IBM gets an earful from AS/400 users - and some of it wasn't very nice

They may sound like a broken record, but AS/400 users are not at all happy with the way IBM is handling advertising, servicing and support of the AS/400. A group of discontented AS/400 users held nothing back during a sound-off session with IBM representatives during Spring Common in San Diego, Calif. this week.

IBM addressed each complaint directly, and promised to do right by users. Malcom Haines, IBM's director of AS/400 marketing, repeated some of what he said in his keynote -- that IBM plans to focus heavily on its AS/400 marketing in the future.

The accusations went beyond the usual alienation of affection of its AS/400 users. Several users complained of a poor reporting structure, citing excessive difficulties in getting access to IBM representatives including sales and support.

"Support has gone way down hill. We get the runaround when we come to IBM with a problem," said Ellen Davis, lead systems administrator at Manpower Inc. in Milwaukee, Wis.

"You have to stand on your head to get it fixed," said Krueger, a conference speaker and consulting software engineer at Rochester Technology Center, a division of D.H. Andrews Group, Inc. in Rochester, Minn. She commented that IBM hasn't been keeping up with its support sites saying help requests never get directly to the developers. Even when the developers do know about the problems, they can't fix them unless higher-ups at IBM say they can fix them, she said. "There is an inadequate investment for the AS/400 from IBM's top level (executives)."

In addition, users said they are tired of trying to convince business executives within their respective companies and consultants that the AS/400 is the best server choice. That's IBM battle, they said.

Failed advertising and marketing efforts was another sore spot for many users who said IBM wasn't targeting the right people with the right message.

"They're "preaching to the choir," and not getting the message out to CEOs and consultants, said one disgruntled user.

"IBM needs to get to the decision makers," said Steve Moss, application manager at Nursefinders, a staffing firm in Arlington, Texas. "They aren't the ones at the conference." He said in order for people like him to continue using the AS/400, IBM needs to do a better sales job with those who are spending the IT dollars.

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