| Front Page | News Headlines | Technical Headlines | Planning Features | Advanced Search |
  Genisys Sponsor Message

Deb Lawson

Director, Customer Advocacy
and Technical Events


February 2003

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 Group’s Advocacy and Technical Events, Lawson is the only member of the group’s 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.

Lawson’s 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 Programmer’s Forums, and guided by content selected by the 3000 community’s 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 training events.

Although Interex runs a more popular event in its annual HP World conferences, the Symposiums have become the user group’s most concentrated 3000 offering under Lawson’s stewardship. This year she’s 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’ experience.

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 group’s 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 there’s 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 migration training?

With migration, there’s more to learn. We need more in-depth training. HP World is good, but we need really in-depth sessions and we don’t 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 word?

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; we’re splitting it into migration planning and migration implementation, because people are at different phases.

For people who aren’t migrating, or aren’t 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 around?

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 we’ve got Paul Edwards. Their experience combined with the research made it happen.

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 Philadephia’s 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?

We’ve compromised. We have all the sponsorships that we had last year, but we’ve added a Partner Hour. It’s 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. We’re 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 don’t go to the Symposium to talk to the vendors, not primarily.

Do you expect the content to remain the same for both conferences?

The goal is to have them be as similar as possible. We’re constrained by people’s 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 can’t find online?

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. We’re 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 we’re 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; they’ll refresh their presentations.

What about application-based training, like last year’s 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 year’s symposiums, given the company’s cutbacks in travel and staffing over the last year?

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 don’t care about making a big profit, we just want to offer the training.

HP has even more speakers this year. We’ve been working with them on our research, and they’ve supplied the keynote speakers: Dave Wilde will be talking, and there will be a presentation on HP’s Multi-OS Strategy and Roadmap. And we’ve got Marty Pontiakowski talking about HP’s Adaptive Infrastructure to grow with the organization. HP is funding all of the speakers in the technical talks to travel to both shows. We’re very pleased with HP’s participation.

Do you expect your migration sessions to be better attended than the homesteading and MPE fundamentals?

If you’ve decided to migrate, there’s definitely things you need to learn, so there’s more urgency. Although people that are staying on the platform need to make some decisions, too. Somebody’s who’s asking their boss to go is more likely to be migrating. Last year’s migration sessions were better attended.

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 aren’t 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 you?

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 they’ll 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 it’s a very important part of what I do.

The merger has made this more challenging. There’s a lot more for HP to learn because of the merger, but listening will always be an important part of HP’s business. The job becomes more difficult as the company grows. As HP grows, it’s a bigger job.

I’ve 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. We’re working with the Total Customer Experience group quite a bit.

How do you grade your own efforts at advocacy?

I think it’s different for differing areas of HP’s business. We’ve done pretty well overall in communicating the issues in order administration and sales support. In pinpointing problems at a [HP organizational] country level we’ve done a good job. At the technical level we’ve done the best job with the MPE area, and I think that’s 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; I’d 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 it’s a function of HP not having a lot of control of those areas.

Is there a goal you’re 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 HP’s 3000 discontinuation plans out there alongside the Symposium, how long do you think you can continue to do these shows? Can they outlive HP’s involvement with the platform?

I hate to say I don’t know, but we’ll watch and monitor the needs of that base of customers. We’ll 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. That’s why we do these surveys, to match the content to what the needs are. The e3000 was what got Interex going, and they’re fully committed to continuing to serve that community.

Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.