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June 2000

What’s in motion is bound to change

NewsWire Editorial

I’m living in a training camp this summer, an experience both healthy and educational. Here in our rising summer heat the newest element is motion. Lots of it, like three miles or more per day. It’s bringing change to our lives, just like markets in motion are changing the lives of the HP e3000 community.

I’m not talking about something as simple as a suntan we’re getting from being out in the mornings, or the HP 3000 being renamed. Those are both noticeable things, and they can even say something about what is happening to us and to your computer. (Here in Central Texas you can have a complete tan well before Memorial Day, without spending a moment on a lounge chair or a tanning bed. About the only thing selling faster than sunblock at the corner store is ice.)

No, I’m talking about the fundamental kind of change that’s difficult, maybe impossible to undo. See, my wife and partner Abby (she’s Dottie to some, but that’s changing) is going to walk a marathon for charity. The Arthritis Foundation will get donations she’s collecting from sponsors to support research for the disease. One of the first questions she gets asked is “How long is a marathon?” Her answer is her motto: “26.2 miles, and no nap.”

Abby is not a long distance runner, or even a long distance walker. But she’s committed to her health in a way that’s new to me, after knowing her for more than 11 years. And this dramatic act, to walk a marathon in less than a day’s worth of daylight, is prompting serious changes in her life, and in mine as well.

Most of our days start before the sunlight appears, by a few minutes. In Texas the heat index shoots above 85 degrees before 9 AM on most days, so if you want to walk you’ve got to get out early. Having heart-pumping exercise in our lives before 8 AM is brand new around here. But the benefits are already appearing. That much motion early in the day resets your body metabolism upward a few notches. It’s a great way to reverse the “editor’s spread” that’s crept into my life.

The same kind of from-the-start change is apparent in the HP 3000 marketplace today. Instead of thinking everybody is keen to sell you a computer system with the HP logo on it, managers are learning to make the effort to find a reseller. People don’t come out to sell you hardware anymore, unless you’re buying enough to write eight figures before the decimal point on the check. This has the effect of rendering the hardware deal a lot less important than it once was to your favorite system supplier.

It’s tough to imagine that HP’s biggest concern is not selling you systems anymore. I find it hard to imagine that I once slept late and worked late into the night. It’s change, and it’s our lesson to learn to handle it.

I put myself in this healthy picture because I’m part of the support team for the marathon project. That means I’ve been out on our neighborhood streets alongside Abby on some mornings, as well as most times that we hike a couple loops around downtown Town Lake on the weekends. I have found it a lot easier to pick up momentum from somebody who’s already moving.

In the same way, going off to find a reseller to get your 3000 might give you momentum to buy what you really need: a solution. It’s possible that purchasing the hardware and support services might be enough to meet your company’s business goals. But for a growing number of the 3000’s customers, buying maintained hardware is just the beginning. They need consulting help, because everybody who’s any good is pretty maxed out. From what we hear, even the computer pros who aren’t very good are busy all the time.

Without enough help in-house, more of you are engaging consultants, somewhere in your organization. They may not be helping on the 3000 yet, but that will change. If not, you’re investing in training. There’s a non-hardware need lurking in most new investments, and that’s what HP wants to help you find.

This is not easy change for a customer base that’s as self-reliant as they come. By our estimates, two out of every three HP 3000s out there are running applications written in-house, or created by a company that didn’t stick around the 3000 community. Keeping up all your own code is like dogma to the 3000 shop. But it’s apparent that will be changing, now that the information technology world has gotten as complex and rich with potential as today’s.

In much the same way, Abby is learning to rely on professionals to help her achieve her goal. She is now practicing Pilates, a stretching and strength training regimen that’s altered her race-walking form for the better. Once a week she has a personal training hour, to do work with weights. And then there’s the running class and the massage once a week, and help with nutrition from another pro.

It’s not as simple as life was when the goals were shorter than 26.2 miles. In the same way, you may feel like you’re on a much longer path as an IT professional. The world’s networks are now open for commerce, and communications with trading partners are expected, not a bonus. Our readers are some of the most experienced HP 3000 managers in the world. On average, NewsWire subscribers have 17.2 years of HP 3000 savvy.

But they want to have more than just IT careers. They want lives, and the best results for their companies. That means help, services. HP has put the catch-all vowel, e, on the front of that word. Even if e-services never jells as a technology, it will create the movement to get companies to think about buying more than bits and silicon. HP, you see, wants you to shop for savvy.

It may not be an easy thing to buy if you’re in the savvy business yourself. Adding resource to IT efforts can be a politically charged move. But that movement is now already upon this market, and there’s no turning back. The IT pros who read us, and the suppliers of software and services, have a nice advantage in this change of events. They are already lean and efficient. The vast majority of our readers are running shops with five or fewer people on staff. The vendors are supporting hundreds to thousands of customers with a small fraction of staff on hand.

In addition to being lean, there’s a lot of savvy out there. Back in our Q&A interview this month, Bill Lancaster talks about how the seasoned pros stack up against the latest generation of computer folks. He said because so many of you had to solve problems like the black art of communications on your own, you’re better than the newer generation. (It may have been two 40-plus guys feeling that guile would triumph over youth when we talked. But I remember how hard everybody was working in the middle 1980s to stay online.)

It reminds me of the ultimate inspiration for Abby’s drive to health and marathoner status. She passed 50 a few years back, a part of life that can make a person more conscious of how much time they have left. Going in motion is changing her health, and our lives, too. Most of you can feel the motion in your lives as communicating information becomes the key to success. When motion materializes, making the strides toward change is a natural part of the experience.

There is comfort in the familiar, though, even in our change. For us, it’s the many walks through the tree-lined, bird-laden neighborhood of Austin. We are more connected to our home. For you, it may be something just as familiar: the HP 3000. At the center of your professional lives is a computer that has been successful at one element more often than any other solution’s platform: change. The ability to handle the long road is the most rewarding commitment of all. We’ll keep you posted on ours. Tell us about yours, too.

— Ron Seybold 


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