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Unifying the Platform: The IBM Z and LinuxONE Community

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:30 PM


Consistent innovation has become a regular part of the technology industry. But the community in this industry can be just as influential as technological innovation, if it’s leveraged the right way. That’s why Jeanne Brooks, the Worldwide IBM Z Community Leader, and her team created the new IBM Z and LinuxONE Community—a user-centric community offering members an experience unlike any other. 
Brooks has been with IBM for eight years, and in her current role launched the new IBM Z Community and Developer Ecosystem team early this year. She and her team are excited about evangelizing IBM Z and LinuxONE to the global community. Brooks has extensive experience in international market development and ecosystem enablement, and few people are as passionate about building a community around IBM Z as she is. 
From the very beginning, Brooks and her team wanted the IBM Z and LinuxONE Community site to be about what users wanted. The team took a prototype of the site to the 2019 IBM Think conference to solicit feedback. 
“We asked a large number of clients, developers, students and non-IBM Z audiences to take a look and let us know what they wanted from a community. That was our foundational approach,” Brooks notes. By beginning with what users wanted, Brooks and her team built a site that isn’t product- or offering-centric, and that’s very different from most websites today. 
Driving Quality and Consistency
IBM had dozens of communities and websites devoted to the mainframe. This fragmentation was confusing to users. “Many IBMers were not sure where to put their content,” says Brooks. Adding to the confusion, there was a lack of consistency; it was hard to tell if some of the sites were IBM sites. 
Along with brand consistency, the existence of so many disparate sites meant that content quality couldn’t be ensured. “IBM wasn’t able to easily or efficiently manage the content,” says Brooks, “and outdated and old content was still out there.” The new site is designed so that users can trust the accuracy, timeliness and quality of the content.
“Our solution was to create one community, consolidating multiple sites into one so our broad user community can easily engage, share and find the content and tools they need, when they need them, knowing they are the latest available from IBM. With that plan in place, IBM can drive the overall quality and consistency of content,” says Brooks. 
The IBM Z and LinuxONE Community site provides a single front door for clients, developers, students and anyone who wants to learn, network, or engage in forums to talk about the IBM Z platform, whether they want to improve their skills, participate in events, find the latest news and content, or contribute content themselves.
Overcoming Challenges
Getting several dozen websites and communities to come together under one umbrella wasn’t easy. Incorporating many of the features that users asked for required doing something that was new, innovative and a little risky. Designing the website architecture, managing the launch and fixing issues along the way were all challenging. 
When Brooks and her team reviewed the early feedback from users, they found that users want constantly refreshed content 24-7—and not just content from IBM. The IBM Z LinuxONE Community site provides that continuously refreshed content through aggregation. For example, content important to the IBM Z community published on sites such as Medium and Stack Overflow is aggregated to the IBM Z and LinuxONE Community site, which is refreshed with new content pulled in every 10-15 minutes. It’s unusual for a company to make content published elsewhere available on their own online property, but this is just one example of how this community is different. 
“IBM is evolving in a more user-centered, collaborative direction and we were the first in the company to do some of these innovations, but they were features our users wanted,” says Brooks. “To me, that’s a game-changer in terms of driving value. We believe we offer the features and fresh content that will make people come back to our new community over and over again.” 
New Features and More Value
The IBM Z and LinuxONE Community site also offers the use of tagging to help filter and sort for relevant content. Again, this was a feature that users asked for, and one that hadn’t been consistently offered by IBM before. 
“Users also wanted the ability to create content, share and collaborate through forums and the ability to blog,” said Brooks. Providing these features to the sophisticated level users wanted meant the team building the site was often in uncharted territory, but the primary goal was for users to become involved and engaged. “We continue to get feedback from our user base and from developers. It’s a journey but we believe we’re on a very positive and exciting pathway,” says Brooks. 
On every page of the site, there’s a way to start a discussion, with aggregation from multiple forums. Interaction is one of the pillars of the community. Regardless of a user’s level of ability, career or position, if they’re interested in the IBM Z platform, there’s a conversation and user group for them to join in the IBM Z and LinuxONE Community. 
The number of user groups has steadily increased since the launch, a mere six weeks ago, and Brooks expects that it will continue to grow to many dozens as the Community becomes a significant local and global user group hub. For example, the Master the Mainframe User Group has grown to hundreds of student and mentor members in just over a month. Brooks says that another unique element of the site is that the team works with the user groups to help them grow membership. 
The team has been working on community outreach since the very beginning. In addition to soliciting continuous feedback about the site design and features, they’ve been reaching out to other mainframe groups, including Destination z, to bring them into the fold. The different sites that existed prior to the launch of the IBM Z and LinuxONE Community site will become user groups, and will have the full support of the team and the IBM Z organization, along with the benefit of the forums, content, tools, free hands-on trials and code patterns, educational opportunities, and other resources and features available. 
Community Response and Future Interaction
“Feedback and user engagement have been excellent, and our biggest challenge has been getting the word out,” says Brooks regarding the community response so far. People, both internally and externally, see the site as setting a new bar as far as the design. The modern design and the feature-rich environment encourage interaction. 
“Every time we hear from users that an area is challenging, we try to fix it. We keep filling the gaps,” says Brooks. For example, when the site launched, the mobile version wasn’t very strong. The feedback mechanisms in place allowed users to make their concerns known, and the developers on Brooks’ team worked around the clock to improve the mobile functionality of the site. 
“In the next year or so, we hope clients, developers, students and all users go to a single URL—our community site,—that they can visit to collaborate, contribute content, connect and learn about IBM Z,” says Brooks. The goal is for people to easily find what they need on our community site, whether that’s training to improve their skills, experts to answer questions, conversations with others on topics of interest, or colleagues and peers interested in networking.  
The IBM Z and LinuxONE Community site will be the single IBM Z destination for users and members to visit knowing they will find IBM quality, consistency and accuracy, so that people feel this is a source they can trust. 
To help expand worldwide outreach, education and engagement, IBM Z is hosting a premiere global community event, IBM Z Day, on November 21 from 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. EST, where industry experts and global thought leaders will share how IBM Z is always open, on and secure, and reliably running the world. This free, virtual conference, will stream live on November 21, then be available on demand.  The information-packed IBM Z Day agenda offers over 25 sessions across three tracks (two technical and one general). 

Register today for IBM Z Day and hear keynotes from visionary Willie Tejada, general manager and chief developer advocate at IBM, as well as Ross Mauri, general manager, IBM Z and LinuxONE, and other executive leaders. Experience the rich and deep lineup of experts, entrepreneurs and technologists who will share their unique expertise and insights. Connect with tech influencers, industry luminaries, international organizations from the United Nations to the World Economic Forum and IBM enterprise and startup clients. Hear how they are shaping the digital landscape and evolving the tech industry while making the world a better place.
IBM Z Day offers something for everyone. Brooks hopes that the event will exponentially drive IBM Z and LinuxONE Community membership, which in turn will lead to increased user interaction, contributions, networking and engagement. 
“We’re still in our IBM Z Community’s infancy at just six weeks since launch, and exciting times are ahead,” says Brooks. “We’re just at the beginning. We’ll continue to drive continuous innovation based on user feedback to make our community a feature-rich destination shaped by members for members. We’re looking forward to building a diverse, engaging, interactive and vibrant global IBM Z and LinuxONE Community of thousands of active and contributing members.”