As children, we learn a lot of basic skills; reading, writing and arithmetic are the first that comes to mind. Counting is one of the essential building blocks of education and is encouraged at the earliest of ages. As we get older we continue to use these skills, but in a more sophisticated way. John Rockwell is taking the basic skill of counting and making it useful for thousands of IBM i business' and hundreds of thousands of their employees.
Rockwell has worked in the IBM mid-range area for more than 31 years and although he considers himself semi-retired, he still feels he has a huge mission to accomplish. He is attempting to create a list of every verifiable company in the world who is running mission critical applications on the IBM i system and has them listed on his website www.all400s.com. The goal for Rockwell is to be a massive information sharing network that gives verifiable proof of the amount of companies using (or not using) the IBM i system.
With a year and a half of his life already dedicated to this, people have asked "Why?" According to Rockwell he wants to create the list to help stop the decrease of IBM i shops by showing verified proof of the widespread use of IBM i and instill confidence in the system and its future.
Why isn't the only question that Rockwell gets about his list, we asked him what were some of the more frequent questions about the list he gets from people and he was kind enough to sit down and answer them for Profound Logic.
1. Do you just scan the job boards looking for company names to add to the Company List?
No, I use several methods to find new names for the list:
- Vendors who support the project will tell their clients what we are doing and ask them if we can add them to the list. The vendor will then send me the list of vendors who agreed to be on the list (over 5,000 names have been added this way).
- Job boards are scanned, I use keywords for both the computer (AS400, iSeries, etc) and software packages that are only used on these systems (JDE World, PRMS, BPCS, etc.)
- Case studies with a date on them posted on the websites of software vendors who only cater to this ecosystem provide some names (similar to Profound Logic's case study list), as do testimonials on some of those websites. If there is no date on the case study itself then I'll check the document's properties to see if there is a last modified date on it to determine the year.
- People who follow me on LinkedIn send me the names of companies who they know are using the platform. I've made it clear that the companies must give their permission for their names to be used in these cases. There are over 2,500 people on my various contact lists so this is a source of many company names.
- Some names come from news stories on sites like IT Jungle where a company is named in connection with whatever the topic of the article is.
- People who see either my posts on LinkedIn or who comes across the all400s website email me additions/updates for the list. Most of the non-US companies in non-English speaking countries come in this way. The same holds true for posts on other social media sites like Facebook.
- I Google AS400 2017 city budget - and then read the budgets which are usually in PDF format to see if they are renewing their maintenance contract, upgrading or shutting down the machine.
These methods account for how most of the names on the list were obtained. A few were probably found using some other method but I can't remember what any of those other methods were now.
2. Isn't this just a different type of Job Board?
While part of the website might look it was designed for job hunting, and in fact has a page with link to several job boards, that is at most 25% of its purpose and function. This 25% is made up of two pieces: hiring board and the company list.
The hiring board is where everyone who has worked on any iteration of the platform in any capacity can register for free to put a check mark beside their name if they are currently looking for work. If someone is skimming through the board and finds a person who might fit a job opening they are trying to fill then they can click on that person's name and get more information. The company list allows job seekers to find names of companies they hadn't known were using the platform and check the career pages on those company's websites to see for potential job openings. Many companies will post openings on their career page before paying to post them on a job board.
The rest of the site is devoted to goals that have nothing to do with job hunting. For example, another goal is to provide internal IT Departments with solid arguments they can use to make the case for keeping the platform in-house when a competitor, or a new executive, tries to convince management to move to another platform. Some of those arguments can be:
- Taking the company list and filtering it down to their industry and the active 'Last Confirmed Years.' This can point out that if their company spends its budget converting to a different platform their competitors can stay on the platform and use the same amount of money to grab market share from their company.
- They can filter the company list down to Fortune 500 companies who are actively using the platform and simply ask why it is good enough for them but not your company (it is certainly satisfying their computing needs).
- They can click the 'Resources' tab and then click on the 'Counter Points' link to reach a page where they can find several other arguments to counter the most common reasons competitors give to try to convince companies to move off the platform.
Another goal of the site is to find software, disaster recovery, cloud hosting, and consulting companies potential leads via the company list so they can continue to thrive in this ecosystem and we can continue to find products that meet our needs.
3. Doesn't having companies with very old 'Last Confirmed Years' make the list inaccurate?
Not really. The 'Last Confirmed Years' are 100% accurate in that the company listed as using the platform that year was using it, at least to the best of my knowledge. I should add that qualifier because much of the information has been sent to me from other people so it is only as good as their resources. A few reasons for keeping companies on the list who have old 'Last Confirmed Year' are:
- If I am a vendor who is about to run an expensive marketing campaign aimed at prospective customers in a specific region, then it might be worth my time to check and see if these companies are still using the platform. This increases the odds that the campaign will be successful.
- If I'm hunting for a job it might be worth my while to check companies with the older 'Last Confirmed Year' on the off-chance that they are still using the platform and might need some help.
- Several times people who work for those companies have seen the company and date on the list and said to themselves "Wait, we are still using the platform." Then they send me an email to get the 'Last Confirmed Year' updated. Programmers, system administrators, consultants, etc... who are familiar with those companies have done the same thing.
I use the term 'Off-platform' as a placeholder to mean one of several things:
- A company has gone out of business
- Been merged out of existence
- Moved to a different platform
The reason I use that term instead of deleting the company is because I receive many lists from many sources and there is no way to make sure I receive them in chronological order. In other words, I might get a list saying a company is out of business, if I deleted the record for that company and received an older list saying it is still in business I'd end up putting it back on the list. Having the 'Off-platform' marker there keeps me from making that mistake and helps keep the list clean.
5. Isn't it harming the ecosystem and helping our competitors by using the 'AS400' brand name when it brings 'green screens' and 'legacy' to mind?
Only if you're not a very good sales rep. While it does provide a target list for IBM's competitors, I have confidence that IBM would always be able to win if it came down to a head-to-head contest. I wrote an article for people who work for a company using the platform to help them be better sales reps for the platform though in case they weren't getting any help from the outside world to make their case. The article can be found here!
What we took away from our conversation with Rockwell was a great deal of passion for the IBM i community and a desire to see it last for decades to come. This list is a bit of a legacy project for him and he sees the value that it can bring to a community he loves. His persistence can be infectious as well... recently Rockwell has found someone who created graphical representations of the information available on the ALL400s website. This tool will make it easier for those who want to use the list by showing a graphical map of the locations of each confirmed company. That graphical representation can be found in Rockwell's latest post on LinkedIn.
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