Ed Brill in a recent blog entry "Two views of Lotus in SMB", is asking readers to comment on a couple of memes regarding IBM and SMB.

From the land down under, my external observation, is that with the IBM classification of organisations that there are few organisations that do not fall into IBM’s SMB classification. So the assertions mentioned are quite relevant. What we see here, is great software, that normally has quite a large learning curve. I can attest to the time spent learning some of it. Don’t have time to do twin PhDs in computer science and comparative philology as am busy with usage of the actual IBM technology. This can become all encompassing with no time left for other educational learning activities.

Unlike in the US, us Aussies normally span many roles, and tend to be specialists in multiple complementary disciplines. So when we see different products for different roles, the eye balls roll back, as we would much rather have a single product with the flexibility to on-demand enable the roles to suit the tasks we are performing. This sounds simple, but is really costly to purchase all the licenses. When we seeing on-demand pricing for the WebSphere and Rational development tools? – it may help us down here, we are normally early adopters!

In the past we experimented with offering a combined package of IBM Software (WebSphere Portal Express then Workplace Services Express), Linux and IBM Hardware to overcome some of the issues mentioned in Philip Storry’s blog entry – "tragedy" of IBM Lotus in SMB. Our intention was to use IBM Express software and overcome the internal learning curve issue, through implementing a repeatable on-premise solution.

This sounded really great and we got a lot of initial support from various programs and IBM Marketing. Lots of effort was put in to engaging with and IBM client executives. What we found in practice was, if there was a decision between helping us sell our combined solution or selling some X Series hardware, knowing that the customer had budget, to make this quarter’s sales targets. The X Series hardware, like a new SAN won out every time. Our focus was really on software, so another Business Partner profited from the SAN hardware sale.

Also we noticed during this period, that IBM was advertising X Series hardware on the popular IT related web sites. I think the slogan was "… and best of all, it comes pre-installed with Microsoft Small Business Server".

So in IBM vs IBM, IBM wins – this leads me to ask when will something be done by IBM to give a fairer playing field for its own software against Microsoft on its own X Series hardware? This may be controversial, but I can see as the software percentage of total revenue for IBM rises, that it must be looking to sell off the X Series division to give its own software more of a chance!

So to answers Ed’s question "Do you agree or disagree with Charles and Philip?" I would say IBM needs to enable its SMB software to be provisioned in a SaaS off-premise model. To overcome the issue of the quarterly incentified client executives and direct sales representatives, this should be done by certified Business Partners that have the interest of the clients and the running of the software service as prime importance!


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