits an pieces for Connections, which from their point of view, are better than the of the standard tools.
And they wrote that book about it. After about two thirds, I am not sure, what they actually want to tell me. Normally 145 pages are a matter of 2 or 3 hours. I have had the book for about a month now. I am at page 103. I don’t want to offend anybody, but the only thing I can say, is, it is marginaly better written than the FAA book „Fundamentals of instruction“, which I had to work my way through to become a CFI and I regularly fell asleep after about a page. Really, no joke.

The other book „From crowd to community“ is a bit more digestible.