Friday, May 29

We should import more from Japan

Before the nationalists among you cry out in protest, I should explain that I am not advocating a widening of our trade gap. Instead, a colleague in our Asia Pacific subsidiary has just told me about an uprising by the IBM partner community in Japan. It sounds like another innovation from the East that could well be heading West.
A group of over 70 IBM partners and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) has joined forces in Japan - the world’s second largest IT market - to launch the IBM i Manifest initiative. The coalition has three main objectives:
  1. To revitalize the IBM i market in Japan and increase the customer base
  2. To assure IBM i customers, resellers and ISVs selling IBM i solutions that IBM i will not only survive but continue to prosper
  3. To inform the wider IT community of the unique value proposition of the IBM i server
The partner community has taken this unusual step in response to a change in focus of IBM’s corporate marketing and server positioning. Below the level of their global campaigns (like Smarter Planet) IBM now promotes its software and services offerings before its hardware portfolio. IBM’s Systems and Technology Group offers a range of server platforms, powered by operating systems which in many cases are also promoted by other vendors and communities - Linux, Unix (AIX) and Windows. In contrast IBM i and z/OS are owned by IBM and so require different marketing, sales execution and ecosystem development strategies. IBM needs to be more proactive in areas like market education, establishing a core value proposition and selling on value. But the harsh reality is that IBM has neglected its responsibilities and now the partner community is left to take up the slack. The question is: can the partner community make a better fist of it all? Well, some of the steps already taken by the iManifest membership include:

Recruiting 71 foundation members for the launch
Preparation of a manifesto known as the 'IBM i Manifest', or iManifest for short, to articulate passion and support for IBM i and a promise to support IBM i customers reliably into the future
Placement of a full-page advertisement in Japan’s most influential daily newspaper, the Nikkei (equivalent to the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times)
Provision of web access to the iManifest Declaration on Japan’s iForum community web site
Formation of the iManifest Advisory Board, to coordinate 7 task forces focusing respectively on Technology Advantage, Leveraging the Media, Collaboration with IBM, Marketing of IBM i, Winback Strategy Formulation, New member recruitment and Immediate Actions

What struck me most was how quickly they raised the circa. USD 100,000 required to pay for that full page advert in the Nikkei newspaper. I have seen many such coalitions come and go over the years, but I've never seen one make such a splash and so readily put its money where its mouth is.The advertisement was a success. Immediately the committee started fielding numerous phone calls and receiving emails from IBM i users, IBM employees and business partners to congratulate them on the venture. Competitors sat-up and took notice. Web access to the iManifest page on the iForum web site spiked at 24,000 hits as against the usual 1,000 or so hits per week.The close cooperation demonstrated thus far between the members of the iManifest initiative in Japan is an impressive achievement. While IT vendors often give lip-service to “co-opetition”, defined as simultaneous co-operation and competition amongst vendors, the reality of delivering genuine benefits to the market by co-opetition is much harder to achieve.

S. Kakizawa, President of Sanwa Comtec and one of five directors on the iManifest Advisory Board, puts the question to his colleagues very simply by adapting a well-known historical saying: "And so, my fellow IBM i partner community members: ask not what IBM can do for you, ask instead what you can do for your IBM i community."

Take a look at the iManifest Declaration (originally written in Japanese and now available in English) to see the passion and the determination behind this new initiative. Those of us outside Japan should follow the iManifest initiative’s progress with interest, and see what lessons can be learned for our own markets.

If anyone wants to kick-start such an initiative in EMEA then let me know and I'll gladly help to construct the board and hereby pledge a contribution to a similar full-page advert in the Financial Times.

7 comments: said...

It is good to see that other people regard the IBM i (AS/400) as a machine before and ahead of its time. A business focused machine not preoccupied with the technology but offering support for business activity. And besides that it manages the technology changes. I hope that IBM is encouraged by the action from Japan and joins the user community in promoting the IBM i.

Phillip said...

This is great to see IBM's ISV stepping up to promote the IBM i platform. To help those ISVs in Japan and all over the world continue to develop on i, IBM offers the Virtual Loaner Program ( The VLP provides ISVs with free access to IBM i systems for development. Simply go to the VLP site, select the HW/OS/CPU/Mem specs and the system is automatically provisioned within 2 hours!

Eli Spitz said...

As VP Business Development at, I would like to express Raz-Lee Security's enthusiasm with this initiative; we will be looking to lead or take part in similar initiatives in countries where our security software is currently being marketed.

Indeed, this article and the message it converys gives us all additional leverage in our attempts to promote IBM ‘i’ in worldwide markets.

We would like to see many more colleagues in the IBM ‘i’ Business Partner and Vendor community around the world share in this joint mission to convey IBM i's excellence and superiority.

Tom said...

It’s definitely a great initiative. In Italy the number of installed AS/400 is close to 19.000, still a huge market opportunity for small and medium ISVs considering that in our economy, based mainly on small companies, usually 1 system equal 1 company.
IMHO local ISVs or SIs could sponsor, with a small amount of money, a set of communication initiatives to change the mistaken perception of a “legacy” system in addition to a more complex program to modernize the existing RPG applications. It’s not an impossible mission, there are lots of tools as well as third parties solutions but the gap among who provides these technologies, IBM first, and the AS/400 developers, that in many cases yet write programs with a monolithic approach, has to be filled somehow. This is the hard part of the game. What the customer sees is not the powerful number crunching capabilities of the IBM Power Systems or the reliability of the IBM i OS. It’s the solution hosted on top.
ISVs should modernize the GUI, open to system to SOA integration by publishing business logic components as web services and finally bundle their core products with satellite applications that add those features that are a must in nowadays IT scenarios.

Martin Fincham said...

The ball is rolling people!

It was great to see some other popular bloggers pick up on this story, add their twist and then fuel the debate. See:

Maxed Out -

and iDevelop -

I have also been approached by a few other vendors who have expressed interest in helping me to lead the charge in EMEA. A few IBM'ers have pinged me some questions as well ;-)

This initiative is obviously more than a flash-in-the-pan so I will post soon about what we plan to do next...

Help400 said...

As the "IBM i Manifest" is an example to follow, we have devoted 2 pages in the July issue of the ServerNEWS magazine to widespread among the AS/400 Spanish-speaking community. We've added an entry into our blog Help400 with a summary of it. If you have business interests in the AS/400 market and want to cooperate in our project of “i-vangelism”, let us a comment and an e-mail address and we will contact.

Help400 is the publisher of ServerNEWS magazine, the only Spanish magazine focused on IBM Power Systems (System i - AS/400) business and technology. ServerNEWS brings vital information to 20.000 spanish professionals (Spain and Latinoamerica) and help them to make strategic business decisions, solve programming problems, improve performance and security, and assess hardware and software products.

Martin Fincham said...

Call for Participation: iManifest EMEA

Enough words, time for action?