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iSeries GM Borman pitches modernization

Since being named to replace Al Zollar nearly three months ago, former head of IBM Global Partners Mike Borman appears to have been in stealth mode -- at least as far as the press is concerned. But the new iSeries general manager has actually been busy making the rounds in Rochester. As he gears up for the COMMON user conference next week, Borman talked with News Director Kate Evans-Correia about his goals for the iSeries. Bottom line: He'll continue Zollar's goal to modernize the platform. @6233

What have you been doing these past few months?
Trying to focus on three different areas: Customers, business partners and the IBM team. I've talked to all the developers in Rochester. I'm really trying to understand what they love about the product and where they see a need for improvement. What have you learned?
I was able to confirm what I already knew. Customers love it more than other users love the platforms they work on. But a lot are just getting the message in terms of additional capabilities [because of the introduction of the i5 and the merging of hardware]. Customers all of a sudden got a tremendous amount of performance, features and flexibility. I think it has taken some of them a while to adjust.

My intent for this COMMON is to do more listening than telling.
Mike Borman
iSeries GMIBM
What are you doing to help them adjust?
We're educating our sales teams, particularly on Linux and AIX, educating our business partners, doing road shows and taking our success stories public. What's your focus moving forward?
We're focusing on three areas. The first one is our solutions. A number of solution providers and customers still have old code and we need to help them modernize it … whether that means putting a wrap around it or convert it. I need to get these solutions to these guys so they can really grow. There are a lot of customers and ISVs [independent software vendors] who really want to be growing on that platform and to do that they need to be modern.

The second one is image. From a marketing standpoint, the image of our product from current customers is that they love it. But the image in the marketplace is different. I think we lost some momentum when we went from AS/400 to iSeries. We gained some when we went to eServer, but the iSeries lost a little bit of its image of being simply the best box in the industry. We're going to work getting the image back.

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Zollar out as iSeries GM

The third thing is to get our sales team and business partners trained. We're making sure that they can go out and explain about the value proposition, the return on investment to these customers.

What do you mean when you went from the AS/400 to the iSeries you lost momentum? You may have lost momentum in the current base but wasn't the new name meant to evoke a new image and help to lure new customers? Are you saying it didn't do that?
No. It's not about the name changing. A lot of the customers still call it the AS/400. They have not moved into the iSeries world. The technology we have with iSeries is dramatically better than the 400. We put our best features from the mainframe and other platforms together. We need to get the people who have not moved into the new world moved over -- to modernize. I'm saying by not getting the people moved over, we lost momentum. When you were appointed, there was a lot of conversation about you concentrating on the channel and partner programs, an area where IBM is focusing heavily. Will that in fact be a focus of yours?
The channel is critical to this product since its inception really. Bill [Zeitler] and I were talking about Silver Lake [one of the original code names for the AS/400] back in 1987, 1988 we had 1700 machines out and we were training partners then -- so the channel has always been important. This is the world's best solution box. And partners today have to deliver [that message] for me. They're critical to growth and I have to make sure they have the right skills to deliver solutions. I had to do this in my last job and now I've got to deliver a new value proposition. At last year's COMMON I sensed a lot of momentum, a lot of enthusiasm for the platform, as well as a change in attitude of a lot of users and how they felt about IBM. I don't get a sense going into next week's COMMON. How are you going to keep that momentum going?
At the last COMMON you had the iSeries, mySeries campaign … we have nothing that snazzy planned for this COMMON. My intent for this COMMON is to do more listening than telling. They know the platform better than anyone. Customers are an important partnership. And they can tell me how they can keep the momentum going. I think [the mood] will still be very positive. One area that is noticeable is the drop in iSeries sales revenue. While the mainframe and other platforms go up, every time the numbers come in for the iSeries, I have to report disappointing news. What are you doing to change that? How will you increase those numbers?
Clearly, with the complete refresh of the technology in this product line along with a new operating system, my goal and my expectation is that we get back to revenue goal. Customers are always my No. 1 priority, but if I take care of that, revenue will go up.

This is one of the very best brands in the entire industry and customers are proud of it and my goal is to keep it going. You can always find room for improvement no matter where you are in the market -- that's great and not so great -- we need to get on the right track and make the improvements we need to.

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