Friday, March 11, 2016

Buy... or Die Trying - An IBM Connections Story

You simply have to get IBM connections cloud. It's not only the "best of its breed" but it also has some very impressive licensing structures. It's not a choice of whether or not, simply a choice of when.

I'll elaborate on those words in another post because I desperately want to get back to telling the positive stories about IBM but for now, the message is simply “I am convinced”.

Let's buy this baby!
A few posts ago, I went through the Google Apps for Work setup. Google have a pretty impressive cloud product too… In fact, I'd say that if you're running a very small business - or if you're looking for a system for an individual, then Google is your system.

I was particularly impressed with Google's "New Company Setup" process which took half an hour. Of course if I wasn't documenting every step, it would have been 10 minutes.

I wanted to prove that IBM could compete at that level, that you can set up connections cloud without needing a business partner. I tried. I really did…  but now I have to admit defeat....

The IBM Connections.Cloud product is simply brilliant and the licensing is brilliant too but the registration and setup is still very much done according to IBM’s old standards. Right now I'm committed but waiting for things to find their way out of the trail of paper forms.

Choose Your Site 
I started trying to explain the site part of this problem but the explanations became so convoluted that they grew into a post of their own (See here for details).

The online form for connections cloud has some pretty major holes in it to say the least. For a start, there's no explanation of the two data centers and no way to select one over the other.

I contacted IBM and was told to place the order and then get the receipt number and send an email to the connections cloud team stating my preference.

Someone without a direct IBM contact would have come unstuck at that point. 

The other thing about this bizarre scenario is that you have to hope that they open the email and act on it before creating the connections environment.

What we, Wanted.... did .... and Got
In my case, my company (A) was setting up a smaller company (B) to do specific work with a high likelihood of the new company (B) eventually splitting off to operate entirely without the parent company. As such, company (B) wasn't a real company yet... but there was no sense in creating it as part of company (A) given that it would probably split.

I put the new company name on the form and used an email address from our current domain being careful to use one that wasn't already in connections - at least I didn't think I had used it in connections before,  though I knew that it had been used on passport advantage.

I put the new system on the company card and then emailed the team as instructed and explained the situation in the email.

When nothing happened we followed up with IBM (because they didn't contact us).  It turns out that they completely ignored the company name at the top of the form because I used an email address which was known to the passport advantage system.  Instead of a new environment, we got one extra licence added to our existing account.

On the second attempt, we used a business partner. After a few initial problems, IBM initially refused to create a new company because our “fledgling” company didn't have an ABN (Australian Business Number), our business partner filled the forms in and liaised with IBM. This resulted in a new company being set up under the right name… but on the wrong server.

Being Upfront 
One of the problems with this whole approach is that IBM change you upfront for the licensing, where in a traditional model you can force a supplier to “get it right” before handing over the money. I can't really blame IBM for this because this is the "internet model for service".

I would point out however that Google doesn't do this. They give you the first month free so that by the time you do get charged, you've been happily working on your new environment for a month. It's a good feeling and one that IBM would do well to try to replicate in their own customer base. 

In my case I was lucky because I only wanted to start with a single license. I wonder what would have happened if we'd bought a hundred.. Twice.

The Current Status 
In case you're wondering,  the current status of this request is that after 2 weeks,  we still don't have a license.  I have people at work putting pressure on me for not having built a system that I don't have the keys to yet but I'm hopeful that IBM will pull through on this eventually. I've still got 24 hours before I reach the deadline for delivering the project.

It's clear that IBM still has a lot of work to do on the new company part of the Connections.Cloud registration system. 


Anonymous said...

its sad that IBM can´t get this right. They need to have MS come in and help them out. Or even Amazon they have it right. Ed Brill could not even fix this or can he ?

No wonder IBM is loosing money (2.9 billion).

Anonymous said...

I also offered to work the first three months of my new job for free.


Adam Fenstermaker said...

@Palmi - Where are you geting the 2.9 billion loss figure?

Here's the 2015 annual report - I'm seeing 13 billion in net income.