Throwing Light Onto Dark Places
Deb Lawson works to shed light on murky parts of the HP 3000
community. The director of the Interex User Groups Advocacy and
Technical Events, Lawson is the only member of the groups
executive staff who can call on a background working for HP. Her
ability to work closely with the vendor, which has embraced so much
change of late, is making a difference to a user group that is trying
to maintain its connection with an evolving HP. Few parts of HP are
changing as much as its HP 3000 operations, winding down over the
next three-plus years.
Lawsons work following the change uses her
background in a changing HP. She joined Apollo Computer in 1988, only
to see the vendor absorbed by HP much as it embraced Compaq. After
her work to manage the business aspects of an HP engineering group,
she began working with Interex in 1996 while employed at Interworks,
the Apollo Computer user group which merged its activities with
Interex in 1998. Her mission with Interex took more of a cant toward
the 3000 marketplace with the advent of the Interex HP 3000 Solution
Symposiums. Those springtime events took over for the Interex
Programmers Forums, and guided by content selected by the 3000
communitys veterans, began to attract a growing audience. The
Symposiums have posted a rising attendance for the 2000 through 2002
shows, bucking the industry trend of involvement with in-person
Although Interex runs a more popular event in its
annual HP World conferences, the Symposiums have become the user
groups most concentrated 3000 offering under Lawsons
stewardship. This year shes also managing the Interex Customer
Advocacy Survey, presented for the first time to a customer base
including Compaq users. That survey goes out this month, a data point
that HP uses to judge the quality of its customers
This spring the e3000 Symposium adds a second event,
doubling the amount of investment the user group is making in a
community which HP is leaving. We wanted to ask Lawson what Interex
hopes to achieve with twice as much 3000 training, what the
groups surveys show about these customers will to migrate
and homestead and where Interex wants to aim its 2003 advocacy
for 3000 owners.
Interex has decided to open up a second Symposium venue this
year. What should the 3000 customer base conclude about this
expansion of 3000 business by the user group?
When we looked at the West Coast show and the
demographics, a large majority were coming from the West Coast. We
needed to put a show on the East Coast, before a very large base of
customers in the area. That was it. The base is almost as large as it
is in California. We know we needed to get the training out there,
because theres just so much for people to learn.
Did you see any relationship between committing to a second
show and the shift in the 3000 market from homesteading training to
With migration, theres more to learn. We need
more in-depth training. HP World is good, but we need really in-depth
sessions and we dont have enough time at HP World to offer
that. The migration establishes a sense of urgency. Hopefully the
shows help them make a decision.
The Symposium has picked up another word in its title,
Migration. How is the content changing as a result of adding this
There is more migration training. We found in our
research that the majority of the platform is migrating. Right now it
seems like the majority of those are gathering information and
planning migrations. We had a migration track last year; were
splitting it into migration planning and migration implementation,
because people are at different phases.
For people who arent migrating, or arent
migrating immediately, we have certain MPE fundamentals in another
track. This has fundamentals for homesteading.
Who is managing the content for the Symposium this time
The content is managed by Paul Edwards, chairman of
the MPE Forum. He has Jeff Vance, John Burke and Nick Demos as the
paper selection committee.
I would give the credit for the shows to the program
committee; we had Bill Lancaster to start it, and now weve got
Paul Edwards. Their experience combined with the research made it
Why did you choose Valley Forge as an East Coast site?
We knew we wanted to be in New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania or Washington, DC. At the time we were looking we ruled
Washington out, because it was at the time of the sniper attacks. New
York and New Jersey were extremely expensive, and we knew this group.
We were trying to deliver the most quality for the least expense.
Valley Forge came up, and it was only 25 minutes from
Philadephias airport. It was in a historical area, and we
though this audience would appreciate that history.
This sort of event is often propped up by exhibitor and
sponsor fees. Will there be an exhibits area at the Symposiums?
Weve compromised. We have all the sponsorships
that we had last year, but weve added a Partner Hour. Its
where all of the existing sponsors, plus any other vendor can pay
their way to exhibit their products on the Thursdays. The vendors
requested more face time with the attendees. We limited it to an hour
because we know the attendees are really into the training.
Were encouraging the attendees, with food, to visit with the
vendors in this area, and set up appointments for the rest of the
week. We know people dont go to the Symposium to talk to the
vendors, not primarily.
Do you expect the content to remain the same for both
The goal is to have them be as similar as possible.
Were constrained by peoples ability to travel. Sixty to
70 percent of presenters that are at Valley Forge have also offered
to present in California. Some presenters can only present in one
location or another.
It seems like in-person shows are becoming harder for IT
managers to justify. Have you found this to be the case for the
Symposium, and what can customers learn in person they cant
The e3000 show for the last two years has actually
beat the odds and increased attendance. Two years ago it started at
185 and last year we were close to 300. Were beating the odds
given the current economic situation.
When we do surveys, the quality of the in-person
training is always number one. The other reason people say they come
is the networking, either the contacts they make with HP or somebody
they sit with at lunch that has a tip. The savings they get in time
far exceeds the expense.
This year with the migration were trying to
bring in a lot of success stories. There will be some new faces, even
in the sessions by presenters who did present at HP World;
theyll refresh their presentations.
What about application-based training, like last years
full track for Ecometry users?
We have one Ecometry migration hands-on session for
two hours, while last year we had a full day. It was a function of
what was submitted.
How involved has HP been in this years symposiums,
given the companys cutbacks in travel and staffing over the
HP is extremely involved. They are a Platinum
sponsor, so they are helping financially. The sponsorships help us
keep the attendee fees down, and our goal is run an event that breaks
even. We dont care about making a big profit, we just want to
offer the training.
HP has even more speakers this year. Weve been
working with them on our research, and theyve supplied the
keynote speakers: Dave Wilde will be talking, and there will be a
presentation on HPs Multi-OS Strategy and Roadmap. And
weve got Marty Pontiakowski talking about HPs Adaptive
Infrastructure to grow with the organization. HP is funding all of
the speakers in the technical talks to travel to both shows.
Were very pleased with HPs participation.
Do you expect your migration sessions to be better
attended than the homesteading and MPE fundamentals?
If youve decided to migrate, theres
definitely things you need to learn, so theres more urgency.
Although people that are staying on the platform need to make some
decisions, too. Somebodys whos asking their boss to go is
more likely to be migrating. Last years migration sessions were
What does your research tell you about the customers
willingness to migrate from their systems in the next year?
Our newest research shows that 25 percent have not
made a decision to migrate. Of the 25 percent, many arent going
to migrate at all, while some will eventually migrate, just not in
the short term.
Does this year look like an information gathering phase to
Yes. A question in our last survey asked the date
people expected to start their migration implementation. Twenty five
percent have started, and 27 percent say they will start in 2003.
Another 25 percent say theyll start in 2004.
Advocacy is part of your job title. How much of this job
today involves getting HP to answer to its users?
That is the most important part of the job. It comes
back to your ability to develop contacts and resources inside HP. All
of the surveys are worthless unless you can get HP to listen, and
its a very important part of what I do.
The merger has made this more challenging.
Theres a lot more for HP to learn because of the merger, but
listening will always be an important part of HPs business. The
job becomes more difficult as the company grows. As HP grows,
its a bigger job.
Ive seen a shift in HP over the last several
years. I see us playing a bigger role with HP over the last two
years; HP is really listening. Were working with the Total
Customer Experience group quite a bit.
How do you grade your own efforts at advocacy?
I think its different for differing areas of
HPs business. Weve done pretty well overall in
communicating the issues in order administration and sales support.
In pinpointing problems at a [HP organizational] country level
weve done a good job. At the technical level weve done
the best job with the MPE area, and I think thats a function of
our roots and the strength of the volunteers, because we need their
input. We tend to be stronger on the e3000. The HP-UX advocacy may
not be as good as the e3000; Id like to see us improve there.
In Windows and Linux we need a lot of work. Those are tough areas to
advocate in, and I know its a function of HP not having a lot
of control of those areas.
Is there a goal youre aware of for HP 3000 advocacy
that you believe is most essential this year?
The biggest need for the 3000 base is a hardware
emulator and getting the 2006 date extended. Those are the ones we
see the customer base asking for. I know HP is well aware of those
two huge needs.
With HPs 3000 discontinuation plans out there alongside
the Symposium, how long do you think you can continue to do these
shows? Can they outlive HPs involvement with the
I hate to say I dont know, but well watch
and monitor the needs of that base of customers. Well have to
change the programs yet again, because as people migrate, then it
will shift back to the homesteading, and possibly more HP-UX, Linux
and Windows training. It will evolve into something different for the
homesteaders. Thats why we do these surveys, to match the
content to what the needs are. The e3000 was what got Interex going,
and theyre fully committed to continuing to serve that