Got to Orlando for Edge 2012 on Sunday night. Initial meetings with my “handlers” went well, including a pleasant dinner that evening. Monday began the work.
I was impressed by the opening act of the IBM event, a Bond-like quartet of beauties playing Led Zepplin’s Kashmir with hollowed-out electronic strings. IBM’s SVP, Systems & Technology Group, Rod Adkins, and General Manager, Storage and Networking, Brian Truskowski, followed, delivering impressively-staged introductory messages. I tweeted throughout, echoing their stats and cites, and adding a bit of color commentary of my own.
Not to be critical, but I found the opening talks to be, well, a bit tone deaf. I know how much money IBM has dumped into its Smarter Planet campaign. And yes, like most geeks, I love stories and examples of visionary applications of technology to solve everything from street crime to world hunger. But, still, I wanted to hear something else.
I wanted to hear IBM executives say something dramatic. I wanted desperately to hear someone call out to the production crew, “Kill the flashy stage stuff, the video, the PowerPoints, the noise.” Then, I wanted to listen to something like this…
“Welcome to this event. I happen to know what wrangling a lot of you had to do to get approval to be here given how budget cuts have savaged your education and travel allowances. You have a lot of training opportunities to choose from — including a lot of great webcasts that IBM has been doing, as well as on-line training courses, etc. — that don’t require you to endure the indignities and expense of travel. Thanks for choosing the premiere instance of this event to start your summer.”
“IBM also knows that times are hard for a lot of IT folks. Your staff has been leaned. Your budgets have been frozen or reduced. Each of you is doing the work of five people now, with no increase in pay. And management only expects you to improve service levels or they will outsource you to one of those cloudy things they have been reading about in the trade press.”
The speaker would go on.
“We feel your pain, as cliche as that might sound. We understand that your lives are challenging and getting moreso by the day. Times are hard. We hear it everyday, and we at IBM are not immune from this damned recessionary economy either. That’s why I wanted to turn off the noise, to stop pretending like our problems aren’t real, that our difficulties don’t seem insurmountable.”
“We aren’t going to extoll the virtues of virtualization — which costs a heck of a lot more money than it sounds like it will in the brochure. We aren’t going to contribute any more hype to the cloud thing. We invented clouds, but other vendors have turned architecture into marketecture and we really don’t want to contribute to the barrage of BS. You have enough troubles in your world to pile on the additional task of sorting the grain from the chaff of cloud-woo. We have too much respect for you.”
“Truth is, we have tried through the years to shape your view of IBM. To see us as an innovator, as a leader, as a proverbial star to which you would want to hitch your wagon. That is at the corporate level. At the account team level, we wanted to be so much more — your trusted partner and friend. We wanted to be seen as the vendor that is True Blue, the one that has your back, and not the one whose eye is constantly trained on your wallet. We are the anti-Evil Machine Corporation.”
“We reinforce this effort with technology. Good technology. Great technology. Driven by one goal: to help you to support your business vision.”
“That is how you have hopefully come to regard IBM. As the strategic partner that delivers on promises and is part of the solution, not the problem.”
“We’re old, and in some ways, wisened by having been through hard times before. We do, in fact, feel your pain. And, now, we want to tell you, WE’VE GOT YOUR BACK.”
“Henceforth, the mission of IBM is this: we will spend all of our intellectual capital on the development of technology that will help you do two things: 1) contain costs through better infrastructure and data management, and 2) provide better technology for dealing with the burgeon of data that we all confront and the lack of skilled staff to deal with any of it.”
“These are trying times. We have been the partner in your fat years, when budget was plentiful, and now we want to be your partner in the lean times, doing what we can to reduce your IT expense. That way, maybe we will build some real loyalty while ensuring that our customer base remains intact and ready to buy more great technology as purse-strings loosen and the economy improves.”
“The reset of this show is dedicated to solving your problems. No hype. No high pressure selling. Or even low pressure selling. Just four days of technical education you can’t buy from any college or university, good food, a sympathetic ear, and demonstrations of useful technologies that can begin meeting your needs today.”
Offline, the conversations have been very much along these lines. It would be really cool if that was the onstage message. More later.