Doing a Joint Announcement With The Competition, How to Cooperate

Recently, I’ve done joint announcements with Oracle, SAP, HP, Tibco, Software AG and HP. As you can imagine, I’ve had varying relationships with each and I’m happy to report that the state of the A/R industry is good and that we can work together.

When I was in PR, here is the link to the cat fight supreme with territorialism and turf wars. Most of the announcements I did with these companies when in Analyst Relations didn’t have that element. For the most part, the announcements were about standards, not products. So that went a long way towards working together. Still, if you include IBM, the companies I’ve named here aren’t known for being best buddies.

As an aside, I can say that the executives (who can be the source of most problems) all worked towards the cause of the best briefing possible.  They were helpful in this instance.  Many times, they are the fly in the ointment.

Some things are given, like in a certain area (we just did SOA) the analysts know the exec’s by company and the exec’s know each other so I’m happy to report they acted like grown ups.

TURF WARS

With the typical name calling (from the CEO’s) and because of the belief in your own products, the first issue to overcome is that the announcement is usually about a jointly created product or standard, not us vs. them.  That rule has to be set down first and if you don’t overcome that, you have no chance at building trust, the basis for working together.

DIVIDE THE DUTIES

One company can’t dominate the duties or it is not a joint announcement.   This also forces the companies to work together to approve what the others have created as their part of the announcement.   There are analyst lists, invitations, charts, follow-up issues and any number of duties that need to be attended to and dived up.  Once that is done, you must rely on each other and the level of trust inherently rises.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT

It’s important that the analyst see this as equal among the companies.  One company presenting more than another is a dead give away.  You can’t help Q and A as the analysts will direct the question directly to a company.

LESSONS LEARNED

You either put your differences aside and work together, or you’ll never get anything done.  It’s tough to do when your day job is to hammer the company that you are working with other than on the joint effort.  These are the days of co-opetition though.  You learn to get along or you’ll never make it to announcement day.

More on the Meet the Experts analyst relations tactics

ananlyst partner01.JPGananlyst partner02.JPG

I received a comment from ARonaut (see below) regarding whether our new tactic of putting analysts with our partners without us being in the room to monitor what was said. Since not everyone read comments on blogs, I decided to blog it instead.

Here is a list of comments from both the partners and analysts:

“excellent opportunity to speak with analysts” & “best part was partner one on ones”

“was excellent on all counts, I like the transparency – Very important!”

“this was probably one of the most high value initiatives of our IBM relationship so far”

“more time in each session”

“great one on one format; good opportunity for candid conversations”

I knew going in that there would be sticky subjects, which there were as there always is with analysts… like how big IBM is and how easy/hard it is to work with us on some things, what is the best model for SaaS, and others. That just made it real for everyone. We wouldn’t have been sincere if everyone was a shill for us and there weren’t any warts. So it worked because we talked real life experiences.

So net-net, it is a good model and we will use it again as it’s a forum for the open exchange of ideas and issues.

Different Analsyt Relations Tactics – what can go right and wrong

I’m live blogging from an analyst event in Waltham which includes partners. We are using a different tactic which allows the analysts to have 1:1’s with the partners behind closed doors, without us being there. Our premise is, that if our programs are good enough, we should be able to leave them alone and the programs and partners will stand up for what they are. This is working.

What is not working is 2 hours before the end of the day before the event (yesterday) 2 analysts couldn’t make it for real reasons, a funeral and some legal issues that needed addressing. This left moi holding the bag trying to scramble. As luck would have it, we were able to ask some local analysts to fill in at the last minute (thanks Anne Thomas Manes) and it went off without a hitch.

I’ve never had this happen before. Sure one here or there can’t make it or just doesn’t show, but you usually know well in advance. Since we solved it, I’ll point to my manager who not only helped out (thanks Amy Loomis) and my co-worker Amanda Kingsbury. Amy told me anyone can do good when things are going good. It’s how you perform when the chips are down that makes you worth your salt.

IBM is winning a lot of technology comparisons lately

I just read today in the Austin American Statesman that IBM has the fastest 3 computers in the world, and 243 of the top 500 fastest. Also stated was that we can do more when we need to.
I also read that Rational Application Developer tool set has achieved top rankings for the second year in a row, according to a market research study as reported by eWeek.

Further, IBM’s partnering programs were rated number one by IDC .

I sense a trend here, it looks like our technology and our programs are working well. I know that it has been IBM’s mantra to serve the customer, and much of that is relationship as well as good technology. I think we’re on the right track.

Sametime is not sometime, rather all the time

Our WPLC (Lotus) announced Sametime 7.5 this week. I’ve been using it now for a while as a beta product. I use any number of instant messaging products depending on who it is and what they use. We at IBM use Sametime and up until now, instant messaging was IM to me, just another package to get work done. This announcement has the ability to change the direction of what IM is and how software can work together.
The fact that it is integrated into Microsoft applications, blackberry, Motorola Q and any Eclipse oriented environment changes things now. It just closed the world a bit for me. I’ve always wanted a one size fits all device and software that actually talked to each other. I view this as now headed in the right direction. We’ve even announced upcoming support for OSX Mac users. Don’t get me wrong that any one product should be a panacea, because I firmly believe that competition drives up quality and drives down price, but the point is to have things work together seamlessly.
Not trying to be a commercial here, but the audio and Video support brings in a whole new list of things to do on a device or through an IBM platform. Not that I think email is going away, but we are a society who wants things faster and better and Sametime 7.5 is a step in that staircase.

Note: Earlier this year, IBM announced that Sametime is connected to AOL, Yahoo and Google…I think most have heard of these companies.

Other Note: Good Technology also introduced a service for Domino users to remotely check email on any number of devices. Partners supporting your products and platforms are important factors for success (note to the micro channel marketing department there).
So more things appear to be working together, a good thing and maybe proof that our strategy for open standards is working. I find it interesting that IBM is reaching out into the Microsoft space to work with their software. I don’t think it’s as much an olive branch as it is a proof of what we are trying to do to get software to work together. It will be interesting to watch whether Microsoft closes the kimono more or opens up to us.

I can’t believe I’m the only one out here that wants to have things work together without getting a computer science degree first.

The executives call this Sam Time as Palmisano uses it to constantly stay on the ass of his direct reports.  The best feature is DND which keeps people from bothering you and gives the appearance that you are there or in a meeting.  Unfortunately, it is now used as a babysitter to see if you are working or not.  Instead of a tool, you have to have it on so management can monitor you like a child, rather than trusting you to do your job.

Follow the Money, where are the lands to Farm?

We’re in the fight for Partners, middleware, marketshare and mindshare.

There are many things in play. First of all, many of the middleware vendors (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM) are well established, especially in the traditional geography’s like the US and EMEA. The fight for standards is down to .Net vs Open (or NetWeaver I guess), I think each will have plenty of share, plus or minus some points along the way. The ISV community will have to make a decision on who to partner with or develop for, another decision being made.

So there is plenty of ties here and no clear winner so far, lots of the companies here are neck and neck in the established playing field, so who will take control? The caveat here is the established playing field. The opportunity is in the unplowed farmland which is the emerging markets.

Here is where I’m referring to. The BRIC countries are Brazil, Russia, India and China. Most have no real allegiance to any of the stated companies above, although there is considerable upside for open standards. There are many Asia Pacific and Eastern European countries who also tend to go to open, which doesn’t bode well for .Net or NetWeaver as they are more or less proprietary, Microsoft has a perception problem with monopolistic tendencies, Oracle won’t have a full fusion integration offering until 2007 and then there is IBM.

Sure my view is contaminated as I’m taking the IBM viewpoint, but I’m also a student of history and I’m for competition. I doubt that there will be a dominant player like there is in the operating system space, but I do know that the opportunity is in the masses or the Long Tail of the market. That is the many small players that make up the majority of the marketplace, especially in the emerging markets
Now that I have set the playing field, here is what we are going to do to in this space. IBM is pushing hard to localize the partner programs by region, by country. We’ve checked with the country and area managers to see who is their target ISV’s. We also have a resource that the competition doesn’t have, 40,000 sales reps to help the partners close sales.

So we will fight the good fight for the marketshare points in the traditional space.  The ISV’s and customers will vote with their money and we’ll see who is the winner. The big win for us is the rest of the world, the emerging markets. We don’t see the other companies much there and we’re heads down on that space.

So I doubt that Ballmer or Ellison or Schwartz read my blog, but if they did, they’d know where we are gaining ground and where we are going to do our damage. Even if they did read this, do I think they’d listen? I’ll let you know if the recruiters call soon. I’ll bet that we continue to make progress and they’ll be playing catch up.

Fork in the Road for partners? Yes for some, Crocodile for others.

Oracle has bought Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and will likely buy others. Microsoft has bought Great Plains and Navision, today they announced a business intelligence solution going up against Cognos. All but Great Plains were staunch IBM partners. SAP has Netweaver applications. For the major middleware companies mentioned in the same sentence with IBM, those are facts.

The easy bandwagon is to jump out there and say everyone should buy a company and get into the application marketplace. Just ask the press.

Here is the speculation section. What will the outcome be with the applications marketplace? All the above mentioned major players have applications in the common business arena. IBM on the other hand is going to this market with partner applications as the solution. These are two pretty diverse paths when considering the partner aspect of channel conflict. Thus, the fork in the road

I am a staunch believer in capitalism, that it promotes competition forcing better solutions and lower prices, usually resulting in an overall better customer solution. How will this concept be applied to the aforementioned channel conflict and fork in the road?

The answer is that history will tell the ultimate story, but as with all things, it will not be a zero sum game for any of the companies mentioned. Partners will be motivated by who helps them the most. Sort of the capitalism statement. It will likely parody the political situation. The staunch believers (or those too far financially invested in a solution) will likely stay there. Those deciding on a solution, or moving to open source or have ODF issues or those pissed off at channel conflict or competition from their existing middleware supplier are at the fork. So the fight is not for the right or left, but for the middle….those at the fork.

Yogi Berra said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”

IBM is making a stand on supporting the partners and going to market with them as the application solution. There are co-marketing programs and 30,000 IBM sales reps helping them make sales.

Microsoft, Oracle and SAP have said where they are going to compete with partners, and hope they can drag enough other business along that are willing to go in their middleware space. Some partners will go that way, hoping that they don’t or won’t have to compete.

As a famous president once said: “To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will.” Ronald Reagan.

When you’re hot, you’re hot

What’s the saying, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen? We’ll not us.

Right now, some of the hottest industry issues are falling into our lap. In no order, SOA has a lot going on, Maturing workforce issues and the ISV ecosystem heat up the fire. I know Lotus 7.0 is out there, but I’m hoping an upcoming interview with Ed Brill is going to cover that. Tivoli is active too, so I was harassing the a/r manager to be an interview so he can tell you what’s up. Don?

The SOA crowd has been full steam ahead lately (wish it was still talk like a pirate day , could use some lingo here). Nancy Riley’s team has been pumping out the work like banshee’s. This subject if executed properly by the industry can have a life of its own, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I know this as I discovered in tangential conversations with analysts, I’ve heard that many things can be a service like compliance and CRM, and that wrapping services around packaged applications is an issue.

Next is the Maturing Workforce dilemma. If you recall, the last presidential campaign told us that a lot of boomers are coming up on retirement. These are the guys and gals that brought us through the age of hardware/software/bandwidth/innovation/devices and you name it we can’t do without today. That’s a lot of skills and experience which are maturing. IBM has its’ act together and has a plan. All you have to do is read about this and you’ll see that issues dealing with transition to accessibility are covered. I’ve heard from no less than Amy Wohl that we have a story here.

Ah, and my burner, the ISV ecosystem. For some reason, recent acquisitions seem to have skewed the thought that if you don’t buy an applications company, you can’t play in the game. Guess what, the numbers aren’t supporting that story. I’ll let the statisticians tell you how much share CRM and ERP have in the application ecosystem, but for sake of this argument, I’m going with 15-20%. That leaves 80% or more to the rest of the applications out there.

So instead of buying a company just to keep up with the jones’, we’re sticking with our partners instead of competing with them. When it comes time to show up at the customer, we’re not going to be bringing our own application, we’re bringing the ISV Partner. We’re giving them programs and advertising buckaroos to help them.

Oh, and did I mention that we have the IBM sales force helping ISV’s?

So things are hot, and we’re in the middle of it, right where we should be.

A Long Day, and my Exhaust

Actually, it’s been 2 long days. I’m on a task that’s critical to our partner program and strategy. Why we’re doing what we’re doing and not out buying companies is making more sense to me every time we speak to analysts. Look for more on this topic in a couple of days. I’m hoping the analysts out blog me on this.

Between that and trying to fix the template on my blog site, it’s been a long couple of days. Although I didn’t realize it, my blogs are longer than I imagined, so I picked a different template that will allow for more text to be read on one screen. While doing this, i messed up all my RSS feeds and links and it took a day to fix. The good news is Ed Brill found it for me and I fixed it. The real good news is that he agreed to an interview, so I can’t wait to get that out as it seems the interviews are well received.

Now for the lighter side. My wife borrowed my truck to help a friend move. I recently had to replace the exhaust and being the Redneck that I am, I bought the loudest one I could find. The mechanic told me, “you won’t be sneaking up on anyone now”. Anyway, my wife’s friend completes the story and makes my day when my wife started up the truck to leave. Her friend says, you’re exhaust is really loud, maybe it’s broken. Life was good at that moment for me.

I know the New Yorkers deduct IQ points from southerners for stuff like this, but this goes back to an earlier post on why it’s good to be a guy. We get to play with toys all our life.

The Maturing of the Partner Program

Back in 1999 when IBM decided to take on the partner programs, it primarily focused on our Strategic Alliances, the big companies. This was a good move as it got the program off the ground and generated revenue. Most Strategic Alliances have a services practice around them. Many times, IBM has a bigger service practice than the company that is our partner.

Nowhere in that paragraph was anything but Enterprise scale companies for the most part. Yes, there are many companies that have SMB applications, but by in large, it was Enterprise focused. From nowhere to a very successful partner program in a very short time.

At the same time, the developer program started, but it quietly perked along as most of the press in this area came from Redmond.

A shift in strategy started driving this down to smaller companies and at least into the M of SMB to start. developerWorks expanded into the universities and leveraged IBM research through alphaWorks. Again, very quietly.  Part of moving quietly is to not let IBM headquarters know what you are doing or nothing will ever get done.  We’re successful and building a good program.  The best way to get results at IBM is to not let them know what you are doing until afterwards, then share the results and the glory.

The big shift in strategy came with the PartnerWorld for Industry Networks a couple of years ago. Prior to this, we were sailing along with generally accepted partnering practices, both internal and external. The purchase of Price Waterhouse Coopers consulting practice made this all possible now (BCS). With this, IBM realized that customers buying habits are industry focused and there are a lot of ISV’s that have a specialty, just waiting for an industry program to come along.

Not that our partner programs weren’t a leader, it was everyone playing by the same rules. It was like Captain Kirk who changed the rules in the Kobayashi Maru to win or later to cheat death, IBM now went to market with partners in a significantly different way than the competition.

If being copied is the sincerest form of flattery, we’re being flattered. I’ve noticed many of our competitors partner programs now have an industry flavor, albeit window(s) dressing in some cases.

Back to SMB, the M and the S are now in play for us. No one is going to claim that we dominate the S space, but we’re there and growing.

Our developer program is now kicking into high gear. The key is skills and skills development. We are cultivating the open standards/systems skill sets in the colleges and universities around the world. Companies are implementing LAMP standard applications/software and need folks that can make it happen. We’re helping to cultivate this. developerWorks now cross-pollinates with the Rational tools for developers, another arrow in the quiver. Count Glucode as another arrow.

Some say that a change in big companies is like turning an aircraft carrier, a big process. But after the turn, your face into the wind and ready to launch your aircraft for attack or defense.

Live long and prosper.

Blogging at IBM, a snowball rolling down hill

This time last year, we put up the developerWorks blog as the first external IBM blog site. It was a small snowball barely dropped from the top of Mount IBM.  It turns out be an end around being able to blog at IBM who now want to establish a company wide policy that will smother and restrict effective blogging communications.  Fortunately, IBM Corporate Comm’s is clueless and so behind the times and we were able to put this site up under their noses without much effort.  Since we did it without asking, it now can’t be taken down as too many people look to this site for blogs.  Many people are trying to get on to it so for now, we control the outbound blog content unlike comm’s department in Armonk which moves at the speed of smell.

Armonk communications is a bubble that can’t see past New York, led by a hot head who ran Ed Koch’s liberal political campaign.  Their lack of vision is the bane of much of the sterile communications that you read about when IBM is discussed.  While they see it as a well oiled machine, the rest of the comm’s team who actually does all the work, know that they are a ball and chain that has to be worked around to get anything done.  The developerWorks blog site is a prime example of how to work around people such as those in Armonk.

It’s funny, almost like the tail wagging the dog, as we are doing what we want, whenever we want, while the rest of every word written from IBM goes under the microscope at the home office, effectively removing any creativity or actual information that might be helpful.  If you don’t believe it, read a press release.  It is quite enjoyable to usurp the Stalin like control that they try to impose on everyone else, and act like a regular company who understands how to deal with the media.

I decided to list my blog there as I was the first official blogger for IBM analyst relations and have set many of the policies up until now, including starting and running blogging for IBM A/R.  When the corporate communications machine finds a way to destroy the effectiveness through obsessive guidelines overseen by people who have never written or likely read a blog, any control I currently have will diminish.  They are so paranoid from the monopoly trial that they manage to put effective PR into the stone ages. Fortunately, they are so obsessed with the media right now, the most effective communications program is on the analyst side as they don’t understand what it is.  Anytime they try to interfere, they treat A/R like pr and look silly.

At that point, my blog may or may not be on the corporate site depending on the rules and guidelines. Since I don’t care what they say (and best of all am not in NY, which the powers that be can’t see beyond) and have learned to be more creative about communicating through social media than they have, I’ll make that decision as needed on my terms.  I’ll likely then be on new social media platforms that are industry wide so it won’t be tough to stay ahead of them while keeping current with the rest of the world.  Since they move so slowly for fear of actually stepping out into the real world, I won’t have to worry about it for a while.

With prodding from the outside (thanks to the analyst community) and many unconnected but interesting bloggers, we got the fever. Now there is the internal blog with thousands of bloggers going at it (another IBM communication killer since the audience is IBM’ers), a mainframe blog, gamers and worst of all attention on this from the top.

What I see is momentum for blogging that started as grass-roots inertia (bottom up, not the usual top down) which I believe is best (ask RIM or Palm). Sure, we were a bit later than some companies, but it won’t be that long for us to catch up. Fortunately, I started my blog and put up the developerWorks site like we did and that is how it will be done.  All we need is a few rock stars to start writing.

Now the blog plan is prominent in the outreach plans for new products and announcements.  Normal companies do this and since I came from the outside where I honed my skills staying ahead of companies like IBM, it is important to connect on terms with the audience that are mutually agreeable and most effective.  I knew that I’d already won and would get the message of the company I represented if there were IBM communicaitons people in the room.  Sure, they were the 800 lb. gorrilla in the room, but as soon as I got time with the media or analysts, they were far more likely to work with me as A) I wasnt’ trying to write their story and B) I actually was working in the 20th or 21st century.  I’ll bet those same comm’s folks were hell with tabulation machines and IBM 360’s.

So it’s more like cells dividing, people from all over the world in IBM are jumping on this as they should. Many of the execs who are the busiest people in the world are blogging Buell Duncan and IWB.

I’ve watched trends for a while at IBM, lots of hype at first, then some catch on or fizzle out, but this one has legs…the snowball is now big, and for now the only blog site at IBM until the wonks in IBM corporate communications figure out how to sterilize this also.  The fact that I can write this clearly shows that they have no clue about social media at this point, nor do they move faster than cold honey.

If you’re reading this, you likely had something to do with IBM blogging brought to you by developerWorks. Thanks.  We offer more information on a timely basis that is more meaningful than you’d ever find from the wonks in Armonk.

VC's and Mentoring

IBM announced the VC advisory council and mentoring programs today. It was a good announcement and it got plenty of attention. A new term for me came out, BRIC which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China.

We briefed a number of the analysts, so here are some of the comments.

There was a theme of emerging markets, some as a delivery model, some for cost reduction. The partner network is key in these countries as they are huge opportunities and no one company can cover it. Good thing IBM has a solid partnering program

Open is a big word. Both standards and software. Gluecode and PHP are big for IBM, but RUBY is something that VC’s are looking at.

The council gives quick connection for the VC’s to our executives. Cutting through the maze is a major task at any big company.

A big software company in the northwest is scaring their VC’s with uncertainty and fear of competing with them.

Here’s a link to the lead exec for this, who’s always a good read when checking out IBM and partnerning…

Buell Duncan

developerWorks – IBM’s Resource for Developers

Since someone has to develop software, and millions do, here’s a place from IBM that offers resources to developers ranging from free code to tutorials and training.

developerWorks Link

I’ve also linked to the blog on my sidebar so you can read what IBMers are saying about the different subjects. Some have a particular area, other blogs have multiple contributors.

One of the gems of the site is the alphaWorks site. aW is the window to IBM Research for Software. It’s just like it sounds, software in the alpha stage that you can check out…pretty cool.

What is best about this, is that we set up the first blog site at IBM, right under the nose of the wonks at IBM corporate communications.  They have the mindset of the former Soviet Union, afraid to decentralize any power for fear that some non-sterile message might get out.  Since they have no clue about blogging and social media at the time of this post, we stealthily put up our site, gathered a group of people who were not afraid of stepping out of the brown shirt mentality of the communications guidelines to be successful and before it could be netted by the shrimp trawler that is Armonk PR, we had the only platform where people could blog.

The Shrimp netters shut down all other rogue blogging sites, but dW was so far advanced and accepted as the place to go to for actual information (not the corporate speak you get from a sanitizing department that is Armonk communications). So for over a year, we have enjoyed being the platform for social media.  It is enjoyable to be a part of leading this, as well as the person who was tasked to start-up and lead blogging and social media for IBM A/R.