Nothing Lasts – Except …

This link really screwed me up… 

It was the announcement that IBM Systems Director, the product I spent years working on, was officially being pulled from market.

From 2004 through 2012 I spent most of my time at work working with users, designing, leading, educating, writing, and traveling to make IBM Systems Director the best it could be.

…and now it’s gone.

Not that it shouldn’t be…it’s a product from another era…pre-cloud. It’s purpose was to provide IT administrators a single experience that could manage the whole data center in a company’s shop. Certainly we can talk for hours about to what degree it succeeded doing that. While some may have criticized it, I loved working with a fantastic development team, and I felt like through our work with users and focusing on what they need, we were able to raise it a whole grade (or two) compared to what it could have been.

But, in the end, customers, and IBM, moved on.

What really messed me up is trying to think of all the personal and family sacrifice I made to make it better, not to mention the hit to the ego. I started to think of the missed family activities, all the effort, all the “we’ll fix it next release”, and it hit home that nothing…especially nothing in the IT world…lasts.

Which makes me think: what will last?  In a big company like IBM, even the best employee leaves a hole that fills in within a week or two. It reminds me of a Diary Queen shake: A new employee is like taking a spoonful out of a melty shake…the melty ice-cream quickly folds in and within minutes, nobody knows the spoon was even in there.  Even a stellar employee is like a spoon getting pulled out of a thick custard shake…it may take a bit longer but soon enough even the biggest hole gets filled in. Actually, a healthy company is designed to do that so productivity isn’t impacted by one person.

So where does that leave me?

When I boil it down, most things I just lift right out: Church, worship band, work, hobbies…

So what’s left? Relationships. My relationships to my family and friends. Most of my work relationships won’t last…hopefully some will but most are merely acquaintances (who will hopefully one day pause a few minutes before claiming my chair, monitor, and white-board markers). My family relationships are what might last: My wife, my kids. My wife I love dearly, and we are each-other’s anchor. But really the only thing that I am uniquely essential to is my kids. Sure someone else can raise them, but they won’t be their dad. That’s all me.

So what do I do with that? In a way it’s invigorating! It helps me focus on what’s actually important.

…to raise these kids the best I know how…

…to show them what hard work looks like
…that sometimes responsibility DOES mean sacrifice
…that a career is the HOW to provide and have a fantastic life, but not the WHY
…that life doesn’t revolve around them, but in how they can serve others
…that they should be driven by their passions and a career can possibly become that passion but will more likely their passion will become a wonderful side-car to their career that will give their life a sparkle.
…that they don’t forget what is most precious…it’s the WHO’s in your life, not the WHATs

Anyway, I’m still learning and trying to balance how this all works. Maybe I can teach and guide them so it doesn’t take them 23 years of hard work, where 8 of those years were entirely focused on a product that is no longer in the market…just to realize that the product’s purpose for me was to enable a fantastic life…it’s not the source of a fantastic life.

IBM PureFlex Anniversary – Thoughts From The Demo Guy

Exactly one year ago today…

I am in the heart of New York City participating in the biggest product launch of my career. I am back stage surrounded by video and stage production equipment of all kinds and have carved out my own ‘nest’ filled with computing equipment that I’ll be using today.

On stage are two of our leaders announcing the capabilities of PureFlex. I am responsible for the live demonstration during the announce so while I won’t be on stage today, my work will be.

From the FOH speakers I hear “Now I would like to show you the value of PureFlex”.

Here we go!

For the next four minutes we perform a technology-filled 3 person dance: the live demo appears on the stage-right jumbo-tron, the ‘behind the scenes’ animation appears on the stage-left jumbo-tron. Me? I’m playing ‘OZ’ behind the curtain. Leader #1 picks up the iPad that I’ve configured to show the demo to the world. It is connected to our SmartCloud Entry software through a private WIFI to show how easy it is to deploy new workloads into PureFlex systems. “4 clicks” he usually says. But not today. The software was design to run nicely on iPad so today he says “4 taps”.

Leader #2 talks about ‘what happens behind the scenes’ during those four taps…from image deployment with built in expertise…to optimizing resources based on workload needs and real-time performance.

I am monitoring the live demo…and running a redundant live demo on a completely separate iPad and system. AND, I’ve got a backup recording running…ready to switch to either backup instantly in case there’s a problem on stage. I’ve been gigging for years so I know that in a live situation you always need a spare guitar (or demo system) or two as backup.

In the middle of the demo I hear “Oops”. My heart stops. I am about to switch to live backup demo when I hear “Ah…there it is”. My heart is still stopped but a smile of relief appears on my face as the live demo continues to run perfectly.

Before I can breathe the demo is done. I hear applause. Our announce of PureFlex is a success! I mingle with the VIPs and enjoy a small portion of the 35 cases of vodka. The audience files out and after some souvenir pictures I help strike the set.


Today is a day to remember and has exceeded all expectations! I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

From that day to today I’ve traveled around the world (literally) and performed dozens of pressure-filled live demonstrations showing all that PureFlex offers…from SmartCloud Entry deploying multiple images across multiple hypervisors to a single PureFlex system…to showcasing our latest Flex System Manager user experience on our desktop UI and mobile app. The response? Enthusiastic applause, requests for more, and stories of how our user experience is truly having an impact on customers and partners alike.

It’s been quite a year and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

Demoing A (You-Tell-Me) User Experience

It’s time.

Our over-a-year-focus on user experience enhancements is now being seen by the world. We couldn’t affect our whole product, but instead focused for this release on what customers said they use/need the most.

These enhancements are for our product IBM Flex System Manager, and it includes some really big user experience changes that our design team has been designing/iterating on for over a year. I haven’t been this excited about a release I’ve been involved with since my album (check it out here or on iTunes/Amazon… it ROCKS!)

We have received very positive feedback during our customer testing, and our own internal users seem thrilled. We have measurements that tell us we’ve reduced time/effort to get things done, that it’s simple to use, and it just looks pretty 🙂

But I wonder if I, or anyone, can really declare a level of user experience has been achieved until users get their hands on it and use it (probably for at least a month)? Because, in the end, it’s all about our users and if the product is useful to them…and delights them.

Be that as it may, check out what our new user experience is like…

How about you? Do you have a favorite way to share your improved user experience to your users? How do you get feedback?

User Experience – Communicating A Core Principle

In a recent talk I gave, I described our overall mission for Flex System Manager as, “To provide a best-of-breed experience in managing physical/virtual resources across compute, storage, network so that business-critical workloads can thrive.”  I also described that, in order to achieve that mission, we defined a number of core principles that we drive to and measure against.

I had just finished showing off our new mobile app and enhanced UI in our new Flex System Manager release, and it was clear from the audience applause that we are delivering some really great enhancements that looks pretty darn cool.

I then got to our core principle, “Enhanced User Experience”.

To help the audience fully understand what we mean by user experience, here’s what I said:

“User experience is far more than shiny objects and cute iPhone apps. To us, it’s also about reducing the time to set up the whole PureFlex environment and manage it…it’s about providing automation users can trust so that when they press a button, they trust our software to relocate and optimize their production-level workloads…it’s about providing relevant actions and showing relevant data to help users trouble-shoot and make the decisions they need to manage their data center”

Yes, ‘shiny’ is important, but ‘fast’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘relevant’…that’s what makes a great, and lasting, user experience.

How about you, how do you communicate what user experience means to you?


You can say more in 15 minutes than 35 minutes

I just killed a keynote session where I was asked to talk about Flex System Manager…our strategy and future directions.

“Great content…outstanding delivery” said one VP. “This was the first time I understood the value of this technical product” said a non-technical sales lead. “You’re like a technical rock star”, said a technical sales specialist.

But 12 hours before, I was a complete wreck.

Originally I had 35-40 minutes to talk…

…I practiced several times and was ready

Then, at 8:30pm the night before, I was told they wanted a Q&A at the end so my section was shortened to 15 minutes

My heart sunk…

…I had a great arc and story that would most likely be shattered

…I had 10 minutes of demo I was showing to illustrate what we’re delivering today that was cut

I mourned

…then I regrouped, rethought, recovered

I reshaped the talk…sharpened the story arc…cut out duplicate, less-relevant content

…and delivered a potent talk that was much more effective than my 35 minute talk

That makes me wonder? Should I do that for everything I do? For speaking: Is there a way that can take 1/2 the time yet be twice as effective? For UI Design: Is there a way to give users 1/2 the details and be twice as effective?

What if we were always given last minute changes to our best-laid plans? Would we all benefit with a reshaped and refocused effort?

What do you think?

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