Recently, I was able to witness this many times, when I attended the SUGA conference, which was held at the Disneyland Hotel and Convention Center in Anaheim. SUGA is a user group run by users of SunGard’s Public Sector products. SunGard, of course, is a major ISV with many products on many platforms, but one of their lines in the Public Sector is NaviLine, and a key part of that suite runs on IBM i. If you’ve watched the i marketplace for a long time, this product set was once called HTE.
Earlier this year, I had been invited to present to a group of SunGard Public Sector employees at their annual education event. I delivered the “IBM i Trends & Directions” presentation, and the reactions were quite positive. While I was visiting SunGard, though, I was also able to see some exciting transformations they were making in their product line. They were updating a part of their product set to create brand new graphical interfaces, with significant functional enhancements for their customers who use the IBM i-based solutions. They had just gotten started, but their progress was impressive.
Shortly after my visit to their development site, I was invited to give my “Trends” presentation for the users at the SUGA conference. I showed up a day early, because I wanted to talk to the SunGard development team again. The first one I ran into was Kevin Mooney, Director of NaviLine Public Administration Support, and he was smiling.
“We’ve been giving demos, previewing that new interface and the new function, and we are getting great reactions. Customers are very excited,” Kevin told me.
We discussed it for a while, and soon it became clear that I had to see this for myself. So I attended a session where the SunGard team was demonstrating the new look and new capabilities. The reaction? The room was full of happy customers, anxious to get the new system.
You see, to many IBM i clients – perhaps to most IBM i clients – the application they use is what they see as “the system.” They don’t see any more of IBM i or Power Systems than what shows up through the interface to the software they use to do their jobs – software such as the application I was watching, which is devoted to helping utilities (such as power companies or water companies) run their businesses.
When the application interface is the decades-old 5250 green screen, customers can get their jobs done – of course. But the customers also assume that this interface is the only interface available; they think of the platform as “old.”
But when an ISV uses the latest technology to provide interfaces that are powerful, intuitive and obvious, then customers have an entirely new view of the platform. It seems like a new “system!” And when, like SunGard, they also take advantage of some redesigning to give clients even more capabilities, the reactions are extremely positive.
These NaviLine customers really love their existing systems – most of them still think of them as the “iSeries” – for all the same reasons most clients do: it’s reliable, it’s easy, it runs the business. They don’t want to consider another system or operating system. But they also want the power that comes from using modern tools, and they want to see their solution providers investing in those tools.
That’s what these customers saw at SUGA, and I was very happy to share that experience. Nothing demonstrates the power of the platform better than a user who is taking advantage of the innovative technology we have built: “We” being IBM and our software partners.