IBM 'improving' user relations

IBM customers are often left feeling like they are dealing with a giant, which is no fairytale for end-users seeking fast, flexible support.

Pointing out that size really does matter, president of the IBM user group, Interaction, and Coca-Cola Amatil's IT operations manage, Michael Sumner, said the most common issue raised by users typically related to the size of the company.

This was particularly true in the past, however, Sumner believes IBM has made significant strides toward overcoming the problem.

"The monolithic size of IBM made it difficult for users to get a common voice from the company," said Sumner.

"In the past, there were 20 to 30 layers between the customer and the CEO, now there are about seven layers, which helps with flexibility and will be key to its ability to respond quickly."

When asked to put a figure on IBM’s progress with user relations, Sumner said: "They're more than half-way but not three-quarters, about two-thirds."

Sumner said IBM was showing most improvement in services.

"I don't have time to sort out the mess with IT projects and IBM is getting good at this," he said.

"If you have IBM equipment why wouldn't you go with the services arm that deals with it [equipment] all the time.

“Similarly, I can get BMC to deploy software on our systems and train my staff to use it. Therefore, if something does go wrong I can deal directly with the people that develop the software."

Although seen as a manufacturing-intensive company, Sumner said nearly 90 per cent of Coca-Cola Amatil's business processes were IT-driven.

On the choice between IBM GSA and IBM's third-party solution providers, Sumner said: "I would rather work with IBM GSA than EDS."

Established to help IBM users communicate among themselves, Interaction also allows for feedback.

"We have done some surveys with members to determine what they want from us and the biggest thing is networking,” said Sumner.

“Also, IBM users always want to know what's happening, particularly the trends and directions of IBM's technologies."

Sumner said next year's IBM users’ conference, Interaction, would focus on the eServer series.

"A lot of people see Interaction as an iSeries event but this year's conference didn't focus enough on it," he said.

Although written off by analysts in the early-1990s as a legacy system, Sumner said the iSeries was IBM's best kept secret and was a platform for the future.

"The iSeries' heritage lies in being developed for general business people and not geeky Unix administrators," he said.

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