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Bill Lancaster
VP and CTO
Lund Performance Solutions


August 2004

Coming Back to the 3000's Future

Bill Lancaster is back in a changed 3000 community that is still pondering its future. He developed the concept for an all-3000 conference that emerged in 2000, when the MPE Forum first served up content at the e3000 Solution Symposiums. The Symposiums were the first new 3000-only event on the US calendar in more than five years. This summer Lancaster has returned to the MPE and HP 3000 world after a three-year hiatus, joining Lund Performance Solutions as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer and leader of a homesteading embrace from one of the community’s HP Platinum Migration partners.

After he’d run his own consulting firm for six years, Lancaster took a break from the world of IT in 2001, not long before HP tossed in the towel on the 3000’s future. He returns to a company where he was general manager in the 1990s, one that has been a migration advisor since HP started its Platinum Migration partner program in 2002. A June reorganization at Lund led to the departure of the company’s president Scott Pierson and its Director of R&D Jim Kramer. Now Andy Herbert is taking the President’s reins at Lund with Lancaster leading the new charge into homesteading services.

Lancaster promoted the Symposium idea to Interex and to HP as a way to get more training out to a customer base that’s advancing in age. HP and the user group honored him with the HP e3000 Contributor’s Award in 2000 for special service to the community.

By the time of his return, Interex had diffused the Symposium’s 3000 focus, while HP’s steps away from the platform have been well-charted. Lancaster says that Lund will recharge as a resource for the 3000 customer who feels left behind. He’s demonstrated a record of gathering coalitions. His consulting firm signed top technical Amisys individuals from HBOC after those Amisys experts left the company. He also called in plenty of favors to stock the first Symposiums with 3000 speakers who didn’t usually present at conferences.

Lancaster joined the 3000 community in 1981 after serving as a Russian linguist in the US armed forces. He served at insurance companies and helped establish the thriving service bureau business at Summit Information Systems. Now he’s on a new mission for some of HP’s oldest customers: delivering homesteading help to a segment of the community that looks to him like it represents an opportunity. We wanted to ask him about the changes in Lund’s fundamentals and how much he expects independence to matter to the community. We spoke in late June, just a few weeks after he’d returned to Lund.

What’s changing at Lund that can help HP 3000 sites?

Even though I understand HP’s position on this, that people need to migrate, what about the homesteaders? That’s one of the things we’re going to do: Put a real emphasis on what we can do to help the homesteaders.

To accomplish that we have a restructured management team and staff that is putting an emphasis on serving the e3000 customer’s needs whether they stay on MPE or want to eventually transfer off. We have a new mandate from Bob Lund to get back to our roots of service first.

What prompted the reorganization at Lund?

It was a move that Bob [Lund] felt he needed to do get this company back to the roots of what it was created to do 16 years ago. It had become something else. This company lost its first love, its vision, and abandoned it to become just another software company. It became important to Bob and [CEO] Andy Herbert because the market has changed so much, and you can’t do what you used to do. One of the things we’re going to be doing is focusing much more in the services arena.

Why services rather than software?

That’s why they brought me in, to build a community of support for the homesteaders. This is something I think I can do, having built a number of such things, including the Solutions Symposiums. Those were really geared for providing real answers for real people with real problems.
In addition to building something internally, we want to contribute to some external collaboration. It would be nice to draw together those who are left standing, to help those who are going to remain on the 3000 for awhile. We can build some consensus.

Lund is an HP Platinum Migration partner. This sounds like an embrace of the other choice for 3000 customers. How can you serve these two options at once?

There aren’t just two choices. It isn’t just stay or go. It’s stay or go, or stay for awhile and then go. We want to give the customer the opportunity to make these decisions on their timeframe, not HP’s. I know a lot of people that have no plan yet — big shops that have no plan about they’re going to do in December of 2006. Frankly, I see that as a real market of opportunity. So it’s not all altruism in helping homesteaders. I think there’s a real opportunity to do some good work and help people stay as long as they want to stay. We want to let the artificial boundary of 12-31-2006 become flexible.

HP’s recommendations all revolve around that date. Do you expect them to shift it?

I don’t care what HP does anymore. They have proven that they are not to be relied upon any longer. I’m not talking about the individuals, people like Dave Wilde or Ross McDonald or Alvina Nishimoto. They’re quality people stuck into a really tough situation. I want to be careful, because I want to build consensus. I believe in being a bridge builder, I always have. But HP doesn’t deserve that kind of loyalty anymore. Now it’s a matter of going and fighting for the remaining people, to get them whatever they need to keep going.

That’s bound to be a narrower slice of the market than the Unix and Windows segments. What does Lund Performance hope to do to draw enough business off a smaller 3000 market?

We want to create a company that can become more meaningful to a smaller group of companies. My company, Lancaster Consulting, did that with six consultants. We were doing over $1 million a year. We ended up staying with some companies and helping them with a lot of things, instead of just trying to go in and help them resolve an individual problem. We did a lot of Amisys and Ecometry/ Smith-Gardner business, and did a lot more than performance.

What kind of legacy can companies of 15, 20 years or more in the 3000 community, like Lund, bring to an IT industry stocked with younger professionals?

To become the advisors to the next generation. Because they don’t have the breadth and depth of our experience. They may be able to code up the wazoo with .NET, or C#, or some of the avant garde development environments today. But do they know how to solve basic business problems? I think there’s a transition hope for a lot of us to get into places and guide with that advice.

What’s the hiatus from the 3000 community taught you?

In the last three years I’ve been working with CEOs, helping them herd the cats, so to speak. The diverse nature of all the technology makes it hard for them to know what’s important. It’s hard for anybody to manage these days.

Long-term consultants from the 3000 world — you think they can play a role in helping companies headed away from the platform?

I think we have a lot to offer. People like Stan Sieler and Steve Cooper [of Allegro], people like [Interex board chair] Denys [Beauchemin], Wirt [Atmar] of AICS, Gavin [Scott of Allegro] — they are absolute treasures that I hope will make a transition to become professors emeritus.

There’s a lot of talent in the 3000 community looking for the next thing to engage them as deeply as the 3000 did. Where will you be looking?

Well, there is no next product. The markets that we’re going to be operating in are flooded with products. Especially when you look at the Linux or Unix worlds. You can get anything you want for free. It’s just a matter of having the wisdom use those free tools in the right way. They say it costs just as much to implement a free Linux environment as a paid environment in Windows, for example. It just costs an enormous amount of money to gain all that wisdom. It’s not about tools anymore. It hasn’t been for some time, and we haven’t caught up with that yet.

I want to be focused on solving business problems. Accenture has just signed a deal for $10 billion to handle the data flow from US border station checkpoints. That’s $10 billion, and they’re not selling a product, are they?

Is Lund making changes to its office resources as part of the restructuring?

The offices will remain in Albany, Ore. We’re never had remote offices. The work that Scott [Pierson] and Jim [Kramer] did is going to be help us move into the future. They really did contribute significantly to Lund during their tenure and brought many good things to bear to improve the company. But fundamentally we’re shifting direction, and going back to being a company that serves the customers, instead of trying to become a company who customers serve it. Every software company faces that challenge, where you really get going and start having an expectation, an arrogance like Microsoft. Then upstarts come along and require an adjustment to that.

Has the Platinum partner business started to generate a lot of business yet?

I think the Platinum partner program can be an element of the coalition we need to put together to keep the 3000 market surviving, while people put together decisions. These migrations are going to be hard. If the Platinum partner program can include a really strong effort to take care of the homesteaders, then it can be very positive. I don’t believe the program is a stand-alone leg of a platform.

What about a meeting point for the 3000 community? For decades, the Interex HP World show has served in that capacity. Can it continue?

I think we can no longer count on HP World as a draw for the 3000 community. We created something before, and we can do it again. I would be happy to spearhead the creation of an independent HP 3000 gathering. That would tickle me pink to do that, because we did it before with the Solutions Symposiums.

Are the same organizations a part of such an independent gathering?

We don’t have to involve HP necessarily, and we don’t have to involve Interex necessarily. While I respect all my past associations with those organizations, have they really traveled with us where we’re going? We could put together something. We’re getting 60 speakers slots at this year’s HP World for MPE, after hundreds several years ago.

This is sounding independent. Is Lund willing to offer a direction different from HP’s plan for the 3000?

We’re going to have to have a divergent strategy from what HP and Interex are doing with respect to the MPE world if we’re going to have any success with the MPE customers. Our MPE customers are more important to us today than they ever were, even in the past — because we really feel we haven’t done a great job of serving them. We owe them something to really make up for our lack of focus on them in the last few years. That’s why Lund brought me back, to serve the MPE community.

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