Users get firsthand chance to update AS/400's e-commerce capabilities
By Tim Ouellette
User may have direct influence over the next improvements in the AS/400's e-commerce capabilities.
Through IBM's User-Centered Design (UCD) project, users have an opportunity to work hand in hand with IBM developers on new AS/400 features, including e-commerce improvements. In fact, the recent Internet Setup Wizard was created with extensive help from 30 users who attended two-day sessions, says Tony Irwin, an IBM software engineer.
IBM generally brings in individual users for two days at a time to Rochester, Minn., paying for their airfare and expenses. Topics offered range from databases to programming to e-commerce.
"My main objective was to work with IBM on ease of use [in e-commerce]", says Bob Cancilla, an AS/400 user who recently took part in IBM's UCD process.
"The entire trip was a very positive experience," Cancilla says. "IBM definitely took my input and that of others very seriously. IBM realizes that they must reach out and validate design approaches and requirements with the folks using their products."
Organizers at COMMON, the IBM midrange systems users group, say these opportunities are an excellent way for IBM to further open the communication lines with its user base. "It is a very important avenue to have another voice to IBM," says Lisa Muenkel, a spokeswomen for COMMON, which is based in Chicago.
The Internet Setup Wizard allows AS/400 shops to go from setting up basic TCP/IP services to actual Web serving, making it that much easier for companies to use the AS/400 for e-commerce. Users looked at the Wizard in several phases, from the drawing board to practical tests.
"We will bring in people as early on a project as we can," says Joe DiCecco, an IBM software engineer with the user design group.
Over the years, IBM's user design process has gone from IBM displaying different versions of a product and letting users react to those versions to allowing users to participate in the basic design process from the ground up, he adds.
Future e-commerce projects with the UCD group will focus on ease-of-use issues and business-to-business features of the AS/400, Irwin says.
AS/400 users interested in participating in the design process can go to http://www.as400.ibm.com/ucd.
Ouellette is a freelance writer in Scarborough, Maine.
This was first published in July 2000