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IBM Releases Report Card on Innovation Initiative

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When IBM announced its iSeries Initiative for Innovation three months ago, it set ambitious goals for the multi-million-dollar campaign. According to a press release that the company issued last week, the iSeries Division is on track to meet or exceed most of those goals. That is welcome news for thousands of IBM Business Partners and customers who have waited years for a revival of the iSeries' fortunes.

As those of you who read my article back in February will remember, the iSeries Initiative for Innovation is designed to expand the number of Business Partners who create On Demand applications and enablement tools for the iSeries. It consists of three programs. The Application Innovation Program enables independent software vendors (ISVs) to modernize their existing iSeries applications and port new applications to the server. The Tools Innovation Program helps iSeries tool vendors to promote their products to ISVs and customers as they position their tools within the iSeries Developer Roadmap. The iSeries Innovation Program works to get more Business Partners involved in joint collaboration with IBM on the future of the iSeries.

During the first 90 days of their existence, all three programs have logged notable accomplishments. For example, the Application Innovation Program helped ISVs to modernize 60 applications, with many of the applications gaining enhanced graphical interfaces. This contrasts favorably with previous 90-day periods in which releases of newly modernized applications have been much smaller. During the first quarter of this year, for instance, no more than 20 iSeries applications were modernized. According to Mark Burns, IBM's Manager of WebSphere and Application Integration Initiatives, the growth in modernization projects is largely due to the increased technical resources that IBM is offering ISVs on a worldwide basis. He also points out that almost 300 iSeries ISVs have requested free solution technical assessments since the beginning of this year. The assessments, which help ISVs develop plans for modernizing their applications, should create a pipeline of newly modernized applications over the rest of this year.

The Tools Innovation Program has also met with considerable success. According to John Quarantello, IBM's iSeries Tool Executive and manager of the program, 78 tool providers have joined the program and positioned their products within the iSeries Developer Roadmap. These products enhance applications in over 30 areas ranging from desktop integration to personalization to radio frequency identification (RFID) enablement. Under the program, the tool providers have already helped ISVs to enhance 126 applications. This puts the program ahead of its goals for the year, which are to sign up 100 tool providers and use their offerings to enhance 200 applications.

IBM has also made progress in engaging with more Business Partners under the iSeries Innovation Program. Two months before the company officially kicked off the program, it began to gather requirements for future iSeries enhancements from ISVs. As of this date, over 1,600 ISVs have provided feedback. In addition, IBM is delivering on its promise to expand the advisory councils that iSeries solution providers can join to offer feedback. As a result, there is a sharp increase in the number of Business Partners that are collaborating with IBM.

Speaking of sharp increases, IBM revealed that it has signed over 150 new comarketing agreements with Business Partners in the last 90 days. According to sources inside IBM, that is double the average number of comarketing agreements that IBM signed with Business Partners during the four quarters of 2004. This confirms that a quantum leap is taking place in iSeries marketing activities.

How Customers Benefit

Clearly, IBM stands to gain from the success of the iSeries Initiative for Innovation. By helping more ISVs to modernize their applications, the computer giant could revamp the image of the iSeries as a viable platform for enterprise solutions. However, iSeries application modernization could do more than improve the server's image. It could also deliver significantly greater functionality and ease of use to iSeries customers.

Our team at Andrews Consulting Group recently confirmed the benefits of modernization when we studied five ISVs and one customer who have modernized their iSeries applications. (You can read a white paper about the study, which was sponsored by IBM, by clicking here and then clicking on the item entitled "The Business Benefits of Application Modernization.") According to the companies we studied, application modernization enabled them to achieve several important objectives. Nearly all of the firms realized substantially improved integration levels between their applications and those of other vendors. They also reduced costs for training and supporting their users. In addition, the development teams found that their modernized code bases were easier to maintain and enhance. These benefits were enjoyed not only by the ISVs, but also by their customers. Unsurprisingly, several of the ISVs realized improved application sales as a result.

These findings make it clear that application modernization could benefit the entire iSeries community. Since the iSeries Initiative for Innovation focuses heavily on modernization, it has the potential not only to lift the fortunes of IBM and its Business Partners, but also to help iSeries customers overcome the functional limitations of their current IT solutions. That is what will keep existing iSeries customers loyal to the platform and attract new customers to the server.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

LEE KROON
Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.
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