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||IBM’s Lost Art of Installation is Costing Them Revenue
Preface - As I started this entry in June and in doing research to articulate the point, the case for installation simplicity grew dramatically. This post commences by illustrating the present state, how IBM did better previously (and still does with a different product), three customer examples of revenue impact, and closes with an offered solution for the present state. Please understand it is my intent to assist rather than besmirch, while being professional and respectful to both the community and IBM as a whole. Your comprehension of this perspective is appreciated.
IBM Connections 5 became available mid-June and like many people, immediately began the download process. To my surprise, I lacked sufficient space in my large files partition to handle the pull. I started constructing the trend line for how this product and others progressed overtime, contrasting that with Sametime Community Server and Domino, plus the process to start upon installing each product. My experience with the Sametime 9 installation proved just as troublesome. Amazingly, these results are diverging from IBM's excellent past, not progressing towards an improved way to handle their new set of complex (but capable) product offerings. A few conversations with colleagues and customers confirmed my thoughts and in the spirit of working with IBM to improve processes and products --- as performed previously, numerous times --- I wanted to illustrate a critical opportunity for IBM.
Table of Linux i386 and x64 - limited file pull for EditLive!, Connections 5, Forms Experience Builder, and WAS (19 of 63 files to include Cognos, DB2, Tivoli, and CCM)
Where does one even start with this? The full download set for Linux on Intel is 63 files and 41.3GB, more than I had free on my laptop while traveling. It is also very easy to miss a file, as the Red Hat Linux OS selection includes eight Multiplatform eAssembly bundles with Windows, Linux x86, Linux x64, Linux on POWER, Linux on Z, and AIX all intermingled. Unless you have time to peruse a significant quantity of online documentation or completed technical training to install their products, you may very well end-up hiring a consultant--or spending significant quantities of time with IBM technical support.
Naming and Build Consistency
The one noticeable improvement in Connections 5 over Connections 4.5 is more filenames are descriptive. To help visualize the contrast, please see my blog post on what Connections 4.5 resembled.
Unpacking IBM_Connections_5.0_QSG.zip provides 24 translations in 24 files of CIYQ4ML_[country-code].pdf, entitled, "IBM Connections Quick Start Guide for AIX, Windows, Linux Multilingual - Version 5", which loses the detailed filename construct (as does the EditLive! 5.0 QSG) and lacks a subdirectory like the other QSG packed files. The Connections 5 QSG provides links to a Technote and a Knowledge Center post to learn your requirements and how to install the product
Two problems inside this file:
1. The system requirements URL links to "System Requirements for EditLive! For IBM Connections 4.5 IFR2" -- the wrong product
2. The Installation URL provides a dead page
In verifying the downloaded archives' contents, many of the ZIP files lack a correlated or unique sub-directory to help manage the files. I find the lack of consistency with the provided packed files irksome. To demonstrate, I created five QSG directories, unpacking one QSG variant into each to contrast; which guide is in which directory is inconsequential for this experiment. The results are below.
bill@san-domino:/dl/ibm.software/connections5$ ls -F qsg qsg?
CIYQ4ML_ar.pdf CIYQ4ML_es.pdf CIYQ4ML_kk.pdf CIYQ4ML_ru.pdf
CIYQ4ML_bg.pdf CIYQ4ML_fr.pdf CIYQ4ML_ko.pdf CIYQ4ML_sk.pdf
CIYQ4ML_ca.pdf CIYQ4ML_hu.pdf CIYQ4ML_nl.pdf CIYQ4ML_sl.pdf
CIYQ4ML_de.pdf CIYQ4ML_it.pdf CIYQ4ML_pl.pdf CIYQ4ML_th.pdf
CIYQ4ML_el.pdf CIYQ4ML_iw.pdf CIYQ4ML_pt.pdf CIYQ4ML_zh.pdf
CIYQ4ML_en.pdf CIYQ4ML_ja.pdf CIYQ4ML_ro.pdf CIYQ4ML_zh_tw.pdf
CIZP2ML_ar.pdf CIZP2ML_es.pdf CIZP2ML_kk.pdf CIZP2ML_sk.pdf
CIZP2ML_bg.pdf CIZP2ML_fr.pdf CIZP2ML_ko.pdf CIZP2ML_sl.pdf
CIZP2ML_ca.pdf CIZP2ML_hu.pdf CIZP2ML_nl.pdf CIZP2ML_th.pdf
CIZP2ML_de.pdf CIZP2ML_it.pdf CIZP2ML_pt.pdf CIZP2ML_zh.pdf
CIZP2ML_el.pdf CIZP2ML_iw.pdf CIZP2ML_ro.pdf CIZP2ML_zh_tw.pdf
CIZP2ML_en.pdf CIZP2ML_ja.pdf CIZP2ML_ru.pdf
bill@san-domino:/dl/ibm.software/connections5$ ls -F qsg/quickstart
WAS8.5_nd_qsg_br.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_fr.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_ro.pdf
WAS8.5_nd_qsg_cs.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_hu.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_ru.pdf
WAS8.5_nd_qsg_de.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_it.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_zh_CN.pdf
was8.5_nd_qsg_en.htm WAS8.5_nd_qsg_ja.pdf WAS8.5_nd_qsg_zh_TW.pdf
de/ en/ es/ fi/ fr/ it/ ja/ ko/ nl/ pt/ sv/ zh-cn/ zh-tw/
bill@san-domino:/dl/ibm.software/connections5$ ls qsg3/quickstart/en
Again, this is just with the Quick Start Guides. Unpacking the other zip/tar'ed files does not put one at ease either. With a multitude of directories, incorrect documentation, and no clear starting reference, one either tries the Knowledge Center (which omits some details), keeps Googling, or contacts IBM tech support. Neither option is attractive for a business partner, let alone a customer simply trying to decide if they want to buy the product.
Installation Complexity Worsens with Each Release
Connections 1.0 became a starting point to a new strategic solution, so IBM had levity in lacking a simplified installation approach, as Connections was just basically five independent projects fused to create something better. Once IBM released version 2.0, that was the time to start creating installation efficiency, as a means to also accelerate adoption. In theory, with each successive product getting better (e.g. 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0), so would the installation. Several customers to which I communicated agreed on this facet.
Rather than improving the installation process or at least offering one, IBM chose to ignore this component altogether, instead solely adding more features and capabilities to Connections. Yes, any marketplace expects new items with successive releases, but you also want avoid alienating the respective customer's internal support team that can help drive their own adoption. Although conjecture, I suspect this abject complexity is part of the reason domestic adoption is slower than IBM would like -- despite having a decent product. Why? If customers can not install it, how are they going to test it? Not everyone wants to put their data into Greenhouse to gain a perspective.
Even now with Connections 5.0, the current product manager --- whom I know and respect very much --- does not see the value add of an admin UI for on-premises, instead Connections still relies upon a complex set of XML files. The compromise is to purchase a third-party administration tool. So after a customer spends tens of thousands of dollars on consulting, IBM licensing, hardware, and server OS licenses, they have to spend more money to get an admin tool from a non-IBM source. The XML approach is appropriate for a new product, but after version 3.0 an effective admin UI should become a core capability to help drive adoption. To be fair, IBM does offer an admin UI for their cloud offering, as it is a cloud specific architecture solution.
Looking at CCM for Connections 5 -- despite it being an add-on for the main product -- provides a suboptimal acquisition experience. One has to go to Fix Central and Passport Advantage to get all four files, and the required files list is omitted from system requirements, for starters.
Sametime used to be simple to install, then IBM decided to include the DB2 and Websphere brands into the Sametime ICS product offering. Version 8.5.1 took a long time to install; it's not much better now.
Once you install all these pieces -- for CCM, Connections, Sametime, et alia, you then have to try an patch them. This is hardly a trivial matter, with so many components the wrong lower level patch can cause stability problems. In contrast, if you patch a Domino server, it takes a minute or less; to remove the patch, just run the same patch program again. That is a great workflow design.
"The Customer Is Always Right," Remains Apropos As They are Paying
Customer Case #1: My first ST 8.5.1 customer had me write a step-by-step, screenshot-by-screenshot document customized for their installation so that they could re-create what I did for them, in-case of a disaster or business continuity scenario. The final document equated 165 slides -- taking several days to write, plus editing time and customer input. The initial plan was for them to watch me install Sametime while capturing my actions, as they needed to know everything; that changed quickly.
The process required several escalated calls with tech support got it all resolved. The process took far too long for my liking and began and costing me money with other opportunities. Really difficult for a busy customer to dedicate the time to install it.
After tuning this customer's new ST staging environment, I provided a 1000% performance gain over their ST 7 Windows installation. Despite my success, the customer went with a different solution. Devastating to me. The customer called me to give me the decision and I enquired, "Why?" "Simply put, we do not have the resources to do the installation (of the full architected solution)." "I could do it for you." "You did Phase I. We need to own it now and we can not. It's dead."
Not only did I lose out on a lucrative Phase II consulting gig, but IBM lost out on licensing for a multi-national firm wanting every Sametime component offered (except A/V, which had issues with crossing subdomains at the time).
Customer Case #2: A local BP learned of my aforementioned success and referred me to a senior-level colleague who wanted Sametime for their medical center. I co-authored a proposal for Sametime 8.5.1 and it went stale. I asked the BP, "What happened?" The customer loved what I did with the BP's friend's company, but management became baffled why such a significant percentage of the quote was dedicated to installation. They wanted to install it themselves to save money and then realized that would not work. Despite several calls to save the opportunity, the customer went in a new direction.
Simplified Installation Epitomized - IBM Domino
Now let's contrast the above issues to Domino...
Get the file from Passport Advantage, expand the tarball, execute the installer, and the installation routine handles all of the sub-program installations for you. Nice and easy.
860334080 Mar 21 2013 DOMINO_SERVER_9.0_LINUX_XS_64_EN.tar
145909760 Mar 21 2013 DOMI_SE_EMEX_AO_9.0_LIN_XS_64_EN_FW.tar
Expanding the first file provides a simple lucid starting point for the customer - "install"
eclipsemodssrc.zip install mozillamodssrc.zip remote_script.dat tools/ unix_response.dat
So why is IBM unwilling to take this great concept and apply it to other products -- particularly those that are comprehensive? The sales mantra of "Just go to the cloud," is not a substitute for having your customers enjoy owning an installation medium they prefer.
Moving to the Cloud Is Not a Panacea
The on-ramp to the cloud should not be an escape from proper design. Lacking a quick fix to some negative feedback on installation complexity several years ago, as SmartCloud was coming to maturity as a solution, IBM's initial response lay dormant and they worked on their cloud first strategic initiative, rather than improving the installation processes in parallel -- in my opinion and based upon my experience. Once SmartCloud evolved as a platform as did its offerings, the phrase, "You can always use [Connections and Sametime] in the cloud," became the official complexity work-around--again in my opinion and based upon my experience. This also became the SMB solution for Connections and Sametime, which for reasons I mentioned is not always a solution for them -- particularly Swiss companies.
Customer Case #3: I spoke with a valued customer last week. They made it clear that "The cloud" is not a strategic initiative for them--with any vendor. They love Sametime and have every component of ST 9 installed but one -- A/V. Why? "We got the SOW for the installation of that Sametime piece and it was a non-starter. We are not paying any more than we already have to install Sametime, plus we would need two more servers." Their owner wanted to perform video conferences and thought they had that capability with Sametime. To his dismay, they started the bidding process with a different vendor.
"The on-ramp to the cloud should not be an escape from proper design."
IBM's response and sales premise of, "If the process is too complex, just go to the cloud," took a tight customer relationship and opened the door to a slew of competitor bids. Having a wrapped installation procedure akin to Domino's approach would prevent competition from creeping into trusted customer areas that IBM previously owned. I would also offer that providing an appliance for Connections 5 and Sametime 9 would also go a long way to keeping customer relationships in the IBM camp. The ideal situation would be an appliance image sold on IBM iron, but with the divestiture to Lenovo, the best they could offer now is an image for on-disk or VMware. Know that in 2011, I made reference to how a lack of effective marketing weakens relationships in the same way.
Come to the Table with a Solution
I learned early in my career that if you complain in lieu of helping solve, you are being spiteful. In college, I started writing installation wrappers when I got tired of running successive make commands to compile my C programs 30+ times a session; my team liked my offering and we used it for the rest of the project. Thus, Domino's ease of installation attracted me to it as a solution. To keep things simple, there are two plausible options to address the installation complexity and keep customers content with business partners offering more services.
1. Offer an installation script that checks for the DB2 version, checks the WAS version, and then asks some questions and installs the products in the correct order with little fuss, all while displaying an accurate histogram
2. Provide the aforementioned appliance option. I know two colleagues of mine have offered to create their own build for Connections and Sametime, but the IBM licensing model prevents such a solution; as licensing adjustments are non-trivial in nature, this could take time to complete, but it should be considered and offered
IBM knows what products they require to have Connections and Sametime work. They can check for the existence of previous RDBMS (DB2) installation and flag an upgrade or issue, same for the Tivoli, Cognos, and FileNet components. Otherwise, install them as needed. This takes work. It is easier to tell people, "Go to the cloud." But if I learned anything in my 20+ years in IT, the easy solution is almost never the best solution.
In my genuine spirit of collaboration, if the respective product managers would like a more lucid vision of either of the above, I am happy to talk with them.
Lacking the above two solutions currently results in good community members spending days, nights, weekends learning to install a product --- usually on their time --- rather than committing that time to tuning, extending, customizing the product for our customers/our boss. This is a completely backwards model, in my opinion. Domino had it right in 1990. Why complicate to absurd levels your cornerstone social product to the point that most customers are unable to install it sans a consultant and your own technical writers are unable to capture accurate the process? The Domino model is hardly passe, regardless of your feelings on Domino. How many Zero to Hero sessions did Domino have to install it? None, that I'm aware. Connections and Sametime offer 200 page slide decks at previous Lotusphere/Connect events, and the current Sametime 9 deck is 950 slides (though part covers marketing and new features). Yes, I am glad these decks are available, but they should not be required.
An application is only as strong as its weakest feature. When customers are unable to install your product, they never discover how strong or weak a product is. In the end, when they learn that maintenance, upgrades, and general administration become more complex rather than easier with each successive release, you open the door to competitors with better ideas. Any OEM that outsources documentation to tech support or their BP community to complete and perform QA, installation fortitude to the customer, and general maintenance to their own consulting arm is destined for a wake-up call. I am grateful to IBM for all that their great products provided me and scores of my colleagues over the past two decades. I can only hope that IBM makes a earnest effort to regain one of their software hallmarks -- ease of installation.
IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide - Gabriella Davis, Marie L. Scott, and Thomas Duff
Installing the Sametime Gateway - Chris Miller
Aug 25, 2014
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