Shocking Demographics

I sit hear blogging on Sunday afternoon while watching the Bassmasters Championship , later today I’m going to be watching NASCAR. I find this press release on my RSS feeder where I track both (to my employer, I only check these after work, I’m busy with only analyst relations issues 100% of the time): Racing Car Industry and Pro Fishing Have One Thing in Common — Fresh Fish TV about a new Fishing channel.

Great, all I need is another channel, but heck, last week on my – You know you’re a Redneck Calendar was if you tape fishing shows….which is what I’m watching as I type (ok it’s TIVO, but I was at church).

The killer was this line in the press release, “One thing the producer’s of the Fresh Fish TV show realized is that fishing market demographics are very much the same as NASCAR.” They go on to state that the fishing industry is a 41 billion dollar industry. I don’t know the facts on NASCAR, but I’m betting it’s twice that. That’s more than a lot of countries.

Let’s see, here’s a list of some demographics between the two, I wonder if you can draw any conclusions here.

Fishing is the largest participant sport there is with over 45 million fishermen (not sexist, a woman is a fisherman also), Racing had 19 of the top 20 spectator events last year.
Both take place outside
Both are predominantly Southern oriented
Both are family oriented
Both fan bases are patriotic
Both fan bases are loyal to country
Both fan bases are loyal to sponsors
Most fisherman like to hunt
Most race fans like to hunt
Both handle a GPS with the ease of a fork
Bar-b-que is a staple
Both understand meteorology and know how weather affects performance
Both like big motors that go fast
Both could survive without a grocery store
Both drink a lot of beer (not the drivers, at least when they are doing their job)
Sponsors are crucial
They know how to make big money (some discount these two as a redneck crowd, but the winner of today’s tournament picks up $500 thousand for winning, another $1-2 mil in sponsorship, Jimmy Johnson won $2.4 million for the Daytona 500 last week, not chump change).
Fishing TV ratings are on the increase
Racing TV ratings are not only on the increase, but are passing most other sports (advertisers are not lost on this fact at all)
Fishing competitors are fan friendly (no fights in the crowd or dissing the fans)
Racing competitors are fan friendly

So they find that there’s a similarity between the demographics? How could that be?

Finally able to blog again, like missing a friend. Can I be that busy?

I just went the longest period of time without blogging since I began. I’ve missed days because I just didn’t have anything to talk about, but this streak has a different cause. Before I get to the point of discussion, let it be known that I really missed blogging. It causes me to focus on a subject and be lucid about it. This comes naturally to some, not to me. I also have to line up future blogs as I can’t just sit down and write all the time.

Advertisement: I lined up Grady Booch, Drew Clark (IBM VC programs) and my favorite PHP programmer , as well as I”m going to blog about an analyst event next week that has in part kept me too busy to write.

I’ve been too busy, a pretty lame reason I admit but true. Now that I have that out of the way, I knew this the entire time, and even talked about being too busy when speaking with several analysts and co-workers.

This brings me to why. When talking to the others, I got the same answer, yes they were busier than normal and no, they didn’t know why either. Here’s my hypothesis.

Bandwidth
A few years back, we said the answer to problems was bandwidth. It was cheap and getting cheaper and we should just throw bandwidth at a lot of situations and it may not be the perfect answer, but it would solve the problem. Now we have lots of connectivity, anywhere, anytime and while not instantaneous, we can get what we want, who we want and can pound away at enough doors, one will open.

Tools
Handhelds, access devices, instant messaging, cellphones…more ways to do more stuff and reach more people. This has turned the volume knob up also. Before, we’d send out a request and wait for an answer, now we get it right away and are distracted to answer these requests. How did we find our way for 1000’s of years without a GPS, or meet up with someone else without a cell phone?

Attitude
We are far less patient for things now. I fish and patience is a virtue. You have to wait for the right conditions, the fish to move up to your space, the weather, sticking with a pattern, whatever. Patience is a virtue they say. On the other hand, my son plays video games….it is an attention span zapper, but a sign of the times. So like the gamers, a lot of us at work are expecting more and more now in everything. If it doesn’t happen now, run and gun to something else. Even as I type this, I’m getting IM’d about decisions on bathroom decorating from my wife.

So am I getting more work done? Outside of blogging, yes. My real job is analyst relations and I’m getting more done and working at a faster pace, doing more and being more efficient. I have to.

I need to find some more time to fish.

Blogging at IBM may help overcome the search for the needle in a haystack, or help to turn the aircraft carrier

It becomes clearer to me when I speak with analysts that IBM is a different company to work with. We’re some 300,000 + employees in over 160 countries and finding your way around IBM is difficult. Ok, I didn’t climb out on any limb here. If you look at revenues or patents, you quickly find IBM is also the largest IT company in terms of products and services.

So we have to find ways for people to try to negotiate inside of IBM. Heck, sometimes it’s hard for IBMers to do this, although we have some pretty terrific social networking products internally that we are trying to push out externally.

I often hear, “why don’t you just do this or that and it will fix your x problem”. That statement doesn’t take into consideration the breadth and depth of such a big company. If you consider a small company, compare it to a rowboat. One paddle forward to starboard and one backwards to port and you’ve made a 180 degree turn.

Not so with IBM, we’re an aircraft carrier. To launch planes, you turn it into the wind. An aircraft carrier is 30 stories high and has over 5000 people, a floating city. It doesn’t turn on a dime, but when it does, it has more firepower that some small countries.

Such is life at IBM. so we’re not as nimble as rowboat, but we bring some firepower.  Unfortunately, we are often dinged for this inflexibility that handcuffs our communications.  It is led by a paranoid team of New Yorker’s, who don’t understand social media and it’s power.  The are stuck in a print minded world at the time of this post and lead a life that is sheltered from any reality other than serving the masters in Armonk.  This is part of the short sightedness that causes IBM to move so slowly.

Now to my point. How the heck do you find the right person in a 300,000 person organization. A complex question with equally complex answers. I don’t have the magic bullet, but I am going to say that blogging will help.

Soon, we’ll have a launch page that takes you to the community that you are looking for. On developerWorks, there are zones for each of our software brands, there is a mainframe blog, Healthcare blog , open source, lots of communities.

Once you find the right person, or advocate you can be very effective. We have lots of programs for this, but even then it can be a formidable task.

So Admiral of the bridge, turn the Nimitz into the wind and launch the planes, let the blogging begin to help find out more about IBM and the person you need to find.

If it's Tuesday, I must be in Paris, No, make that San Francisco

Here I am in San Francisco looking out over the bay waiting for a cross IBM meeting on SaaS. This is a big issue for us so this is a big Pow-Wow. They’ve brought together the technical, marketing, p/r, a/r and executives to map out our yearly activities.

I go to a thousand meetings, most of which cover a lot of topics. This one is special, so take from it that it’s IMPORTANT to us. More on that in later blogs.

I’m going to be on the road a lot until April, so I’ll try to post what we’re up to. There’s a big target on PartnerWorld the week of March 13.

On another note, IDC rated our developerWorks program number one (tied with Microsoft) which is good for us as we have only had the program for 5 years, and Microsoft has been in the game for 15 years.

Finally, I sat next to a fellow trekkie on one of my connecting links, so instead of climbing into my travel cocoon, I actually had a pleasant plane conversation.

The Dynamics of Working at a Home office

A few years back, there was a request from management stating a lack of office space, requesting volunteers to transfer to working from home. I had my hand in the air like Arnold Horschack from Welcome Back Kotter was standing first in line.

Not that working at home is a big issue, rather it’s the discussions I have with others on their views of the subject. It invariably is the same conversation centering around whether they could do it or not and why. These subjects tell me two things immediately. Whether they are extroverts or introverts, and what are their pet sins.

Extroverts (as expected) speak up first with pretty much the same thought. I have to be around other people. It is caged in different words like, I need to have chit-chat, I want to know the office gossip, I get ideas from others or the general I need to be with my team. I will admit there are times that you can have hall meetings to get something done informally that is effective.

The introverts say I can get my job done better without the distractions and I contact the others with email, vmail, IM and phone enough to get my job done. Those that know me know that I’m absolutely the last person to ask if you want to know office gossip, most of it goes past me for reasons ranging from I don’t notice some things (one co -worker dyed her hair blonde 3 weeks before I noticed) to I really just don’t care what they did at the mall over the weekend. They also say I don’t miss the commute or the traffic (me here).

I’ve run it to both types who are very effective at their jobs and those who are lumps like Walley over there. I hear two things about working at home, I can’t leave my work alone and wind up working more because I’m at home and can’t leave it alone or……….

I couldn’t work at home because of my pet SIN!!!!!!!

The most common sins are:

  1. I’d eat too much
  2. I’d watch too much TV
  3. I’d do housework
  4. My kids keep me from working (small kids, before they go to school, then you have to look for another excuse)
  5. I’d be a slob and never leave my pajama’s (I haven’t figured out the problem here)

So here’s the bottom line. You have to work at home like it was your office (except the chit-chat). You need to be disciplined, organized, dedicated and work like your boss is watching over you. We’re grown up’s here that have a job to do and a sense of responsibility to get it done.

You should be able to contact me and not know whether I’m in a cube, big corner office or at home in my sweats. As Larry the cable guy would tell you, Git-R-done.

Nice Chip Job Apple

Macslash reports that Apple picked Intel for it’s new processor because it was faster and they got more attention from Intel. Ok, I get that. What should they say, we picked it because it was the same?

Today I read stories from the WSJ, Financial Times, Reuters (sorry, they’re paid links, but the stories are all over the place) that IBM has a new Power chip that is clocking in at 6 Mhz and lower power and heat consumption. Just after the big Intel/Mac splash, here comes a chip revolution.

Was this a bad choice by Apple to switch? History will decide, but I’m thinking that since IBM has all the game boxes and there is a move to control the consumer market in the house for audio/visual/lights/AC that this is going run together. The person that controls the entertainment and the house from a pc is a winner.

So I ask, did Apple make a mistake going to Intel? Switching your OS to work with different hardware is no small feat, so there had to be some thought going into it. I thought when they made the switch, here comes another Intel box, and since it was vehemently denied, it’s probably truer than we were led to believe.

All the articles today say that the other chip makers are going to have to do some catch up to the new Power 6 chip, so who’s made the right decision here? Apple has made some good decisions before. I-Pod is a killer product, but more of a one off as more stuff is going to be integrated into the phone/mp3 player/thumb type email device. Palm was once dominant too, ask Blackberry users what they would rather have there.

So I’m going to be watching the Mac numbers and Apple spin.

Disclaimer: even though I’m and IBM’r, I love my video I-pod, and I’ve worked as an Apple dealer selling tons of Mac’s in a prior job. I have no affiliation with the chip division other than through working for the same company. I looked at this one as if I was an outsider.

Grocery shopping observations and comedy

I’ll state up front that Dave Barry should have written this, because I just can’t do it proper justice, but here goes.

I love going to the grocery store, not just because I get to buy stuff to eat, but it’s a people show extraordinaire. I pretty much hate shopping, it’s go get what I need and get out like most real guys. But the grocery store is different.

I first noticed that I liked going back when I lived in South Florida, where I spent most of my single years. People would get dolled up to go to the mall, out to dinner, the movies, anywhere. But ask them to go to the store and they’ll put anything on, anytime of day. I’ve seen some cuties that looked like death warmed over picking up something to eat. There was of course, some making the walk of shame picking up eats or coffee on the way home early in the morning.

Since it was South Florida, there were a few phenomenons. If you went to the store by the beach, people would shop in their bathing suits. Being a normal single male (walking hormone) at that time of my life, this made for quite a bit of entertainment. I’ll make only passing comments here about liking the frozen aisle.

The other phenomena there is that there were a lot of old retired cranky people, mostly moved down from New York which made for endless shopping entertainment. Where I lived in Delray Beach, they used to bus them in from the retirement villages, either Kings Point or Century Village, affectionally known as cemetery village. They’d hit the Publix en mass and raise the level of complaining to new highs. I varied between going to see this almost like going to a sporting event, and avoiding it because it could really grind on you. These folks could spend 30 minutes complaining to the manager about a 5 cent increase in the price of anything. If there was an advertised special, they moved faster to get there than the rest of the year, except maybe to the bathroom after prune breaks. Hitting each other with their shopping carts was hilarious until it happened to me. I politely informed the person that if they did it again, they’d wind up in the meat section.

You can tell pretty much the state of life they are in by what’s in their cart. The college kids usually had health food like cheez-its for breakfast, a frozen pizza and a case or two of beer, real cheap beer like old Milwaukee, Busch, Pabst or Schlitz when it was available. Young couples would have 40 cans of baby food and diapers. Middle age had progressively healthier food, the elderly’s had prune juice and polident.

The time of day that you shopped will vary the crowd also. The moms running households dominate the morning, Working moms and dads are on Saturday mornings. The folks picking up something for dinner after work are regulars from 5-7 PM. Anywhere from 10 PM on, especially are the partiers. Anyone after 10 in the twinkie aisle had the munchies.

Who don’t you want to see at the grocery store? Anyone you know usually, especially someone from work. Unless you’re already lunch buddies, the level of uncomfortableness increases dramatically with how far away they are from your cube. What’s really embarrassing is someone you know and forgot their name. People duck down the quickest escape route to avoid conversation like there was a nerve gas explosion for this one. I find it especially rewarding to see someone I know who looks like death warmed over at the store, but they spend extra time to be dolled up at work. I’ll always make it a point to say hello, even when I wouldn’t want to talk. One person whose name I’ll not mention does have her hair always perfect, I can’t figure this out. My son’s kindergarten teacher told us at orientation that seeing someone at the store was her least favorite place to see a parent as she would have to run down the kid’s behavior.

Back to South Florida, seeing someone you work with in a bathing suit at the store was like a touchdown and an extra point for me. Invariably, they acted like they were naked in public for which I got endless pleasure.

It’s a lot different now that I live in North Carolina and am married and running a household. It’s a contest to see if you can hit double or triple coupon day to see how much you can save. The old people are different here also. I heard the other day, “please get in front of me, you have a baby and I’m not in that big a hurry”.

Also, as I’ve mentioned, I have a dog, and we have to pick up the output when we take her for a walk. Only plastic (not paper) works for that. Since she goes for a walk about 20 times a day, we need a big supply of bags. So its always a struggle to get as many bags as possible for this while the store tries to cram every item you buy into as few as possible.

And about me, think I care what I look like? Think again. I’ll put on jeans and a hat and it’s off to funland, hunting for co-workers. Too bad we live inland now.

Life at IBM analyst relations, Kicking off another year

After making it through the start of the year, Lotusphere is under our belt, kickoff meetings mostly done, PartnerWorld planning in full gear, it’s time to get the nose back to the grindstone.

This means that one has to search out all of the analyst report opportunities for the year (done), identify the Brand/Group/Beat/whatever you’re a part of strategy and get going on it. This means SOA, SaaS and AJAX partnering issues for me, but everyone has their own issues. So we’re about to kick off the travel schedule of talking about our strategy (ok, we really started at the big A/R meeting in December) but you have to repeat any advertisement 3 times for it to have full effect.

If you were a single product company, that would be an easy issue, take Intel based servers, or a database product…..it would be cut and dried. Not at the Big Blue. We cross territories that range from hardware to software to services to research to this, that and the other. So the trick is finding the opportunities and building virtual teams. Oh yeah, there is the analyst side too when coverage area’s or industry trends change and you have to relearn their lineup.

Doing this properly requires talent at identifying opportunities, experience in working with others on similar things, a lot of elbow grease and a little luck sometimes. If you pull it off, you get to show IBM in it’s best light. We do a lot of things well for customers, remember they vote with their money….financials are out for the year…anyone can see who has been getting the votes and who is losing votes.

Not doing this properly is a missed analyst opportunity. I hate losing as much as anything so we’re trying always to get this right. It involves talking to the analysts (sometimes they’ll help by saying all of the angles of the focus of their study), asking a lot of questions and good organization.

IBM analyst relations is in as good of shape right now for this as I’ve seen. So maybe my vision isn’t 20/20 anymore, but I can tell when things are working and when their not. We’ve done some behavioral things correctly with the analyst groups and with the analyst teams to be able to perform well for the company. Kudos to the execs that have done this.

What I need most is space to work without IBM Corporate Communications getting in the way as they try to treat a/r like p/r.  At least for now, they don’t have a clue what we do, so it’s easier to get a good job done than the crap they have to put up with on the PR side.

So onward to the projects, MQ’s, Waves, white papers, studies, focus groups, meetings, briefings, all the things we should be doing to properly tell the story that should be told. Remember the fable about the 5 blind men describing an elephant????? Well, we continue to open our eyes in analyst relations, and if you believe our past CEO’s and their successor’s, Elephants can dance.