Tuesday, September 15

iManifest: One advert is not going to do it

I really need to broaden my horizon and starting blogging on other topics again, but the level of buzz around our iManifest initiative makes it an irresistible topic of conversation. The vast majority of the dialogue I've had about iManifest, both on- and off-line, has been positive and new members are joining every week. But two issues have started to come-up with more frequency so I need to set the record straight.

Firstly, I really do understand that a single entry advertisement in a newspaper is not going to change the public perception of the IBM i platform overnight. Others have suggested that we will get more 'bang for our buck' by using our initial advertising budget (€81,000) to place a series of adverts across a range of media channels and publications. I understand the logic behind this suggestion but I am not convinced by the arguments.

In my mind a manifesto of any kind - political, charitable or commercial - needs to arrive on the scene with a loud bang to get noticed. This means that the founding supporters must be credible and vocal on the topic and the launch must be sufficiently symbolic to encourage long-tail coverage. One of the benefits of making a splash is that the bold act itself is reported on throughout the media world, thus generating the kind of authoritative coverage that modest amounts of money just can't buy. I was impressed by the initial results achieved in Japan and the fact that their action (placing a full-page advertisement in a national newspaper) was so bold that it enjoyed global media coverage is how this initiative first came to everyone's attention outside of Japan.

There is also the challenge of reaching out to IT and business decision-makers at the same time. In my experience, strategies to replace an IBM i server with a more modern platform [sic] are often sponsored by ill-informed managers and it's the knowledgeable IT folks that are usually to be found fighting in the platform's corner. There is no single media outlet that perfectly covers our target set of influencers and decision-makers, but I have to believe that publications like the FT, WSJ and Nikkei are as close as you can get. By raising such a relatively large war-chest we will send a clear message to the market that iManifest - and the IBM i platform - has support from entities with the resources and muscle to make good on their promises. I reluctantly point out that I control one of the largest marcoms budgets in the IBM i community, so I do have some practical experience of the most effective tactics. And, at the risk of repeating myself, let's review again what the objectives of our manifesto are:
  1. To revitalise the IBM i market in EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) and increase the customer base
  2. To assure IBM i customers, resellers and ISVs selling IBM i solutions that the 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
How can anyone who makes their living in this market not want to participate in helping to achieve these objectives? Sure, we can just resign ourselves to a fate worse than death or choose to ponder ad nauseum about why IBM is seen to neglect our beloved platform in this way - or we can let our actions speak louder than our words. With an entry-level pledge starting at only €810, isn't worth a go? I am currently the most visible champion of this cause in EMEA, and the chairman pro-tem, but ultimately the decision regarding tactics will be made by the board of iManifest EMEA. The board will be elected by the 50 founding members as-and-when we reach that milestone. So if you disagree with my proposed first step then join the group, get elected to the board and then propose and rally support for an alternative outcome!

Speaking of IBM, the second issue that crops up is that [apparently] some vendors are waiting in the wings until IBM themselves pass some ruling regarding the legitimacy of this and the other iManifest initiatives. I think that waiting for IBM to act rather defeats the purpose of trying to take matters into our own hands but I do acknowledge people's genuine concerns. No IBM Business Partner (particularly one with Premier status like LANSA) wants to find that iManifest is the third rail of IBM politics, in so much as if you touch it then you die! I cannot go into details today, but I have taken this issue on-board and can assure you that I am talking to IBM and some Tier 1 distributors and other global ISVs to generate a more visible display of support that will reassure the faint-hearted. This is my next step for progressing iManifest in EMEA and I hope to achieve this goal by October. I am encouraged by the fact that a formal interface already exists between IBM Japan and the original iManifest team.

NOTE: In support of my argument that substantial public statements can be made by the kind of full-page newspaper advert that I am proposing, I direct you to this recent example placed by Oracle to assuage the Sun community: "Oracle has much to say to Sun Microsystems customers in a front-page advertisement it placed in Thursday's European edition of The Wall Street Journal."