The Great Social Computing Experience

Last week, IBM held the Idea Innovation Jam to develop ideas to move our company ahead. Included were all employees, their family and business partners. This was at least our 7th such jam over the years and it resulted in 75,000 people enrolled in the Jam; close to 28,000 ideas have been posted; and more than 2 million page views have been tallied.

We get dinged all the time for not being as hip as other companies, not being first (or best) to blog, but this is one heckuva participation in social computing. Along with our ever growing blogs and podcasts, I’d say we are making progress in this space.

Since I mentioned podcasting, I’ve combined with the communications team (ok they did the heavy lifting, Colleen and Stacy) but we’re starting an analyst podcast series called – Analyst Input and Outtakes.

I hope to have more analysts participate in the near future. I’m looking for likely candidates with an opinion on the industry, IBM or the competition….you know who you are.

HP buys Mercury – is it IBM envy?

I heard a lot about Mercury at the Rational Users Conference.  How they had a good product but were having problems delivering on product promises…I’ll give them a pass there, all software and companies have issues.

It caught my attention not that they were acquired but by which company, HP of course.  It is good in any number of ways that they did this.  Sure Mercury is a big competitor of Rational, but if you’ve read any of my blogs, I like competition, it makes you better or your beaten.   The fact that HP is strengthening it’s middleware to compete confirms to me that we are on the right track.  You don’t copy a losers strategy hope to stay in business.   I’m looking forward to the fight there.

It’s also good as it gives Rational some time to move forward during the HP/Merc aquisition and integration phase, always a time of slowdown while you evaluate how to integrate multiple HR, benefit, Accounting, manager redundancy issues to begin as one company.  My favorite is marketing departments having to combine…talk about the department of redundancy department.

Companies acquire other companies all the time.  Why I care about this one was that it was pointed out to me by a number of analyst’s that HP (specifically Carly) had IBM envy and specifically Lou (Gerstner) envy when they acquired Compaq.  The reason given was for a play in the Services market that IBM had explored, developed and became the market leader.   Now they are trying to be a middleware player.  Back to trying who to emulate, IBM is a good role model if you do it right.  I don’t see them as a Services force, albeit they are a player.
Not that Mercury was a bad acquisition, nor that trying to be a middleware player is bad either, but the 4.5 billion seemed excessive to me for a company that has problems like stock option issues, multiple acquistions recently, product delivery.  Maybe I don’t know the rest of the story yet. Given they way overpaid for what they got out of Compaq (what happened to the iPaq sales?)  it seems as though they pay too much for what they get.

Mark Hurd has done a great job fixing the screw ups that Carly created, but 4.5 billion is a lot of change….

Dave Liddell Bloggerview – The History and Inside of IBM SWG Analyst Relations

I’ve known this one was coming for a while and I didn’t really know how to properly state the opening, there was too much to say.

Dave started Analyst Relations in Software Group, then honed it to one if not the best group there is. I haven’t done a bloggerview about someone I’ve worked for so this is a first also.

I’ll say that I learned more about how to deal with situations, executives and yes…analysts by taking hard situations to Dave and getting help solving the problems. Dave gave me a great opportunity to come to Software Group from the old PC division to enjoy some of the best years of my working career.

Dave discusses some of that and much more below. Here is an insight to the Analyst Relations discipline and a history lesson of IBM SWG that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Enjoy.

The SWG AR group was at the height of its performance when Dave retired.  It was never better either before or after his departure. We executed well and our performance stood on its own. We didn’t have to create and dress up reports to try to make them prettier than the other groups as it wasn’t his style (he knew what was meaningful to the execs who already had enough reports on their business to read).  It was no-nonsense action oriented process that got results and generated loyalty.  I was never more proud of the analyst group than when he ran things.  There were never fire drills even when there was intense pressure from Mills or Gerstner/Palmisano and he was always under control and unflappable like no other leader.  While others deflected the pressure to the rest of the group, Dave acted coolly and handled both the executives and the emergencies appropriately.  Mike Bizovi has come the closest to Dave with respect to handling pressure while keeping his cool, and he seems destined to be the next leader of the IBM AR group.

One thing we chose to leave out when this was originally written was that it was our goal and intention to influence analysts, and we were able to do so without them knowing it.  We actively tried and were able to change opinions and reports by our actions and Dave knew how to get that done.  This was our intent going into meetings regardless of whether it was the CEO of Gartner, Forrester, IDC or from a lower tier analyst who had only one executive which supported him and was background noise.

Dave made sure all of our interactions were professional and regardless of whether we cared or not, we treated them with respect.  Overall, our group collectively knew who was influential and we made sure those analysts issues were attended to.

What was your career history with IBM. You didn’t just work for 38 years in Analyst Relations?
I have been extremely fortunate to have had five different careers at IBM – manufacturing, sales, product marketing, solution marketing and analyst relations.

Manufacturing began in Rochester, MN where also worked in tool design and product test before becoming a self-taught programmer, designing and coding (Fortran and Assembler) an online report generator that on one of the very first time-sharing systems using video displays. The only problem: I simply HATED engineering.

In Chicago I was a client rep for Motorola, and sales manager for the Chicago-based steel companies.

My timing to join the division staff in San Jose for IBM storage systems couldn’t have been worse — just at the time IBM collapsed in that market. I moved east to White Plains to lead US storage marketing just as IBM regained storage leadership.

As part of the original core team under Mark Morin (who retired the same day I did) we created in less than five years an industry-leading “start up” with over 1,000 employees, IBM Image Systems. When the market for image document systems eventually cooled (there are thousands of ImagePlusR still installed), Steve Mills had just been named general manager of Software Solutions Division and asked if I could start an AR team for him. The rest, for the next 13 years, is history.

Talk briefly about your decision to retire. I always wanted to go out on top, but Michael Jordan couldn’t let go on the other hand. To me, it was the perfect way to do it?
Flattery will get you anywhere. Seriously, I spent a lot of time worrying that the world-class AR team built in IBM software would not remain a leader, frankly because of me. Hubris is a tough enemy. It’s one that thrives on a history of prior success.

But my decision to retire really had to do with me. My wife had retired 6 years earlier. I looked at the life she was leading and said to myself, “Self, that looks pretty good. How about we go get some of that for us?” Seriously, it was time and I was fortunate to be able to do so.

You retired from IBM in March, what have you been doing since then?
Ironically, I’ve been doing AR. A couple of clients have asked that I help them with various aspects of their programs. That said, I’m not interested in taking on operational responsibility. That’s why I retired. But I also don’t want anyone to think that I’m hanging out a shingle to compete with KCG, Forrester or Lighthouse. They are much more into AR operations, training, evaluation and surveys than I intend to be. If I had to classify my niche, it’s giving advice to senior executives on how AR teams can best deliver the value those executives want from them.

But it would be misleading to say that it’s been all work. There’s also been a lot of travel. That got easier when the kids were grown, but it’s a lot easier now without a 9 to 5 job. A week here, mid-week there, both in Europe and the US. Like all of us, sometimes that’s pure “get away”, but often it’s with my Blackberry.

Now that you’ve had time to think about it, what are your thoughts about analyst relations at IBM?
It was a terrific opportunity to build a function and a team. We started at zero, or as the analysts at now-defunct Meta Group said when asked, less than zero, closer to minus infinity as it were. The IBM software executive team gave AR an extraordinary level of support – people, money, and most importantly, their time. I’d like to think that over the course of those 13 years that the executive support was not blind, that they had plenty of opportunity to inspect whether the AR team had consistently demonstrated good stewardship of the resources entrusted to it and delivered value for the investment.

I also think IBM software AR has provided a valuable work environment for many people – both those who came and stayed as well as those who joined the team for a while and moved on. Everyone had opportunities to learn. For sure, whatever it is that the AR team became, it was the contributions of those many people who made it so.

Can you share some thoughts on the history of IBM analyst relations and how it has progressed? What was the hand of Dave Liddell on the direction over the years?
The start-up days were tough, not just for AR but for what was to become IBM Software Group two years later. There were no good models for AR, so we had to invent one built on basics: earn the trust of both analysts and executives; be fact-based in a world of hype; and be relentless in everything we did.

Perhaps, especially in the beginning when almost all relationships between analysts and IT suppliers were adversarial, that struck me as nonsense, if not irresponsible for both parties. In the end, we both existed because the customers wanted us to do so. No matter what traffic in money and knowledge passed between us, it was dwarfed by what customers – our mutual customers – expected of us.

Analysts needed product and technology skills that came to suppliers as a matter of course and suppliers needed the perspective that analysts generated also as a matter of course. None of that is to suggest that there aren’t opposing interests between suppliers and analysts, but those opposing interests are only an element of a very complex set of relationships.

What did we learn from our experiences?
This may be putting it too boldly, but we learned that it is possible to influence thinking. It’s a lot of hard work, often over months if not years. It is done with facts in an environment of candid communication and trust. A funny thing happened along the way. The more the IBM team became successful at influencing opinions, the more the team learned to learn from those same analysts. That’s the thing about the influence of facts, trust and communications on relationships. They are bi-directional.

Other than the obvious of contract negotiation and other administrivia, what did (do) you see your relationship with the analysts and the analyst firms?
The facts say my role directly with analysts and analyst firms was rather minor compared to what the AR team did. My job was more about creating the environment in which AR could work, and do so productively. That said, in hindsight I’d say my most typical personal role was to be a bridge (either way) when there was a misunderstanding between the software team and an analyst or firm. Relationship management, even in strong relationships, takes lots of work by everyone involved. Maybe it’s fair to say I also did a lot of prodding.

An analyst once said to me that the key to his success was immersion in the flow of information. Everything that is going on in a segment leads to better understanding of some other part of the segment. In that sense, with the large number of markets IBM software participates in, the very large community of analysts following IBM software and the thousands upon thousands of engagements created an environment in which I too was in a huge information flow. Simply said, I could act as a bridge (over troubled waters? between analysts and IBM because of that perspective.

What are you doing now? Could you give information about your company?
I’ve wondered for a long time what it would be like to say “this is MY company”. It feels pretty good.
Silvermine Brook LLC (silvermine@att.net, 203-966-4433) is now in its second quarter of operation — lawyers, accountants, tax codes, annual meetings, quarterly reports, the whole 9 yards. It’s not that I haven’t dealt with all of that over the years, I have, but I’d expect that anyone who owns a company appreciates that there is just a different feeling when all of that is very personally about “your” money. Anyway, it’s a kick, it’s different, and there are no pretensions that this is anything but a way keep a hand in the game. Well, maybe there is one more thing. Now that I’m at home much more it gives me something to work at, along the lines of that sage marital advice “For better or for worse, but not for lunch”.

Catch all question. What did I miss that you want to say?
The decision to retire was not one made quickly, but it was one I discussed with the executive team for nearly five years. Part of it was me making up my mind about what I wanted next, but a good part was to ensure there was a team and a management system that could run IBM software AR better than I ever did. I left with the full confidence that the best years for the AR team were yet to come.

Changes and Trends in Communications

I guess they chiseled press releases on stone at some point to promote the invention of fire. Later, parchment must have been sent out to document the parting of the Red Sea.

But the industrial revolution gave us good tools like the printing press and the typewriter, fax machines and let’s not forget the copy machine from the Xrocks corporation which allowed us to mail press releases an astonishing 2 weeks prior to the announcement, embargoed of course.

Then came email, the internet, instant messaging…I’m not going out on a big limb here history wise. Now with the push of a button, bingo – news everywhere.

So what’s the point here? I like to see trends and be an early adopter where possible. There have been times I wait for the technology to stabilize before I expose my backside to any corporate or public lashings, but for the most part, I like to be or know about what the next advantage possible to be gained. I remember using MCI Mail in the mid ’80’s to beat the big companies to the story (then my competition was, gasp – IBM). I was talking to Bill Howard, Bill Machrone and John Dvorak of PC Magazine when it seemed like there were about 25 email users total in the business world.

Despite my daughter’s ability to overwhelm me in Instant Messaging volume, I did use it as a communications tool to reach analysts in the ’90’s before others caught on.

I’ve been beaten to the punch more times than not on new trends, but I give credit to those that catch on before me and I try to learn to do things in a newer better way. Social Computing is such a trend that offers the next new world to those who have vision.

I originally called this the change/death/other titles here of PR, but that will never die, only morph. Those that adopt the new media approach which is happening now, which includes but is not limited to (good lawyer speak there) blogging, podcasting, videocasting, wiki and the various other components of Social Computing will beat others to the punch. (I was later to this game than I wanted to be, but still ahead of many I’m finding out as I beat my head against the wall here sometimes.)

While there was no moment of truth type revelation about why this is, I’ll give Charline Li the credit to why big companies are not always the leaders on this, it requires giving up control. Now tie this into the above stated PR change issue, as control is vital to shaping the message or dealing with the other large major media outlets. The quicker more nimble folks who already embrace Social Computing are moving ahead and larger companies are trying to figure it out and sometimes try to control it. I will say that IBM is conducting perhaps the largest social computing exercise ever right now, but the control issue prevents any details here until it is complete. I hope to blog about it soon, and I hope to start an analyst relations practice/position about Social Computing, send your positive references in now about me as I’ll be canvasing soon for a new frontier that I think we need here.

This is not just a company/industry or PR issue either. Smaller and more nimble analyst firms are leading the way and are way ahead of 800 pound gorillas here.

So I know people who were naysayers to email, IM and other trends and look what happened there. Social Computing will change the messaging capabilities, the way we will work and exchange information and that train is leaving the station, be on it or miss the chance.

Tour De France – it was Epic

floyd wins tdf.jpg

True drama includes the hero touching the whiskers of defeat and having to climb a mountain to overcome adversity to achieve victory. He should slay the toughest dragon. The outcome of the contest should not be decided until the end to hold the audience in suspense and to pull for the hero in his travails.

The tour had all of this. 11 different changes in the lead, a TDF record. Floyd Landis had the tour in hand in the most celebrated stage – L’Alpe-D’uez only to suffer total defeat falling an unsurmountable amount of time behind with a total collapse in stage 16 and the Col du Galibier. His mountain to climb was himself and the doubts of failure where some would give up and the Stage 17 the very next day with 5 climbs including the Cole des Saisies. He slew the dragons and pulled himself from 11th place, virtually out of the race to only 30 seconds behind in the final time trial. It was described by as possibly the greatest stage ever at the TDF. All this after he disclosed the fact that his right hip was dead and he will have hip replacement surgery after the tour.

On this final competition day, he rode the solo time trial like a champion and took the yellow jersey, with the race being decided on indiviual talent. So the Maillot Jeune goes to the man with the biggest heart and will to win. It was a great story with a hero, a mountain to climb, a dragon to slay and suspense to the end.

Now 19 of 25 leaders who have led after the L’alpe-Duez have won the tour, they rode over 89 hours over 3800 KM from speeds of 8 to 90 KPH. And it was the Star Spangled Banner that played in Paris for the 8th year in a row and the 11th time in 21 years.

BRIC or Brac

IBM hasn’t ceded any space in the America’s or Europe and is doing just fine there, that’s not the point.

Where we are doing well is in the new farmlands of the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). According to the Economist, July 8-14, 2006 edition, Page 94:

GDP, Q1 2006, % of change from a year ago:
China, +10.3
India, +9.3
Russia, +5.5
Israel, +5.2
Brazil, +3.4

And, according to Boston Consulting Group in BusinessWeek the July 31 issue, BCG identified 100 emerging multinationals that appear positioned to “radically transform industries and markets around the world.” The 100 had a combined $715 billion in revenue in 2005, $145 billion in operating profits, and a half-trillion dollars in assets. They have grown at a 24% annual clip in the past four years.

I’ve been in countless briefings where it has been stated that we are doing well and companies are coming to us because we committed to open standards and software. It has been widely read that Germany has committed to Linux and development is picking up on open platforms.

What kills me is those that buck the trend. I was around for Token Ring, SNA, OS/2, Micro-Channel…don’t buck the trend. The markets decide by voting with their money. I’m not sure if it will be late software, SaaS, SOA security issues or just the overwhelming desire by people to want software to work and not care what their platform is as better written than I by Steve O’Grady.

So look out world, we see you growing and it shouldn’t be lost on those companies who want to succeed as markets ebb and flow that you need to be there. If you’re an analyst, count on us mentioning it, ask for proof.

Why I'm light on blogging

I’ve been trying to get my house ready to sell and doing the startup and prep work required to move into a new residence. Needless to say, it has been far more that I imagined. One doesn’t realize the amount of “stuff” you collect in life. So mounds of trash later including software back to Win 98, I’m coming up for air.

I hope never to move again.

The tests of Men

It’s not that I haven’t been working, in fact I’ve been getting it done, but I’m going to be distracted tomorrow night when I watch the results of the next stage.

laple dhuez.gif

I’ve pretty much mentioned it in most of my TDF blogs so far. These are the defining moments in your career. In Formula 1 you look to Monaco as the jewel, Olympics for a lot of sports, Soccer/Futbol has the World Cup.

Winning the Tour is the overall goal, but the Yellow Jersey in Paris goes straight through L’Alpe-D’Huez. Stage 16 has a higher climb, but make or break for the winner should happen here. The Pyrenees were tough, but the Alps after 2 hard weeks of riding 6 hours a day are a killer.

Nature stronger than Man……or the power of Bird Poop

The space shuttle Discovery is pictured on Pad 39B waiting for launch on mission STS-121 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, July 2, 2006.

The Space Shuttle hasn’t had the best track record of late. Right now, they are doing a visible inspection of the tiles that allow for proper re-entry, protecting the Shuttle from burn up when encountering the atmosphere. If you recall, these tiles fell off the wing of the Columbia when hit by foam on liftoff, ending in disaster.

When comparing the shuttle pictures to those 3 weeks prior to take off, they found white spots on the wing. Presumably in a similar place to where the aforementioned tile problem occurred. Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be bird poop. Having fished next to the shuttle recently, I can verify that there are many birds in this area as it is millions of acres of undisturbed land purchased in the 60’s.

So, the bird poop can survive vicious Florida thunderstorms that delayed the launch numerous times, thrust that can launch the bulk of the shuttle from zero to 17,500 MPH in minutes and make it into space. Maybe they should use bird poop instead of tiles to cover the Shuttle.

Sharks teeth, TDF stage 11

stage11.gif

These mountains look like sharks teeth, and that is what it did to the riders today. Even Lance Armstrong said he wasn’t a fan of the Col du Tourmalet.

In the end, it was an American, Floyd Landis of Team Phonak in the lead, with another American Levi Leipheimer finishing 2nd in the stage to finally have a good stage at the tour.

Stupid move of the race?  Thomas Voekler attacking from the peloton to try and get to the leaders, only to hit the wall like a bug against a truck (lorrie) at top speed and fall back and back and back.

So much for the Pyrenees, a flat stage today, then off to the Alps for more manly riding.

The Men and the boys

stage 10.gif

Today is the first stage up the mountains in the Tour de France. In other words, this is the first real day of the race. Sure we’ve had the time trials, prologue and a few sprints, but to contest for the yellow jersey, climbing mountains is the strategy de jour for winning.

Remember back when you were a kid on your bike and think of the biggest hill in your neighborhood. It was the most grueling few seconds you had on two wheels. Now, do that for 6 hours at 100 times the difficulty and you get what 170 of the best bike riders in the world will face. Then do it everyday for a week strait, it is a new definition of pain. This is when you have to reach inside yourself and ask how bad do you want something….like a yellow jersey.

No Lance this year. We’ll see who the new victor over self and mountain will be. Today they clime the Col de Soudet at 1540 meters in height. A minor 1000 meter climb up the Col de Marie Blanque after that should kill off any pretenders.

But it is stage 15 up the legendary L’alpe-D’Huez that will define the men vs. the boys, don’t miss it.

Passion and Legacy

Passion:

It became apparent when we looked for bloggers at IBM that the key attribute that caused success was passion. When someone had passion, they were tenacious and more likely to succeed. It became clear very quickly that this applied to other things in life also.

Ever since I was young, my mother always grew flowers. She won first place all the time at the flower shows with her then passion, hibiscus. She also grew vegetables and pretty much when you say green thumb, you are talking about my mom. So passion is not a flash in the pan, it’s been some 60+ years that she has been at this.

Her latest foray into planthood has been with Day Lillies. She, my sisters and a lot of her friends have been buying day lilies on-line and from nurseries.

Legacy:

Just this past week, one of the local nurseries created a new day lilly, featured above and named it the Faye Simonds. Since you can buy these around the world, it’s as easy to get this in Florida as it is Australia from the highly acclaimed Ladybug Daylilies.

Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush have ships named after them. Most people die with no legacy. My father has an engineering scholarship named after him at the University of Central Florida. Now my mom has a day lilly forever linked to her, the Faye Simonds, legal registration and everything. It is a ruffled orange day lilly 6.5 to 7 inches in diameter and will be in the 2007 collection.

Wonder what my legacy will be, do you?

Holiday Happenings

Nathan’s hot-dog eating championship:

Takeru Kobayashi defends his title for the 6th year in a row by downing a new world record 53 and 3/4 hot-dogs in 12 minutes, narrowly edging out Joey Chestnut (50 dogs) and maintain his status as the champion eater in the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Sadly for the viewers, there were no “Reversals of Fortune”. There are 17,120 calories, 830 grams of Fat and 24,075 mg of sodium, versus a daily recommended intake of 600 in that many dogs.
Tour de France.

Through 3 stages of the tour, there has been 3 different Maillot Jeunes or yellow jerseys….That’s the leader for NASCAR fans. It will be back and forth until stage 7, the time trial. That’s the first separation of the men vs. the boys. Three riders fell and broke collar bones in today’s stage, the scourge of tour riders.
Muslims rioted in Paris again. Riots, work boycotts, whatever.

The Space Shuttle took off successfully.

Today is my mother’s 83rd Birthday.
And the Webster word of the day is of course, Yankee.

The Red White and Blue, July 4th and June 14th

I’m a patriotic guy. I think the USA is a great country and a great country to live in. I love hearing the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events, love the USA, USA chant at the Olympics, I think you get the picture. Most people want to come here when they think of opportunity and to get ahead in life. Heck, they even call it the American dream. There are some who bash us, but that just let’s me know where we stand, no one bad mouths #2.
But to my real point. I would have been patriotic anyway, but this year with the loss of my father, we of course didn’t celebrate my parents wedding anniversary, June 14. It made me realize that it was Flag day.

Tomorrow is July 4th, America’s Independence Day, but also my Mother’s birthday. Patriotism comes naturally, even though I never put these dates together with my strong feelings for my country. It was bred in my family.

So as they say in the Lee Greenwood song, God bless the USA.

Authors note:  I forgot to mention that June 14, 1775 was the birthday of the US Army also.