Seeing the need to bring together customers and IBMers in an open discussion format, IBM has made it a priority in 2015 to foster growth of z Councils
. Considered the cousins of user groups, the idea of z Council events is to be offsite and include camaraderie, networking and education, says Sally Eystad, North America z Systems Technical Sales Executive, IBM. The events are a two-way street: The z Councils act as a forum for key z System customers to give IBM their insights and help grow workload on the z Systems platform while also learning.
The z Council technical groups started in 2005, but in 2015 there has been a push to launch in more cities. This year eight new councils were formed, bringing the total to 16 cities that have groups and going forward more councils are expected in the Midwest and western U.S.
These meetings are well attended from the beginning. At the launch in Minneapolis this fall, “we had 98 customers and IBMers in attendance. This was an impressive showing given we had projected the event would have 50 attendees,” Eystad notes. “There are some cities where IBM has customers but we have not had many events like this, so we get a good turnout.”
At the core, these are customer events, but they’re open to everyone who wants to learn about the z Systems platform. The event agendas are set by the customers based on surveys and feedback, covering what they want to know and hear about.
“Some of the really great moments this year have been when we have a customer presenter share with the groups something they have done in their shops,” Eystad says. “This is a wonderful firsthand perspective of the rewards and some of the challenges when rolling out new solutions. When other customers hear the stories firsthand, it really opens up the discussions.”
Other popular topics this year have included skills issues, presentations by IBM employees (including executives), the new IBM z13 platform, IBM System Storage DS8000 series products, and software and hardware.
And customers appreciate getting together with IBMers and local peers, as evidenced through the comments at the end of the sessions. The events have been known to provide opportunities and relationships outside the events themselves.
A customer told Eystad about meeting a fellow local customer at a SHARE event. “Customer A was from a larger shop while Customer B was from a smaller shop,” she recalls. “Customer B recently had to pick up new duties at his shop, so for the past six months Customer A had been mentoring customer B on technical issues.” Eystad notes that Customer A said “let’s face facts, groups like this will become more valuable going forward as no one is getting any younger in z Systems."
The z Systems platform is always growing and changing and the Councils help keep everyone in a shop up to speed on what’s happening in the industry. Because the agendas are so diverse in what they cover, Eystad says it really helps customers to see the full picture of what IBM can offer. “I will also again stress how these are two-way streets with IBM learning from the customers in attendance as well,” she points out.
At the end of each event participants fill out a survey on what topics they would like to see at a future event and mention any other comments they might have. One comment from the first Minneapolis z Council event stood out to Eystad, letting her know that the meetups are important to the mainframe community. The comment said: Please do not let this type of event die! “This is what keeps me motivated,” she adds.
To learn more about the z Council groups or find an event near you, visit the z Council website
. If there isn’t one near you, reach out to your z Systems Technical Sales Team. Also, some groups can be found on LinkedIn.
Valerie Dennis is site editor of Destination z.