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Two Days at IBM PULSE 2010 – This Year´s Motto Is Integration

Coming to PULSE 2010 almost felt like coming to a friend I had not seen for a long time. The setup is very similar to last year´s with some little improvements. Obviously the conference committee was actually reading many of the suggestions given. For example the temperature in the conference center is no longer below freezing… Well PULSE started off as usual with Al Zoller coming on stage and getting all of us on track. “All of us” means more than 5.500 IT professionals who have come to Las Vegas despite tight budgets and economic crises. Al Zoller announced that this year IT service management at Tivoli is all about integration. After the idea of breaking down silos of competence integration – between the remaining silos (?) and especially between all the tools and processes we find in IT service management today is a great idea and actually long overdue. The scenarios and examples presented in Al Zoller´s and other first day keynotes are still very much in the shadow of economic downturn. Even though every manager is emphasizing that we are in a recovery phase their choice of case studies in the keynotes either shows that they are still skeptical (like most top managers) about the sustainability of the recovery or that in 2009 Tivoli did only do successful projects in more or less crises resistant sectors like energy, government or PPP. Since I do not believe the latter (Tivoli is just too big for that) I would say Tivoli top management is on the same page as many other executives, who make a great public appearance telling everyone that the crises is over but do not quite believe so internally – at least not yet. Following Al Zoller´s keynote address we had the chance to look at an example of integrated service management or rather an example of the applied theory of smarter planets. The demo was about Las Vegas and the Venetian as a smarter city or building respectively. The demo was quite staged and the Tivoli executives on stage had to struggle with their acting skills. Personally I do not believe in the usefulness of the kinds of dashboards shown in the presentations, but it seems this is what customers are looking for at the moment, so IBM was right on spot showing what could be done and how these dashboards interacted with all the data sources and process management systems. Speaking of data sources, I think if we are really going into the direction of a smarter planet and the internet of things, the term information overload will gather new meaning over the next couple of years.

The guest keynote given by former vice president Al Gore was the best guest keynote at any PULSE so far. I had heard that Al Zoller was criticized harshly for inviting Al Gore as an environmentalist, because IBM has such a strong customer base in the energy and traditional industry sector. Well guys, get real – oil will only be there for about 50 years (if that long) and Exxon et al are also looking into other concepts. Personally I would prefer if everyone was doing research about nuclear fusion as the energy source of the future, but taking nature as an example is maybe too far out for parts of the environmental movement. Al Gore was absolutely authentic, convincing and just fun. And he got everybody to think about their behavior, especially giving a speech on energy efficiency in a city like Las Vegas. As Al Gore said, the next generation will ask us either the question “How did you do it” or “Didn´t you see it coming”. So congratulations for Al Zoller for taking the initial heat when inviting Al Gore. More than 5.500 attendees at the opening session of PULSE 2010 were enthusiastic about the speakers and the integration message of IBM as well as the sustainability message of Mr. Gore on behalf of mankind.

Looking at PULSE I have seen many more client presentations and case studies than last year. And – coming back to a point I made before – these presentations are mainly not about state funded endeavors, but about companies dealing with the economic down turn successfully in one way or the other. Tivoli has also introduced the opportunity to meet reference customers in one-on-one talks and start an exchange on their experience with Tivoli products, which I think is a great idea – especially after seeing the customer panel discussion as part of the second day´s general session and the positive audience feedback to the panel. Even though the CIOs of several major international companies were not really sharing any news when talking about their efforts to deal with integration issues and reengineering their IT business alignment, getting these guys up on the main stage to openly declare that IBM was helping them to achieve their goals made everybody else walk out with a secure feeling. Not just great marketing, but obviously also a job well done on the part of the IBM Tivoli engineers, project teams and account managers.

Some of the session presentations were of a little less quality than the ones I had seen in previous years. Maybe that is because everybody was very busy fighting IT budget cuts and the economic crises itself, but the content of most presentations was as good as I have gotten used to over the last three years. The only thing I am a little disappointed about so far is the track on Cloud Computing. This track is still very much about why clouds make sense and other theories that have long since been proven by reality. But some of the customer presentations (e.g. CSC or ITricity) had really good cloud examples. Maybe IBM feels that they still have to pick up the cloud skeptics by introducing them from the beginning, but I think the PULSE attendees are more cloud worthy than that. I have had no time to take a look at the new track on medium sized business, because the first two days are so packed with must see presentations that I simply could not spare the hour. But I am sure I will get around to the topic tonight.

The second day´s keynotes were dominated by Harriet Person – or as I said Ms. Security. Her presentation on regarding the integration of security into embracing change as an opportunity rather than being paranoid about all the things that could happen was authentic, fun and well received by the audience. The presentation also made the best points so far on the integration topic and its actual business effects (apart from all the effects of technical integration that I will not mention here, because those should have been addressed a while back). I already mentioned the customer panel which was a great idea of the conference designers. Some of the other talks in the 2nd day´s general sessions were a little dull to me.

I must give a little note on the usage of social media at this year´s IBM PULSE. Twitter screens all over the place, blogger meetings and lots of coverage on all kinds of channels have made it clear that IBM is serious about the social media community. Not integrating twitter into the main sessions however also shows that there is still skepticism about the uncontrollability or the enormous demands of interaction required by social media. I am sure the very positive coverage PULSE has gotten so far on twitter and blogs will give Tivoli´s senior management a hint as to the topic of being skeptics.

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