Selling TPF - It's Elementary Watson!

For those of you that weren't able to attend the TPF User Group Conference in Atlanta a few weeks ago, let me just say that you missed a very exciting conference. Attendance topped 350, and the TPF-related announcements from IBM alone were worth the trip. Presentations and demonstrations of VisualAge TPF, the TPF Super Web Server, “Folders and Pockets”, Persistent Collections, and Commit/Rollback Processing attest to IBM's ongoing commitment to the technology, and marked awareness that TPF's survival is dependent on coexisting with other technology disciplines. But is that really enough?

Enhanced functionality for existing customers is great. If we as TPF users have better tools for application development or database management and integrity, then we'll certainly reap the benefits being offered by these features. The real question though is what is IBM doing to make the rest of the world aware of the “new” TPF? Everyone at the TPFUG received a very nice promotional packet that contained announcements, press releases and the like. Being in the publishing business myself, I can appreciate the enormous cost of producing these packets, as well as the effort it took to produce them. However, I wish I knew how many of these packets IBM sent out to non-TPF customers. You see, these are the people that they should be focusing on.

There's no doubt that IBM doesn't want to lose any more TPF customers, but where is the effort to get some new customers? Where are the press releases and announcements in trade publications other than ACPTPF Today? Where are the full page TPF ads in USA Today and BusinessWeek? When are the marketing teams going to start knocking on the doors of organizations and companies that could unquestionably benefit from TPF? If you look at the attendance roster from the TPFUG you'll see that there were no less than 64 TPF IBM'ers at the conference. What are the chances that these same 64 people are scheduled to be at the next GUIDE meeting to “showcase” TPF to the rest of the technology community?

You know, it's no secret that the best thing that's happened to TPF in the past 25 years is the appointment of Jerrie Stewart as Director of the TPF Development Lab in Poughkeepsie. The efforts of Jerrie and her people have breathed new life into what was always considered “old” technology. And from what I hear, there's lot's more to come from the lab, that will literally thrust TPF into the forefront of the transaction processing arena. The motivation is there, the willingness is there, and the technical skills are there. That's half the battle folks. Now what do we do about the other half?

People and organizations in many ways can be compared to machines. Take the computer for example. The computer is nothing more than a collection of different parts, just as an organization is a collection of people. If my PC isn't doing the job, chances are it can be fixed by replacing some of the parts. The same holds true for organizations. At one time or another, we've all seen people replaced in an organization because they “weren't doing the job”. Now you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see where I'm heading with this. If IBM believes their marketing “machine” isn't doing the job, then it's time to call the CE's to fix the problem. Replacing a few “old parts” is probably all that's needed. As Holmes would say to Watson; “It's quite elementary.”

As 1997 winds down and we approach 1998, I remain hopeful and optimistic that things will change for the better with regard to TPF. IBM has the tools and resources at its disposal to make 1998 an exciting year for TPF.

The new year often brings change -- new corporate goals, new fiscal budgets, and new business challenges. We should all reflect on what we've accomplished this past year, and do our best to prepare for what lies ahead in 1998.

Alan Sadowsky