I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say the following statement: “I wish I could use iTech Solutions as our IBM Business Partner but…”
Many customers think that they’re effectively married to their Business Partner; bound by some kind of unwritten contract so they can’t work with anyone else.
This is absolutely false.
While there are some rules that IBM Business Partners must adhere to that I can’t go into detail about, for the most part, if someone wants to work with ANY partner, then there is nothing stopping them from doing that. In fact, most of our new customers come the old fashioned way: word of mouth. One customer works with us and tells people in their local IBM i community. And then one good turn deserves another.
Other times, some partners go out of business or just stop doing what they should be doing: representing IBM to their customer base. I had one customer a year or so ago who hadn’t heard from their partner in SEVEN years when they installed their POWER7. Do you know who they ended up calling when they needed help? Us. Simply because they knew we were looking to earn their business. And we earned it by dragging their system off the fire one night when their old partner didn’t pick up the phone. I don’t even think we charged them for the hour. All’s fair in love and war I suppose.
Your IBM Business Partner Can Be Located Anywhere
Perhaps it’s out of habit, location, or a combination of both. A company has used an IBM Business Partner for 25 years or so and they think that they’re the only one in town. While that may be literally true to some extent, what’s even more true is that you don’t need a local partner anymore. If the COVID pandemic has taught the world anything, it’s that people work from everywhere. That’s why we help customers with services all over the world. While we can only sell IBM hardware in North America, we will gladly work with and recommend other reputable hardware resellers from Belgrade to Bangkok and everywhere in between.
Busting Business Partner Myths
And while most IBM Business Partners are made up of honest folks trying to make a living like we are, sometimes you hear just flat-out nonsense that some partners try to get away with telling their customers. And they sometimes succeed too. Things like: “our current Business Partner says that only they can upgrade our system” or “we need our current Business Partner to sell us a new system because they won’t issue us any license keys to their software if they don’t.”
The former is utter foolishness. Anyone can do an IBM i upgrade. We just happen to arguably do more OS Upgrades than anyone and have it down to a science.
The latter is a little more complicated. I’ve seen that happen firsthand a handful of times. It’s sad but it does happen. And the customer is trapped to some degree. I’ve seen partners inflate the cost of a new POWER9 in order to force their customer into their cloud.
I can remember a year ago when we were asked to give a second opinion on a machine configuration. It should’ve been a simple box. It probably would’ve cost around $50,000 at the list price. Coming from a POWER7 with eight disk drives, 32 GB RAM, a four-processor core machine with one IBM i license and unlimited users. They needed a new tape unit as well. The configuration they were proposed? Over $250,000. The other partner configured five or six licenses of IBM i on an eight-core POWER9, quadrupled the RAM, maxed out the system unit with SSDs, and actually added an expansion drawer for more SSDs for good measure. We knew the customer was in a pickle.
So we did what anyone would do with an inkling of integrity: we configured a properly-sized box that cost about $50,000 including the tape unit and gave it to the customer with my compliments. Then I called the proper channels at IBM and told them what the other partner was doing. Nobody should be given the gears like that customer was. It’s not ethical nor moral and a violation of the Business Partner Agreement.
And you know what usually happens in a situation like that? After a conversation with us, a customer may be forced to buy a server from their old partner (with OUR properly-sized configuration recommendations) but we end up doing the migration services. And we start building that relationship where we end up doing the upgrades. And the customer calls us when they need trusted advice. So what if we don’t sell a machine? Big deal. The customer knows the configuration is solid and they’re not getting ripped off. We’ll always review the old partner’s proposed configuration and turn it into Swiss cheese if they’re trying to sneak an extra Ethernet card in there that the customer doesn’t need. Because that is what a partner does.
IBM i Education from Your Business Partner
What about education? If your partner isn’t providing you with hundreds of hours of complimentary educational content every year for your benefit, maybe you should give us a call.
Forget about your education for a second. When was the last time your existing partner has educated themselves? It’s funny because when we do webinars we see other partners on them and that’s cool with us. There’s plenty of partners that do a great job and we happily break bread and consult with many of them. Sometimes they need help and sometimes we need help. That’s how good working relationships work. Heck, we know many customers that can give some partners a lesson in the features of IBM i 7.4. We have a pretty good idea which partners aren’t keeping their skills sharp based on some of the configurations we give second opinions on.
Say it with me: production servers don’t need 10k RPM spinning disks in their 2021 SAN purchase. Yeah, we still see that. Not for historical low-I/O data but for production workloads. I hope their customers aren’t expecting things like performance.
So how do you change your IBM Business Partner?
It all starts with a phone call or an e-mail. Then we start working together as a partnership. It’s nothing more complicated than that. With that in mind, we hope to hear from you soon and will continuously strive to earn your business.
More from this month:
- System Environment Variables for Controlling QNTC Behavior
- Getting to Know COBIT and IBM i System Administration
- Load and Stress Testing for Security Concerns
- IBM i Security Resource Page
- iTech iTip Videos
- Sips & Tricks: Coffee with iTech
- iBasics: IBM i Education for the Beginner System Administrator
- Upcoming Events
- IBM i, FSP, and HMC release levels and PTFs (April 2021)