Back to the future with IBM?

July 26, 2010

From system370-168 to zEnterprise

An IBM 370-168 mainframe, state of the art in the early 80's

Should we be calling IBM Big Green?

So here we are back to 40 years ago when IBM’s revenue mainly came from renting computer power to customers who connected their thousands of 5250 or 3270 terminals to mainframes using unbelievably slow modems that were each the size of a small desktop computer.

At the time, I was a Computer Science student and spent some time as an intern at IBM France. I participated in installing what was then the largest mainframe in France: an IBM 370/168 (it later became the zSeries) that had a whopping 512 Megabytes of RAM (yes kids…512Mb…stop laughing please…) and stacks of 3330 removable hard disks that could each store 200Mb of data on 8 platters (stop LOL).

Guess what: IBM has just announced they are reviving their System z strategy with the zEnterprise 196.And nobody is laughing this time.

What has changed?: it has 3 Terabytes of RAM,up to 96 processors, reams of blades and can manage loads of P and X servers. IBM says 30% of all servers are running Linux, and that the zEnterprise should soon support Windows clients. 40 years ago, the internal bus of an average computer probably ran slower than today’s high speed ADSL, SDSL etc…(why have you stopped laughing?)

Although total cost of acquisition (TCA) will be higher then for servers, TCO is lower within 3 years. Not to speak of the green side of things, these machines are much more energy efficient than a pile of servers.

If you still think Cloud Computing is a pie in the sky, think again because IBM certainly want to be at the forefront of the next paradigm shift.

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Is the I.T. channel suffering from the E.T. syndrome?

November 29, 2007

human-touch.jpg For many years (ever since I saw the film E.T.) I have believed that distance makes people more aware of what is going on back “home”.

As a Reseller (some say Partner), when you are exposed to the daily difficulties and dangers of life in the “Field”, trying to sell the right solution to your customer, you quickly become painfully aware of what your favorite Vendors should be doing to make you want to sell more of their products.

The frustrating part is that although you have often spent time and energy explaining these simple things to the Vendor’s Channel management team, you are either faced with empathy (and therefore frustration because your contacts cannot help you due to the bureaucratic nature of today’s global channel programmes) or a clear lack of understanding of what seems so simple to you.

As Channel Consultants, we then get hired to tell our Clients what they have already been told by their Partners:

  • Channel Partners don’t all want Leads if they’re not qualified – but some do
  • They don’t all want rebates (as opposed to upfront discount) but some do
  • They don’t all want the Vendor to get involved with their customers – but some do
  • They don’t all want to be able to service the Vendor’s products – but some do
  • They don’t all want online sales training that takes their sales people off the road for 15 hours per month – but some do
  • …etc…
  • …etc…

Do you get the picture? Abraham Maslow, a famous motivational theorist once commented: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.” We’ve all heard that one before…

So where did I get this E.T. thing from? Very simple: Vendor’s “Partners” often feel like E.T.: they feel they have been abandoned out in the field, they have been trying to phone home but just can’t get through to someone who will hear them out.

These days, any FMCG Marketing company is capable of sending a personalized direct mail piece to each one of 25,000 households in a database but our Channel Marketing organizations still seem to be trying to cram square channel pegs into round channel program holes, relentlessly applying Henry Ford’s famous “…you can have the Ford T in any color as long as its black…”

Instead of using the phenomenal power and flexibility provided by the hardware and software designed by our own industry, we are regressing, taking people out of the field to reduce costs, thus eliminating the only flexible stage of our relationship with our Channel Partners.

So is everybody doing it wrong? Thankfully not, but when you start probing your partners about who does it right, the same names always come up. And what they are doing is pretty basic: the empower the people who listen to what the Channel wants and they design sufficiently flexible programs and processes to delight more Channel Partners who can pick and choose what they like.

Easy!


Why is it easier for Dell to run Influencer Marketing activities?

June 24, 2007

In an indirect channel model, Influencer Marketing is hard work. The main problem for Vendors selling through an indirect channel is that they are not actually in any form of business contact with the Influencer. It could be a Consultancy or a System Integrator, but they are not reselling the Vendor’s products, they are not either necessarily in a business relationship with the Reseller or the Distributor.

So how do you reward an influencer for convincing their client to buy a particular Brand? The only way is to write him a cheque and that is where things get difficult. What audit trail do you have? The Influencer says he convinced the customer to buy your stuff, the Reseller invoiced and installed it, the Distributor bought it from the Vendor and shipped it to the Reseller. You now need to convince your Finance department to write a cheque…not easy.

In a direct sales model, companies like Dell actually invoice the End User that was “influenced”. They therefore have direct visibility of the whole business process and can therefore pay a commission to the Influencer who reported the opportunity.

In the Pharmaceutical industry, the influencer is the Doctor (GP) who prescribes one medecine rather than another. And in certain countries, the Pharmaceutical companies monitor the sales of their branded molecules via the pharmacies situated in the vicinity of a medical practice. This gives them a view of which GP is doing a good job at promoting and prescribing their products. They might then invite the most influencial GPs on a study tour of -say- the Seychelles.

In the IT business, Vendors go to a lot of trouble to influence the Influencers. Its tough, but if you crack it, it really does pay off.


Marketing ROI: Beanz Meanz Marketing?

June 15, 2007

This morning, while working on a Best Practice research I am doing for a major ICT company, I interviewed a Country Marketing Manager who told me the EMEA organization were ROI control freaks.

They approve and hand out marketing budgets at the beginning of the year and then throughout the year, they demand that the local managers complete ultra detailed plans and questionnaire in order to approve every action they are trying to implement with their partners.

Well guess what: when we speak top the channel partners of that Vendor, they tell us they can’t understand why the competition’s channel managers seem to have the authority to discuss, design and authorize a joint marketing activity while this Vendor’s people sometimes take months to get the approval.

In the late 19th century, John Wanamaker, the successful Philadelphia retail entrepreneur famously said “I know that half of my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half“. What he meant was that you have to live with that lack of real control. I you try and get scientific…guess what…you’ll kill the half that was actually working.

Marketing is about being bold and confident and somewhat analytic. Finance have to trust our ability to design programs, tools and messages that are going to grow market share, mind share and awareness. ROI is making a lot of money for the companies that say they can help calculate and control it…just google “Marketing ROI” and see for yourself.